вторник, 29 декабря 2009 г.

Amur River, mid winter

In January the icefishing in the Amur River is not as good as from the "first ice" - in November.  Most of thefish are becoming sleepy and do not bite.  Thick ice makes it hard to search for the fish. 

Not far, at the right bank of Amur the busy city of Khabarovsk is waking up.  Near the low left bank the fishermen are preparing the holes for the whitefish fishing. 

Gas-powered ice-auger is rare tool on the ice of Amur.  Most of the local fishermen still prefer to use ancient ice-pikes.

When the ice is 1 m thick, it is hard work to break through it and make a hole. 

In mid December the schools of marine lamprey are coming to Khabarovsk from the Sea of Okhotsk (the distance is 900 km).  Lampreys will be spawning in May in the tributaries of the Amur River. 

The most active fish in January is burbot; it is both spawning and feeding eagerly.  

Burbot is the only freshwater cod

Amur pike is still biting, but not as active as in November & December. 

Amur pike is very pretty fish

четверг, 24 декабря 2009 г.

Sea of Okhotsk near Magadan - ice-fishing for rainbow smelt

Rainbow smelt Osmerus dentex mordax is a numerous anadromous fish of the North Pacific.  In winter it comes to the sea shores and feeds under the ice.  Magadan fishermen like to catch it both for fun and for food.  Smelt is very tasty if fried on oil. 

"Horseless" fishermen which do not have cars are trying to get a ride to the best fishing places, far into the Gertnera Bay near Magadan.

Gertnera Bay near Magadan is frozen.  By the sunrise all smelt-fanatics are already on the ice with their cars.  Looking for the schools of smelt, the fishermen sometimes get out as far as 5 km from the bank.

First bites, first smelts

After a snowstorm the snow on the sea ice is too deep for the trucks to go through.  On the first day after storm it is possible to move only on foot. 

To fish for smelt you need ice-auger, small scoop for ice, winter rod with lures, and something to sit on.  One can not fish out of a tent or shelter - the fish schools move fast, and fishermen have to follow.
Most of Magadan fishermen use custom-made stainless augers - salt water will destroy a normal auger quite fast.

Local smelt rigs in most cases look like garlands of tiny flies, imitations of marine plancton animals.  The best colors of the lures are light green, yellow, white, or pink.  The depth where we fish is normally between 15 & 25 meters.  The fish is most often found between 1 &4 meters from the bottom, but sometimes we catch it right below the ice.  My rod is 75 cm long and has wire hooks, which allow wrapping long line when lifting the fish to the ice.  This is much easier than pulling the line with the hands. 

This time I am fishing about 4 km from the nearest bank

If you are lucky to find a school, it is easy to catch several dozens of smelt in an hour. 

Rainbow smelt (Osmerus) - above
Pond smelt (Hypomesus) - below

The most common fish in winter catch near Magadan:
Saffron cod
Rainbow smelt
Pond smelt

среда, 23 декабря 2009 г.

Elgygytgyn Lake, Chukotka - Ice-fishing in mid June

Mysterious Elgygytgyn Lake has meteorite origin and the age about 3.5 million years. The lake is situated in Chukotka at 68*N, at the altitude of 500 m.  The lake very cold (1 - 3*C only) and deep (180 m). The water is extremely clear, with transparency up to 40 meters in spring, and 25 m in the fall. In the lake dwell 3 species of unique charrs, two of which are endemic species (see picture). These two charrs have got into the hands of scientists not long ago (1979 & 1985). They were described as species new for science, and one of them - as a new genera of salmonids (Salvethymus).

In beginning of July the lake is still covered with the ice, which is already partly melted.  On some years this ice is not melting till the next winter. 

Except the Elgygytgyn Lake, Boganid charr Salvelinus boganidae was found in some other lakes of Chukotka, and at the Taimyr peninsula (Central Siberia). In the lakes of Chukotka this fish can be over 10 kg. In the Elgygytgyn Lake Boganid charr is feeding mostly at the big depth. To digest the food, this fish is coming close to the lake shore or to the inlets of small creeks, where the water is several degrees warmer.

In June the lake is covered with the ice, but near the lake shores there is some open water.  I was catching Boganid charr both by spinning lures ...

... and through the ice with a "diving" lure. The ice in mid June is still strong enough to walk on it.  The biggest charr was 9.1 kg.   

Charrs of the Elgygytgyn Lake:
longfin charr Salvethymus svetovidovi - new genus
smallmouth charr Salvelinus elgyticus - new species
Boganid charr Salvelinus boganidae

Longfin charr (30 cm, 30+ years old male in spawning colors).  This species dwells most of the year on the depth of over 70 meters, and comes to the lake shores only sometimes.  It is very difficult to catch it with hook & line. 

Longfin charr is swimming in the hole in the ice. 

The lake outlet, the Enmyvaam River, is still murky from the snowmelt.  The river (rated 3) has some falls, and is flowing through canyons to the Anadyr River.

понедельник, 21 декабря 2009 г.

Amur River near Khabarovsk - ice-fishing for whitefish Coregonus ussuriensis

Amur whitefish Coregonus ussuriensis is one of two whitefish species which dwell in the huge Amur River drainage.  The fish can reach big size (up to 5 kg).  The ecology of the species is unique:  from September till April it can be found in the main channels of the Amur River.  In summer the water in Amur is too warm for whitefishes, up to +25*C.  For the summer this species is migrating upstream into the cool water of the lower parts of mountainous tributaries of the Amur R.  Most of its diet consists of small fish. 
Smooth ice is formed over shallow sandbars with slack current; broken ice shows the areas with the depth over 3 meters and strong current.  The fishermen are catching whitefish at the depths 3 to 5 meters. 

Typical tackle for Amur whitefish has a small brass lure with 2 hooks.  Above it we tie a dropper hook on a long tippet; this hook is baited with a long and narrow piece of raw fish. 

The lure is lifted from the bottom and dropped back every 2-4 seconds.  Most of the fish are caught not with the lure itself, but with a baited hook. 

When the biting is good, during the day it is possible to build a long fence

Arthur is glad to catch a nice Amur whitefish

 This species has terminal mouth, suitable to catch small fish

In 5 long months I will be able to catch similar fish with a flyrod..

суббота, 19 декабря 2009 г.

Amur River, Khalanda channel, Dec 19, 2009

Air temp -20*C, almost no wind.  The cars are driving on the ice of the frozen Talga channel of Amur near Khabarovsk.  Everybody is in a hurry - the sun is rising; the pikes will start biting soon!

Amur pike with its black dots on cream background looks more like trout or salmon

Local fishermen catch pike with primitive selfmade rods and heavy lead lures - "crabs". The line is 0,6-0,8 mm mono.

Pike "crab" looks like a snagging device, but it is not one: the fish (mostly pike) are biting it, I swear! 

That day the biting of pike was quite good, but I was not lucky to catch really big ones.

One of my neighbors had landed a 6+ kg pike; one more bit off his line..

Nice trophy!  Smaller fish are about 1 kg.

среда, 16 декабря 2009 г.

Amur River - two streams in one

Amur is about 4350 kilometers (3000 miles) long; by the surface of the watershed drainage it is the tenth biggest river of the Globe. Lower reaches of Amur begin from the mouth of big right tributary, Ussury River. Here is situated the biggest city of the Russian Far East, Khabarovsk. For 400 km downstream from Khabarovsk Amur has low gradient and flows mostly on sand. Countless creeks and channels, pools and islands, lakes and sloughs form an enormous labyrinth, where it is easy to get lost.

The list of Amur fish contains more than 130 species; its fish community is still not well studied. This fauna is queer mixture of typical coldwater species (burbot), widely distributed northern salmonids (taimen), representatives of the temperate zone (carp), and true tropical fish as well (snakehead). Besides that, 3 species of Pacific salmon (pink, chum and cherry) enter the river for spawning. In summer the water in Amur is warm enough for fish from the tropical rivers to thrive. Coldwater species spend summer in mountains, in cool tributaries. In summer the main channel of the river and the floodplain water bodies are the kingdom of warm-water species. The water in the river can be 22-26ºC, and in shallow lakes - up to 32ºC! Salmonids and other fish which do not like warm water spend this unfavorable period in mountainous tributaries.

Many strange fish live in Amurr River - like this Amur pike

On the contrary, in winter and spring Amur is a typical Siberian river; it is covered with thick ice. Some fish are still active in freezing-cold water – Siberian taimen, lenok (Siverian trout), whitefish, some Carps (ide, barbel, blackbelly, etc.), burbot, and Amur pike.

All this means, that from the ecology point of view Amur is not one river, but at least two - with different fish faunas.

During the freezing Amur has strong ice-flood.  By mid November the river looks like a boundless fiels of broken ice.  Only slow channels and lakes are covered with normal, smooth ice.  is

In winter Amur River valley looks like a desert, covered with both ice and sand  

The entire Siberia is frozen from November till April or May