Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yellowcheek (Elopichthys bambusa, Cyprinidae)

This is fish # 2 from the 1st message of the blog. It is predatory Carp - the only Carp with teeth. Yellowcheek can be up to 200 cm long! The range of the species covers south-east Asia, China, and in the Russian Far East (Amur River drainage). The sport-tackle world recors of the species is 42,5 kg fish landed in China in 2001. Yellowcheek has mighty cigar-chaped body, wide caudal fin .. and powerful jaws with tiny teeth & a big knob on the lower jaw. This mouth structure helps the fish to capture its prey - sawbellies, gudgeons, and other fresahwater baitfish. Gill plates of the yellowcheek are gold-colored.
Fishing from a sandbar in the lower Amur River. The fisherman is casting to the junction of two channels. Such areas often attract baitfish & predators.
In Russia the species is considered endangered (it is Red Book listed). Its numbers are growing, and now yellowcheek is not rare fish near the city of Khabarovsk (Lower Amur).
Typical habitats of the Lower Amur River are vast sandbars with wave-like structures.
Yellowcheek is difficult-to-catch fish - it is feeding in huge deep river, mostly by cruising edges of sandbars and riffles. The best tactic in warm part of the year is to float or motor along the bank in suitable places, looking for mighty splashes of the feeding predators. Similar to Siberian taimen, mature yellowcheek often hold in pairs - male & female hunt together even during non-spawning periods. The best flies are big light-colored streamers (pearl, silver & yellow) and poppers.
In hot summer weather the best chances for trophy fish in Amur River you will have during evening and early morning hours

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sea-run taimen caught in the north-eastern part of the Sakhalin Island with "String Leach"
Most often I am fishing for Sakhalin taimen with two-handed rod equipped with a floating spey-line with a sink tip 3,5 – 5 meters long. On deep and swift places it is easier to use the full-sinking line. Fishing for all taimen species requires use of big flies.
Koppi River at the mainland coast of the Sea of Japan hosts healthy stock of Sakhalin taimen
Sakhalin taimen habitats in rivers are similar to the ones used by Siberian taimen or trophy brown trout. The best areas to catch this fish are the pockets just below the riffles with depths of 1,2-2 meters, swift current on the surface and slow - near the bottom.

Small sea-run taimen caught with tube-fly

If you want to catch trophy fish, use the biggest flies you can cast. Your lure will never be too big for the predator, feeding on adult salmon. In the Koppi River most of taimen were landed with long, dark flies. The best color will be black, dark brown, or red-and-black. Try big black lamprey imitations up to 20 cm long, or the biggest “Wooly Buggers” on the # 3/0 hooks. Nobody knows why Sakhalin taimen is seriously partial to bucktail. One of the simplest and attractive lures for this fish will be a heavy 2-inch copper or brass tube with a bunch of long black and red bucktail with some strands of Crystal Flash. Another good taimen fly is Intruder, tied in dark colors – black, crimson, and brown.
Black "String Leech" in biggest sizes is one of the best flies for all taimen species

Taimen grow rather slow; it will reach maturity by the length of around 75 cm. This is why the majority of fish in the catches of sport-fishermen are immature. This fish can have very long life span and reach gigantic size. The biggest, 210 cm long (!) specimen was caught in one of the rivers of Japan in 1937. It is a big pity that nowadays because of overfishing “marine” taimen is becoming rare or disappearing throughout the whole range. In many waters this species has disappeared completely. Its numbers have drastically decreased in the rivers of the southern Kuril Islands (Kunashir and Iturup). At the Sakhalin Island the stocks are listed as endangered. On the mainland coast of the Sea of Japan the species is almost extinct in the south of the range. Several quite numerous stocks remain in the north of its former range, in the rivers Tumnin, Koppi and Samarga, and in several smaller drainages. The biggest river with taimen is Tumnin. In Japan this fish is still present in some of the streams of the Hokkaido Island. For its rareness it is called here “ghost-fish”. In Hokkaido it is now quite small; even a 8-9 kg fish is very rare. If you will be lucky to catch this rare fish, please, release it!

85 cm long fish landed in the north-east of the Sakhalin Island

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sea-run or Sakhalin taimen = Fish # 1 from the 1st message

Sea-run taimen from the Koppi River (mainland coast of the Sea of Japan)
There are 5 species of taimen. Four of these fish are resident freshwater predators, and this one is true anadromous fish - Sakhalin or sea-run taimen. From the sport-fisherman’s point of view there is a big difference between these species: sea-run fish is consuming most of its ration in the salt water. This is why it is often not very eager to feed in the river, and refuses the lures. Besides that, it is more careful and spooky than resident species.

One of the typical sea-run taimen rivers of the North-East of the Sakhalin Island

In Japan this fish is called ito, and its Russian names are taimen, or marine taimen. Native indigenous people of the Russian Far East call it goi. The head of Sakhalin taimen is comparatively bigger than by any of salmon species, and the jaws - much more powerful. In general it looks rather similar to steelhead salmon. It is mighty, heavy-bodied, silvery fish with numerous black dots of irregular shapes; at the head these dots are normally bigger and rounded. Belly and throat of many specimens are pink or reddish. Spawning of taimen occurs in the period of spring flood, from April (in Japan) to the end of May (north of the species range). At this time the males are bright - reddish-brown.

This big male was caught in the fall, but it still has some spawning colors from the spring spawning.

The species range is not big. Sakhalin taimen is spawning in rivers of the Russian Far East and some nearby islands (Sakhalin, Southern Kuriles, and Hokkaido), and feeding in the Sea of Japan and in the south of the Sea of Okhotsk. Many of the species populations are connected with brackish lakes, estuaries, or to the river drainages with big lakes situated on the plains. Sea-run taimen hatch in the river and spend several years (2-4, sometimes up to 7) is fresh water. After that the fish start annually to migrate out into the sea for feeding. This migration normally occurs in June. Lots of taimen come back into fresh water in September or October, but some enter the river as early as in August. Taimen movements are much more complicated and unpredictable comparing with Pacific salmon. Life cycle of Sakhalin taimen is more similar to Dolly Varden charr – this fish spends winter in fresh water, and summer and fall – in the sea. Taimen can move into the sea and back into fresh water several times during the summer.

Morphology of this species is rather different from other taimen species; some scientists separate it into different genus - Parahucho. The data of DNA analysis show a very ancient age of the species – about 40 million years. “Genetic age” of Siberian taimen is at least twice smaller. Scientific name of this fish is Hucho perryi; its species name was given in the favor of the naval Captain Perry, whose battle ship was a first American vessel visited Japan. The first specimen of this species, which came into the hands of scientists, was bought at the fish market of the Yokogama.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pacific coast of the Northern Asia or Russian far East

Hello! Hi! Privet!
This message is starting new blog, devoted to sport-fishing (mostly fly-fishing) in Siberia and Pacific coast of Northern Asia (Russian Far East). Russian Far East is huge region, comparable with Pacific coast of North America from California to Alaska. It is sparsely populated, and not well studied by the scientists. For travelling fly-fisherman it is remote and hard-to-reach territory with plentiful and strange fish, many of which you will not meet anywhere else.
Only some areas of the region (like famous Kamchatka Peninsula) are starting to receive substantial flow of tourists. Many others places are still true blank spots on the map with no roads or villages, and minimum available information.
As an example of the aforesaid you could have a look at the images below:
Fish # 1: do you know it? Definitely a Salmonid, but what kind of Salmonid? It is not sea-trout as you might think. This fish is sea-run species and can be over 60 kg (130 pounds).
Fish # 2: this freshwater predator can be up to 2 meters (over 6 feet) long. It is the only carp with teeth...
Fish # 3: strange pike, isn't it? It is like a leopard..
Fish # 4: This big charr is not lake trout. It is Asian-only species...
In this blog I will be "telling stories" on mentioned fish species and on many others. There will be information on nature, travelling, fly-fishing & fly-tying and related topics. The winter in our region is long. From November till April I can not fly-fish. This period I do lots of ice-fishing.