Post date: Friday, April 18, 2014 - 12:30
Updated date: 4/21/17
Creek Chub, Semotilus atromaculatus

The creek chub is a big, meaty minnow species found throughout the central and eastern regions of North America, in both Canada and the United States. It's a common catch in small streams. Predatory fish love to munch on creek chubs, so they are often used for bait, either alive or dead. These fish would probably be a much more popular bait if they weren't somewhat difficult to keep alive in tanks; few bait shops carry them and those that do, do so only seasonally. As it stands, the only people with ready access to big, lively creek chubs are those that can catch them on their own! Creek chubs are feisty little fish that take baits aggressively and give good account of themselves on light tackle.


Other Names: Chub, Horned Dace, Northern Horned Dace, Blackspot Chub, Common Chub, Common Creek Chub, Brook Chub, Mud Chub, Northern Creek Chub, Silvery Chub, Tommycod, Pittsburgh brookie




The creek chub is a cylindrical minnow with a dark blotch at the base of the dorsal fin. Young creek chubs sport a black stripe that starts behind the gills and extends all the way to a rough spot at the base of the tail. As they grow older, this stripe becomes less distinct and may not be visible at all in larger and older specimens. Creek chubs can grow to lengths of fifteen inches or more and slightly over a pound in weight, although the typical chub caught is around six inches long and a mere ounce or two in weight. Male creek chubs develop hard, sharp bumps on their heads during the breeding season. These are called "tubercules" and help the little fellows defend their territories from invaders and to move stones around. Creek chubs have big mouths and can be caught on traditional gear, including flies meant for trout. This is probably the most common of the chub species - if you catch a big, wide-mouthed minnow in the Central US, this is probably the prime suspect.




Creek chubs frequent streams from the smallest to medium-sized, and are rarely found in lakes. However, they are most common in small warmwater creeks, where they can become the dominant fish species. Creek chubs are also often found in trout streams, especially in the lower, more marginal sections. An abundant population of chubs is a reliable food source for larger predators and assures higher growth rates from trout, bass, and pike in any waterbody they are found in. Creek chubs associate with deep pools, riffles, and woody debris in the stream. Being vulnerable to attack from birds such as kingfishers and herons, creek chubs especially prize overhead cover. A nice root wad or sunken log can hold several dozen large chubs. Creek chubs reproduce over a substrate of clean gravel with a moderate current, often migrating for short distances to find a suitable riffle or run.


Spawning of this species begins in mid-May in the northern regions, and earlier in the south. Male creek chubs build somewhat elaborate nests consisting of a mound of gravel and small stones, followed by a pit or trench on the downstream end. Both are usally a foot wide and three inches tall, and may be as long as 18 feet! Male creek chubs pick up stones with their mouths or nudge them with their heads to build these structures. Other minnow species may spawn at the same time, using the chub's nest. This can sometimes result in a multi-species spawning aggregation that is very sttractive to predators. Chub spawning activity also draws other, larger species of  fish to feed on dislodged nymphs. The rooting, pushing, and digging actions can cause insect larvae to be torn loose from their hiding places and swept downstream. Because of this, you should always be on the lookout for spawning chubs. You might find a sucker, bass, sunfish, or trout hotspot downstream of the chub spawning grounds. The mounds and pits are usually built on the downstream end of pools, near riffle-tops, so check the riffle below for flashing and feeding fishes. In a very small stream, the riffle might be too shallow for predators to hold in, so look for the next deep pocket or piece of cover - which might be dozens of yards downstream.


Newly hatched creek chubs shelter between the stones of the nest mound, and live and grow there for an extended period of time. Avoid crushing or disturbing chub nests, and you'll be helping ensure a healthy new generation of creek chubs for you to catch - and for other fish to feast on.





Creek chubs can be caught on small baits, lures, and flies. Big creek chubs will even hit spinners. A more typical chub rig is a tiny bobber, a single split shot, and a #12 hook. Good baits include waxworms, angleworms, insect larvae, or a tiny piece of nightcrawler. Lures to try include soft plastics that imitate insect larvae or small minnows, jigs, tiny spoons, and smallish inline spinners. Creek chubs also take dry flies and nymphs with gusto, including topwater presentations such as poppers or dry flies. Flyfishing for chubs is a fine sport, and is available to flyfishers far more regularly than trout are. Many small, warmwater creeks and transitional coldwater streams are filled with creek chubs - which makes it a great place to take some kids for a fun fishing adventure. The combination of an interesting small-stream environment, clear water, and eager-biting, feisty creek chubs is a sure-fire pathway to a fun day of fishing with the kids. They make excellent cut bait, so it's not a bad idea to freeze a few for later use in your local catfish hole. 


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