Ancient Fish Caught
Inside the Outdoors, August 8
, 2014

Recently, I was contacted by an area angler who told me he caught a large carp on a lure. Most of us have always believed that these fish are bottom feeders and do not seek fish that may be swimming by. This definitely defies common knowledge.

It so happens that this Latrobean has done well with a particular crankbait catching bass of all weights and sizes. It was a surprise to him, as well as the rest of us, that this species hit the plug for its morning meal.

Talk about fishing, one Loyalhanna Creek fisher let me know that fish are finicky now and if one is to do any good, he has to seek out the deep holes. He found one and hit upon some nice-sized redeye bass.

Named correctly, if one were to catch this fish, he would definitely see that the fish’s eyes have red coloring around the pupil areas. Otherwise, if one didn’t know of this characteristic, he would have thought he was catching a largemouth bass.

One website, www.outdooralabama.com, stated, “The redeye is an elongate, slender fish with a large mouth extending to or slightly behind the rear margin of the eye.” It also noted, “A small tooth path is present on the tongue.” Color wise, “The back and side are generally olive to brown with darker brown mottling. Adults have several horizontal rows of dark spots on the lower sides and venter,” it said.

Adults can get as large as 17 inches. This recent creek visitor shared with me that he has seen redeyes in one deep hole surrounded by various species of trout. “Since the fish are hard to catch now,” he said, try grasshopper imitations.”

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I was talking to Rich Kacsuta recently and fishing activity and he revealed some rather unusual facts. Owner of the Loyalhanna Fishing Post on Route 30, Ligonier, he said, “Guys are coming in showing me pictures of gar and paddlefish they caught out of the lower area of the Conemaugh River.” Those are two fish no one has ever mentioned as long as I have done this column.

According to en.wikipedia.org, “Gar bodies are elongated, heavily armored with ganoid scales, and fronted by similarly elongated jaws filled with long, sharp teeth. Their tails are heterocercal (having a tail fin in which the upper lobe is larger than the lower and the vertical column extends into the upper lobe, as in sharks), and their dorsal fins are close to the tail. They are extremely hardy and are able to tolerate conditions that would kill most other fish.” They have been recorded as common reaching two feet with some nearing approximately 10 feet long.

Kacsuta told me that these anglers were coming into his shop to purchase large shiners. This would fall in line with the fact that en.wikipedia disclosed whereby “they feed extensively on small fish and invertebrates such as crabs. I would surmise that gars would not turn down a meal of crayfish which are common to that body of water.

“These members of an ancient order of ray-finned fish are edible and sometimes available in markets,” the website said. “Several species are traded as aquarium fish.” One final note. Do not eat the eggs. They are highly toxic to humans, a word to the wise who may want to try something new for one’s diet.

Paddlefish also date back to the ancient time. “They have been referred to as primitive fish because they have evolved, the website stated, with few morphological changes since the earliest fossil records of the Late Cretaceous period, seventy to seventy-five million years ago.”

Another website, tlpoague.hubpages.com, states, “Sometimes called a spoonbill catfish, it looks like a dolphin or porpoise but has a long snout in the shape of a paddle.”

It’s conceivable that both fish may be found together. After all, both came from ancient times and are now paling together in the same body of water.

“Paddlefish have gills that filter out the water and eat zooplankton organisms.”

It is said that this species tastes better than catfish. Of course, the website didn’t mention which, a channel or a mud cat.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has mandated that either fish, if caught, must be returned to the water unharmed. That’s the law.

It has been reported that anglers are catching gar at the runoff of Loyalhanna Dam as well.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the weather pattern we are experiencing?

By the way on fisherman caught a fairly nice-sized musky there inches under the 40-inch requirement. Wouldn’t have made any difference. He is said to throw all his fish back that he catches, anyway.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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