Outdoors: A belly full of bluegills

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Outdoors: A belly full of bluegills

Biologists discover gluttonous bullhead

You won’t find a better example of how fish are opportunistic feeders than this.

The photo supplied on this page is living proof. That 13-inch bullhead catfish was captured in a net by Indiana fisheries biologist Tom Bacula while surveying Loomis Lake near Valparaiso.

Biologists were assessing fish populations on Loomis as they do every year on various lakes. The bullhead catfish pictured was discovered in a net along with dozens of other fish.

Capturing bullheads is not that unusual. But this one was.

“The fish’s stomach was bulging and twitching,” said Bacula. “It was the fattest and most unusual bullhead I had ever seen. I wanted to see what was in there.”

Biologists normally release fish they capture after taking measurements and scale samples, but Bacula’s team decided to cut this guy open and see what was causing the commotion.

“We were shocked,” said Bacula. “We counted remains of 18 bluegill in that 13-incher’s stomach. From what we could tell, those ‘gills were 3 to 5 inches long at the time they were eaten.”

That friends, is a gluttonous bullhead.

What’s equally bizarre is that bullheads are bottom feeders while bluegills tend to roam all depths. Bluegill also flit through the water and aren’t easy targets for sluggish catfish. How did that bullhead manage to gobble up 18 bluegill in a short period of time?

“My hunch is he feasted while in the trap net,” said Bacula. “The net was packed with small bluegill when we lifted it. He had easy pickins’.”

That’s the rule of law in the wild. Eat hearty when food is readily available.

Ever see a school of minnows sauntering around only to get blasted suddenly by a school of bass or crappie? Ever notice that when you see a school of baitfish on your fishfinder, there are bigger fish lurking beneath them?

Predator fish know that their primary means of survival is staying close to a food source. They may not always eat, but they won’t pass up an opportunity, especially in a competitive environment.

For example, I’ve seen larger fish swimming near baitfish, coexisting without incident. But when one predator decides to eat, it triggers a feeding frenzy.

I remember watching bass and crappie in Lunker’s large aquarium one day. The minnows were grouped tightly near the surface and the gamefish were totally disengaged. Inexplicably, one of the minnows strayed from the pack and a bass shot out after it. Instantly, every alpha fish in that tank began blasting minnows.

Pro bass anglers often find huge schools of bass that seem uninterested in their offerings until they get one to bite.

“Once you get the school fired up, it triggers a competitive response from the others,” said Kalamazoo pro Kevin VanDam. “You can catch several on consecutive casts providing you get back in there quickly after you catch one.”

Who knows what made Bacula’s bullhead overindulge on bluegill. But then, what makes human’s eat more than one cookie, get another scoop of ice cream, or gobble down three donuts instead of one?

Because it’s there.

Fall turkey

The Michigan DNR reminds hunters that the fall turkey hunting application period is now open.

Applications went on sale July 1 and will be available through Aug. 1. The application fee is $5. Applications and licenses may be purchased at any authorized license agent or online at www.mdnr-elicense.com.

The 2016 fall turkey season runs Sept. 15 to Nov. 14. A total of 51,350 licenses are available, including 4,650 general licenses and 46,700 private-land licenses.

Pipestone winners

Billy Matthews (Dowagiac) and Kris Iodice (Oak Forest, Ill.) bagged a hefty 16 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Clear H2o Big Bass Challenge on Pipestone Lake last weekend.

The young anglers caught their bass on jigs and Texas rig plastics in 6-12 feet. They won $300 and a bonus $80 for having the biggest bass, a 4-15.

John Gipson (Battle Ground, Ind.) and Tom Noe (Benton Harbor) were second ($200) with 14 pounds, 1 ounce. They caught their fish on jigs and Missile D-Bombs between 2 feet and 15 feet.

Scott and Matthew Davis (Coloma) were third with 9-5 caught on jigs and Senkos fished along the outside weedline.

The next tournament is July 16 at Cedar Lake in Marcellus. Tournament hours are 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Entry fee is $45.

Louie Stout:stoutoutdoors@comcast.net

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