Some say that the best things are hidden in plain sight. In my case, it meant there was a creek chock-full of fish just within my reach.
I began fishing the small tributary stream of North Walnut Creek a few years ago. I was really starting to get into fishing, and I had no clue what chubs are and had no idea how to fish moving water effectively. I caught my first creek chub 3 years ago in one of the spots I still frequent to this date. I thought I had caught some insanely rare species at the time, but my excitement was quickly (but only temporarily) snuffed when I learned that chubs swam in virtually every body of moving water in the area.
After fishing every possible hole within walking distance from home, I knew I needed more of the creek. I wanted to find what North Walnut drained into. It drained into Walnut Creek about 4 miles south of from where I normally fished it. I knew there just had to be massive chubs in that creek. (At the time I knew of only a few fish species, quite the noob).
I put my creek expeditions on hold for an entire year as I had suddenly lost interest in it. Certain bait shop owners, peers, and multiple online forums had assured me that there would be no fish other than minnows in the main Walnut Creek. 13-year old me believed those words and became discouraged to fish the creek.
Another year passed by and 2016 began. I had decided over the long and cold Iowa winter that I would give Walnut a try once the temperatures rose and the waters thawed. Once it finally became warm enough to do serious fishing in early May, I told myself it was finally time to fish this creek.
I arrived at 10:30 AM on May 14. I remembered the exact time. I wasn't very excited to be fishing there, but I knew had to give it a shot. The first thing I saw changed how I viewed the creek forever. Swimming and feeding no more than 10 feet away from me was a 7 pound Common Carp. I can remember how I nearly panicked trying to get a nightcrawler on the hook as fast as humanly possible. I knew how to catch carp in stationary water, but I was worried they would act different in creeks. I casted the bait a few feet upstream from his nose and sure enough he took a swipe. Now, I'm not sure who got hooked more, the carp, or me being hooked into creek fishing for the rest of the year.
Granted, that may have been the only fish I caught that day, but it started something. It gave me a case of Excessive Creek Fishing Disorder, something which I hope to be never cured of.
A few weeks and some heavy rain passed by before I was able to fish Walnut again, and during those few weeks I prepared. I went and bought dozens of weights, hooks, floats, and jigs. So far, the only fish that I had seen in there were Carp and Chubs. I had figured by then that there must be more fish in there, but I had nothing to go off of. I decided to return back to the hole where I had caught Carp #1. To seemingly fuel my addiction to creek fishing, I met my worst enemy: the Quillback.
I originally thought they were carp and buffalo, but I realized that was not the case after an hour of failing to even tempt one with a piece of worm. I did, however, discover multiple more species of fish in Walnut while attempting to catch those quillbacks.
Channel Catfish on a small Mepps:
The Summer slowly drifted away, and I learned how the fish behaved in the creek. I began to understand how they fed, how they just hung out, and where they were during different times of day. I had discovered multiple species of fish in the creek that I had never imagined to be swimming in Walnut. I caught Crappie, Walleye, Largemouth, Smallmouth, multiple kinds of Sunfish, White Bass, but the one fish that still eluded me going into September was the Quillback.
Going into early October I began to notice the fish were beginning to school up in their winter holes. Walleye, Catfish, and huge groups of suckers and quillbacks. The water was still staying in the 60s because the daily high temperatures averaged around 70 degress Fahrenheit when the normal high temperatures should have been in the low 60s into the 50s. I began my school-fishing trying to catch quillback when I checked off my first ever Shorthead Redhorse from Walnut.
The next weekend I went out to chase some more Suckers and find out if there's any big ones swimming around. I saw multiple 10-12" White Suckers schooling in a hole, and I caught a few of them. But what really caught my attention was the big grey fish sitting above the hole in between small rocks. I had to slowly sneak upstream behind him to get a closer look. I was shocked to see that the fish sitting in between the rocks was an 18" White Sucker that was 1.5 inches away from the State Record White Sucker.
I soon realized that the creek's final days were soon to come, because Des Moines was forecasted to get over 2" of rain after over a month with nothing more than a sprinkle. I had two more days to finally catch one of the 5 pound channel cats that were patrolling the hole that I'd been fishing in. As the first day went by without a catch, I was pressed to catch one of these fish.
I arrived that last day at 1:00 PM that day. I remember the time, much like my first fish from here. I saw the main school of catfish rotating back and forth between the flats and the deep hole. But, there was one thing different. There was a 5lb Channel Catfish shoveling through the leaf piles out of the current. I took notice of this and dropped a small chunk of worm about 3 ft in front of his face. Slowly, oh so slowly, he swam to it. As he came upon the resting bait. He nosed right down on the worm, and then kept swimming. I felt no bite. But, as he swam on, i noticed that the worm was no longer where I had dropped it down. As i saw that, I noticed my line was ever so slightly beginning to follow the catfish upstream. 6 Minutes later:
He weighed 5lbs and 3 ounces. He is also the last fish I've caught in that creek since Mid November. The rain came the next day, and the creek became a raging river. A week later when it had gone down, the creek was barren. No fish life anywhere. They returned to the river to which they came from. But don't worry, they'll be back.