Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ice Fish the Slough!

Anyone living in the Midwest can attest to the fact that the Winter of 2010 has been early, cold and snowy. These weather conditions can mean disaster in the form of massive fish die-off in shallow marsh lakes. Fish die-off is the result of reduced oxygen levels in the lake.
Entrance to Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area

J.C. Murphy Lake at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area is standing on the verge of a winter die-off at this time. Those who know J.C. Murphy Lake are expecting a fish die-off to rival any in recent memory.  The way things look, the only hope is a January heat wave.

Ice fishermen on J.C.Murphy Lake

What causes the oxygen to be reduced to a level that is to low to support the fish population of a shallow lake?

The amount of dissolved oxygen in the water is affected by the extreme weather conditions. Thick ice stops the transfer of oxygen to the water and a heavy snow cover causes the rapid dieing of oxygen producing aquatic plants because of the lack of sunlight. Decaying plant matter consumes high amounts of oxygen, resulting in oxygen levels that are to low to sustain the fish in the lake.

Mayor Island

So much for the bad news, now here's the good news!  The lake at the Slough has 6-8 inches of ice and the fish are biting. The restricted creel limit for fish caught at the Slough has been relaxed  to the state daily limits because of the current lake conditions. The  state limits can be found in the Indiana State Fishing Regulations.

Jig and Spike Worms
The bluegill, largemouth bass and northern pike bite is on now.  Fish are being caught throughout the lake. Some days the bite is all day but most everyday a nice mess of gills can be caught during the last couple hours of daylight.

The bluegills are taking beemoth and spikeworms (maggots). Find the bottom and fish about six inches above it. Place your bait on a ice fishing jig and watch for slightest movement of the float or rod tip if you prefer to tight-line fish.

Currently there is no-limit on bluegill and the DNR would like for you to keep all the bluegill that you catch. The bluegill are averaging six to eight inches, so you don't have to catch many for a nice mess of gills.

Slough Gill

The bass and pike are taking golden roaches (a large minnow), fished under a tip-up. Five bass that must be longer than 14 inches is the limit. Reports of twenty bass being caught and released are not uncommon.

Tip-up fishing for Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike

A keeper northern pike is longer than twenty inches and three pike is the limit. Not as common as the bass but pike of thirty-eight inches and fifteen pounders are being caught. The pike are taking roaches but a three to four inch bluegill as bait would probably turn on a monster northern.

Typical Panfish rod and reel

Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area is located in Newton County,  Indiana. Just north of Morocco, Indiana between US 41 and the Indiana-Illinois State-line. For more details on fishing regulations and directions visit the Indiana DNR website at the following url :

GMVideos06 "Ice Fish the Slough!" video on YouTube

Now is the time to "Ice Fish the Slough!" See you there.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nature Studies Cover


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Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexppus)

Monarch sipping the Cup Flower nectar.

Flight of the Chocolate Butterfly

During the first week of August,  there were several of these 
dark brown butterflies flirting around in the yard, 
I've never seen them before and now their gone.

A small butterfly, wing-span about one inch, my attempt to identify 
them leads me to the Brown Elfin, (Callophrys augustinus), 
a member of the Gossaamer-wing Butterflies, 
Family Lycaenidae.(?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)

This a Queen Bald-face Hornet. The oueens over winter in ground litter and in the bark of trees. In the spring they build a paper nest and start a new colony.

Males are called drones.  Born from unfertilized eggs.  They don' have stings and are not aggressive.

The females can be Queens or workers.  They have stings and will attack repeatedly.  When away from the nest, they are looking for food and are non-aggressive, just don't swat at them.

Hornets catch insects to feed to the larva in the nest. One hornet may catch 1000 flies a day.  This makes them a beneficial insect.  If you find a hornet's nest at your home, leave it alone or call a professional to remove it.

Dragonflies resting on the tips of plants

From the tips of plants dragonflies darter out and catch insects on the wing.

Garden Predator

The Ambush Bug sits patiently and waits for insects to feed on.

They hold their Raptorial front legs as if they're praying for prey.

The Rare Honey Bee Sighting

The Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is actually alien to North America, 
an import from Europe. The Native Americans called 
them " the white man's fly".

Currently the Honey Bee is experiencing Colony Collapse Disorder.
CCD may be caused by a virus introduced to North America 
by imported Australian Honey Bees.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

Sipping the salt of the Earth.

Silver-spotted Skipper(Epargyreus clarus)

Drinking the nectar of the butterfly bush

Free Your Butterfly!

This butterfly was caught in the plastic wind break of my deck. I offered it my finger and with out hesitation it grabbed hold.  I walked to where it could fly free and took these shots in the mean time.

It may be a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne), not sure, of the Family Nymphalidae, the Brush-footed Butterflies.

Red Admiral's "MayDay"

A Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) was flirting about my dog-fish pond, when its wing clipped a spider web, causing it to splash down into the pond water.  A quick photo was taken and I observed that the surface pressure was to great for it to drag its self on to a violet leaf and out of the water.

Decision time, do I respond to the Red Admiral's "MayDay" call and pluck it from the inevitable or let nature take its course.I settled for compromise. I fished the butterfly out of the pond with a stick and placed it in a sunny spot to dry.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Bumble Bee and Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly at Purple Cone Flowers

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly drinking the nectar of a Purple Cone Flower.

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee
Can you find the Bumble Bee in this Photo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Brush-footed Butterfliy (Nymphalidae)


A very common butterfly.  This one is sipping nectar from a butterfly bush flower. The Painted Lady can be seen visiting gardens and meadows around the world.

I think this is a Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis).  Resting on a Purple Cone Flower leaf.

Bronze Copper (Lycaena hyllus)

This butterfly is a member of the Gossamer-wing Family (Lycaenidae), it belongs to the Subfamily of Coppers(Lycaeninea) Butterflies.  Both sexes underside forewing is orange with black spots; underside hindwing is gray-white with black spots and a broad orange outer margin.  The upperside of male iridescent copper-brown;  female forewing yellow-orange with black spots.

Males watch for females perched on low groth near host plants.  Eggs are laid singly on plants.  Eggs hibernate until spring. Eggs are laid on herbs of the buckwheat family including curly dock  (Rumex crispus)  

The Horse Fly (Tabanus abdominalis)

Only female Horse Flies are blood suckers.  The male Horse Fly do not bite. The male can be identified by the structure of the eyes. The two compound eyes of the male Horse Fly has no space between them while the the eyes of the female have a separation.  This is a female Horse Fly.

This Horse Fly is looking for lunch on Ranger.

Great-Blue Heron, Dead or Alive

While on a forced march with Ranger Danger at Three Rivers County Park, we encountered this Great-Blue Heron laying on its back in the tall grass on the edge of the lake. Ranger got birdie and alerted me to the herons presence, I was able to shorten his lead before he ever saw the bird.

Herons are a shy and solitary bird, they will squawk and take to the air before you realize they are there. To be sure, I was surprised to able to get so close to a live heron and puzzled because I've never seen a dead one.  Had to take at least one pic.

During the setup, I could not see any obvious injuries.  Maybe an illness has it down, Bird Flu or West Nile Virus?  I should get the pic and let nature take its course.  I focus on the birds yellow eye, hmmm, the eye is clear and the pupil is focusing ever so slightly.  It just took a breath, shallow and slow but constant.

This bird is not dead, dieing maybe but not dead. Got this shot and left the bird in peace.  Not trying to experience the bird flu or west nile.  After working on this image and thinking about animal behavior, I am willing to believe that this bird made a fool of this predator.  Yes, the oldest survival trick in the book of life, "Play Dead".