Just a couple of weeks ago I told you about successfully completing my quest to catch a tagged flathead catfish from Branched Oak Reservoir (Finally Got One!). Well, as the fall has progressed and waters have cooled, I have shifted my focus from warm-water species like flathead catfish to species that will continue to be more active, and easier to catch, in cooler water. I have made several trips up to Lake Wanahoo the past few weeks and have consistently been catching some largemouth bass and black crappies up there. Right now there is also a good chance of catching a northern pike from Wanahoo and one evening just before dark, something thumped my crankbait, and I managed to dry off a 25-some-inch pike.
Before I released that fish I made sure to roll it over in the flashlight beam one more time, and sure enough, look close. . . .
It was tagged!
I thought the tag numbers were hard to read on the Branched Oak flathead tags, well, they were large print compared to the numbering on the floy or “spaghetti” tag in the side of that pike. It took an additional flashlight with more brightness, younger eyes from my son, and a couple of close-up shots from my camera to confirm I had caught ole #1779.
I passed the information on to fellow pointy-headed fisheries biologist and fish tag czar for southeast Nebraska, Jordan Katt, and here is his reply on my fish:
Let me share some additional information with you. You can see from the letter that my fish was one that was tagged the first early spring we tagged pike at Wanahoo, March 2012 (How Many?). A total of 718 adult northern pike were tagged that spring and another 412 were tagged in the early spring of 2013. It is estimated that there are approximately 1,750 adult pike in Wanahoo right now, about 2.8 per acre. About two-thirds of those fish have a tag in their side.
The next graph is a little small and blurry, but I want to show it to you since it will give you a very good idea of the size of adult pike present in Wanahoo right now. This graph is what pointy-headed fisheries biologists call a “length-frequency” graph and it shows how many fish of various lengths were sampled.
You can see the lengths displayed on the bottom, the X-axis, are in metric. For perspective 600 mm is about 24 inches, 700 mm is about 28 inches, and 800 mm about 32 inches (do not get all technical on me, those are quick, “in-my-head” conversions). The largest pike collected in Wanahoo last spring were up to about 34-35 inches. I imagine some of those fish would have grown a inch or two larger than that by this fall. You can see from the length-frequency graph that the fish I caught was most likely a male pike and was one of the most abundant sizes of pike present in Wanahoo. It had grown over 4 inches since it was initially tagged in the spring of 2012.
I have caught bigger pike, much bigger pike, pike that could have eaten the tagged fish I caught at Wanahoo (My Biggest Pike), but once again it was a small thrill to catch a tagged one. I guess once I broke the tagged fish drought with that Branched Oak flathead it was easy to catch a tagged pike at Wanahoo. Thinking back, my fishing partners and I have caught only a handful of Wanahoo pike before catching one that was tagged.
Oh, let me add one reminder before I quit. Both the pike at Wanahoo and the big, beautiful flatheads at Branched Oak must be released. If you catch one of those fish that has been tagged, we want to know about it, remember the tag number and report it (you can tell me about it if you cannot remember the address or phone numbers on the tags), but please leave the tags in the fish and release those fish as soon as possible, in the best condition possible (A Fish-Handling Review). Besides the valuable fisheries science information those tagged fish provide, those fish can be caught again (Fish Recycling). You know I will be trying to catch more, and bigger pike, at Wanahoo!
(I briefly thought about titling this blog post “Whoops, I Did it Again”, but thought better of it. Ha.)