I got out of the office to help with some field work a couple of weeks ago. I have blogged about the flathead tagging project out at Branched Oak Reservoir, and I again was out to help with some of those collection efforts. If you want to read more detail about that, go back and spend some time reading these blog posts, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2010/08/flathead-tagging/ , http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2011/07/field-work/ , http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2012/06/71-6-radio-dial-all-flatheads-time/ .
One thing we know about the flathead population at Branched Oak is that it is very healthy, probably one of the best if not THE BEST reservoir flathead catfish fisheries anywhere in the country. Those fish are reproducing on their own and maintaining that population; there are all sizes of flathead catfish in there from 6 inches to 60+ pounds!
In previous blog posts I have showed some pictures where I tried to capture the beauty of the little flatheads. Those fish in particular seem to be brightly-colored. I have taken pictures of a lot of them, but never really feel like a picture does them justice. Regardless I am going to try again here. Here is one of the small flatties we captured recently.
I still do not think that picture was real good, so here is another of the same fish, on a different background and with a flash.
Still not satisfied, I got in for a couple of close-ups. Here was the best.
And here is a shot of the tail; I still wish that orange in the tail fin would show up better. At least the contrasting colors show up well.
Now you are thinking that I am going completely overboard making such a fuss about one little flathead catfish. Sorry, but it was a purdy fish and I spent some time marveling at it. Take a close look at some of the fish you catch or at some of the other things you see and experience when you are in the field or on the water. There really are some awesome and beautiful things out there to experience; some times we just need to slow down and take a closer look.
I suspect that I will not have many argue with the beauty of that small flathead. However, I hear people all the time talk about “big ole ugly catfish”. Well, they may be ugly to them, but I think they are gorgeous, especially when I set the hook and find one on the end of my line.
One of the things amazing about that little flathead is that one day it may grow up to be the biggest, baddest, top-of-the-food-chain, apex predator, swimming in that body of water. That pretty little fish will grow up to be literally hundreds of times larger than it was when it was young. And when that cute little flattie grows to those proportions I intend to have another encounter with it; an encounter on the end of my fishing line. When I do, I will play it patiently, land it, and then pick it up and say “Hi, beautiful, good to see you again”! I will snap a few photos, not be happy with any of them because they will not exactly capture the specialness of the fish in my hands and in my mind, and then turn it loose so I can catch it again some day. . . and be amazed all over again.