One of these days . . . if you are and angler and believe
in fisherman’s luck . . . you may tangle with what you think is a little
goggle eye (a k a rock bass), but isn’t.
You see, you may have caught a flier, a quasi rock bass
look-alike that is rare in Indiana although this species is taken occasionally
in the southwestern part of the state.
Bill James, chief of the Division of Fish and
Wildlife’s Fisheries section since they knocked the corners off of square
wheels, says we don’t find the flier in Indiana often, but now and then this
species is taken by someone who doesn’t know the fish is even here.
However, Bill says they are taken now and again in small
streams of the southwest. Coloration is similar to that of rock bass.
State record, and the only fish ever entered in this
category for fish, is a 3 ½-ouncer taken from the creek below the Driftwood
Lake dam near Vallonia in Jackson County. Due to the mysterious conditions
that surround the species, a category of the record books was established in
1980. The angler catching the state record was Harold H. Otte, who made his
head-scratching catch from the creek that drains the lake and hatchery ponds
there. The creek is tributary to the main stem of the Muscatatuck River.
Bill says that although the species is more rounded that
the rock bass, the appearance of the flier could be mistaken for a goggle-eye.
The shape of the flier’s body is more like a crappie.
Although the flier seldom tops six or seven inches in the
south, its primary range, some anglers fish for them because of their sweet
meat. They are found most often in acidic waters of oxbows, swamps and similar
However happenstance Otte’s catch of the state record
fish from little Mill Creek may have been, the taking was more than a 3 ½-ouncer
(three and a half) to me.
I have spent many days as an angler in the tail waters of
the dam and the pools below drains from the hatchery pools flipping a variety
of natural in various natural baits (and flies) to catch big strings of
bluegills and other species. From the spillway to the river it is only a bit
more than a mile.
One of my favorite live baits for the ‘gills above and
below the dam – especially in spring and early summer was little toads. The
toads nested along the earthen dam, and when they hatched they headed for shore.
Hooking them lightly and fishing them like dry flies produce ‘gill as fast
as I could unhook them.
They were just as good fished wet in the swift water
below the dam . . . especially when the water was high after a good rain.
The only wheels available to me were on my old
steer-handle bicycle, and Driftwood (a k a Starve Hollow) was too distant for
me . . . unless I could con an older person, with a car, to go fishing there.
In those days we fished under a five-inch legal size
limit for bluegills and the daily creel limit was 50. One day when I came back
to civilization with a limit string of ‘gills there was a conservation
officer at the spillway to check my string for length. “Good string,"
he said, “but you got two or three that need to be stepped on.”
The officer was Bob Thompson who was well aware of my