Trip Report – Raleigh, NC

On the 16th of July, we decided to sample a few nearby creeks for green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus, to add to our collection of North Carolina fishes. Although a common fish, it is one that we have yet to photograph to our liking. There were a few waterbodies where we have landed green sunfish previously, and we decided to head to them to try our luck. As our luck would have it, the night of the 15th marked some of the heaviest rain that Wake county has seen in a while, which can be problematic for sampling. 

 

Speight Branch Greenway
Speight Branch Greenway – Cary, NC

 

Our first stop was at the Speight Branch Greenway, in Cary. This is a little greenway near the Crossroads Shopping Center, and although unassuming, has produced enormous green sunfish in past years.

 

 

Unfortunately, the water level was really high, and very turbid, a bad combination for fishing. We still managed the following fishes, through a combination of hook and line, and dipnetting:

 

Common Name Count
Largemouth Bass 2
Gambusia spp. 5
Bluegill 2

 

We didn’t want to keep this young fish in our phototank for long, so just a quick snap and he was released.

 

Micropterus salmoides
Juvenile Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmoides

 

Next we headed over to the Lassiter Mill Dam, with hopes of catching a few more common fishes that we still lacked photographs for. We knew our odds of being able to access the waters here were slim to none, thanks in part to the heavy rains the night before. What we weren’t expecting was the enormity of the water overflowing the damn, it was truly immense. Normally heavy rains will increase the current, overflow the damn, and create problems, but today there was absolutely no bank visible, it was in full flood stage. So we moved on.

 

Lassiter Mill Dam
A quieter day on a previous visit to the Lassiter Mill Dam

 

From the dam, we decided to try out one more site where green sunfish were known to hang out, Kaplan Drive Park. Kaplan Drive Park is a small park located between the 440 and a residential area. It is also home to Simmons Branch creek, in which many green sunfish have been caught over the years. City ordinances prevent wading or trapping of any kind in the park, so we were left with hook and line fishing, which suited the habitat just fine.

 

 

Kaplan Drive Park
Kaplan Drive Park

 

Kaplan Drive Park stated producing green sunfishes on our first casts, and continued for the next hour as we searched for the best colored fish we could find.

 

Green Sunfish
A Green Sunfish going airborne.

 

It was about time to start photographing that I realized that I had left an important piece of photography hardware at home. So through a bit of photoshop, I was able to piece together a composite green sunfish. Not my best work, but it will do until we catch another.

 

Lepomis cyanellus
Green Sunfish – Lepomis cyanellus

 

Our next and final stop, was at a park about a mile from Kaplan Drive Park, Kentwood Park:

 

 

Kentwood Park is home to a creek who’s name I was unable to locate on any map. It flows from an unnamed lake to its North, and into Walnut Creek, and then into Lake Raleigh. It really is a beautiful creek, and seems quite secluded for being in the middle of the city. No new species were caught on this leg of the trip, but wading down the stream was very enjoyable. I want to note that there were shiners that eluded us in this creek, we caught a few glimpses of them, so it might be worth a second visit.

 

Common Name Count
Creek Chub 2
Red Breast Sunfish 5

 

 

 

 

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Trip Report – Raven Rock State Park

July 2nd, 2014

We were running some errands near Apex, NC today, and decided to make a run a bit further south to see what fishes we could come across. Our first stop on this trip was at a small creek we found along the way. Google names the creek Neills Creek, with the following GPS numbers:

Neills Creek
35.428179, -78.823866

There is a small dirt road running along side the highway that gives access to the creek. The road was fine to drive, but I would avoid it in the rain. The water was tannin stained, but very clear. This made dipnetting difficult as all of the fish could see us before we could see them. Seining wasn’t much easier as the number of rocks and submerged branches was a problem. We had to resort to hook and line fishing, which did produce some results.

Name Count
Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus) 3

 

We decided next to head down to sample the Cape Fear River at Raven Rock State Park near Lillington, NC.

 

We managed to sample a few creeks throughout the park which, despite recent rainfall, were quite low. We finally found a park ranger at the visitor’s center, who explained to us that Campbell’s Creek would be our best bet, as it holds more water than the other creeks. He said it was about a half mile walk down to the creek following the Campbell’s Creek Trail, and told us to look for a bridge that marked the spot. It was a much longer walk than I expected in the heat of the summer, but really was only about a half mile downhill.

 

Raven Rock Visitors Center
Raven Rock Visitor’s Center

 

Campbell's Creek
The bridge – Campbell’s Creek

 

The fishing was great here, dipnets produced the most, followed by microfishing. Once again seining the pools didn’t produce any fish, as there were too many obstructions.

Campbell's Creek
Campbell’s Creek – A mixture of pools and riffles.

 

Name Count
Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auritus) 1
Tessellated Darter (Etheostoma olmstedi ) 2
Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) 6

Unfortunately, I started not feeling well and we had to end the trip right when the fishing was starting to pick up. The hike back was miserable, in the heat, carrying gear, not feeling well, and uphill the whole way, but was still definitely worth the trip.

 

Creek Chub - Semotilus atromaculatus
Creek Chub – Semotilus atromaculatus

 

 

 

 

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Trip Report – Cary, NC

 

On the 25th of June, Jessie and I happened to both be in Cary, and used the opportunity to go collect and photograph. After consulting Google Maps , we decided to try out Swift Creek, just downstream from the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Our thinking was that the unfished habitat in the preserve might mean greater diversity downstream.

Swift Creek, Cary NC
Swift Creek, Cary NC

In the end, it turns out that I have sampled puddles with more fish than Swift Creek. Maybe we tried on a bad day? There were no signs of recent flooding, the water level was at a healthy height, and there were plenty of snakes around, just not much in the way of fish.

We did manage to catch the following:

Species Count
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) 1
Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) 1
Swallowtail Shiner (Notropis procne) 3

 

phototank
Prepping for photos

 

The combination of no fish, and 100 degree weather lead us to abandon this site after about an hour. Our next stop was Crabtree Creek, right below the damn on Crabtree Lake. We have sampled here many times throughout the years, and it never lets us down. This time we saw fish before we had even put our waders on, and had much more success.

 

Species Count
Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) 6
Satinfin Shiner (Cyprinella analostana) 12
Swallowtail Shiner (Notropis procne) 6
Margined Madtom (Noturus insignis) 2
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) 6
Ictalurus spp. 2 (< 1”)
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) 3
American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) 1
Gambusia spp. 4

 

 

Due to  a screw up on my part, changing lenses and not paying attention to ISO settings, I only had one photograph turn out. The satinfin shiner.

 

Satinfin Shiner - Cyprinella analostana
Satinfin Shiner – Cyprinella analostana

 

Swallowtail Shiner with bad ISO settings.
Swallowtail Shiner with bad ISO settings.

 

One issue we ran into, and are still working on, is how to photograph catfishes. Not just the catfishes, but other similarly shaped fishes like the oyster toadfish. We have tried a few different approaches, short of euthanizing the fish,  to acquire the photographs we need, all to no avail. If you have any ideas, we would love to hear from you at contact @ ncfishes.com.

 

Here is one of the margined madtoms that wouldn’t cooperate:

Margined Madtom

 

 

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