By Montana Grant

Posted: September 8, 2018

WE all have a Bucket List of catches. Whether the Catch List is about size, numbers, or species, we take pride in adding to our lifetime dream lists.

The other day I was nymph fishing on a small stream near Three Forks. The rainbows and browns were doing all they could to wear me out. Several fish were near 20 inches with a lot from 6-15 inches. The water was off color, so I was using Copper Johns and Lightening Bug nymphs. The trashier and flashier the better.

A single, stick on, strike indicator helped me see the voracious strikes. The drift allowed me to hold the indicator a few inches out of the water. In this way I was able to see the slightest bumps and strikes, while allowing for a perfect, drag free drift.

When the indicator popped, I set the hook and caught my first Sculpin! It was not that this fish was huge, or fought hard, it was that it ate my nymph and was hooked. In all my years fly fishing, I have never caught, or seen anyone catch a sculpin.

Back in the day, Sculpins, sometimes called “Bullheads”, were often used as live bait. The “Utah Meat Fishermen” would come to the Madison River and drag their sculpins through the big, deep pools. Huge browns and rainbows were caught in this way.

Fly fishing sculpins is great fun. Working sculpin patterns can result in strong strikes. Short, crisp, strips are needed when dragging a sculpin pattern across the bottom. Fishing in low light conditions is best.

Sculpins are common in fresh and salt water. One ocean species can grow to 15 lbs. Smaller fresh water sculpins may get to be 5 inches. Their large pectoral fins allow they hold tight to the bottom. Sculpins have no air bladder, or scales, and are not buoyant in the water. They move along the bottom in short spurts.

When spawning, each spring, the males burrow out a den under a riffle area rock. He then performs an elaborate head shaking dance to attract a curious female. Once near, the female is bitten in the head and dragged into the burrow. A sticky egg mass attaches to the rock where it is guarded by the male Sculpin for about 3 weeks.

Check Sculpin off my Bucket list!

Montana Grant

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