Fishing and Fossil Hunting

The intent wasn’t to go fishing and fossil hunting, just fishing, but the opportunity to fish and fossil hunt arose, so who was I to say no.

When an 8 foot tall dam that has been in place for nearly 200 years is removed, things change. All the work put into trying to make the creek behave like a natural creek is nice, but the creek tends to take on a mind of it’s own.

In this case, the creek likes to move things around.


This is the second time in the three years since the dam was removed that this gravel bar has appeared. The first time was soon after the dam was removed. It was three times bigger than what you see above.

Humans being what they are couldn’t live with that and by the end of the year the big gravel bar was scraped and moved and everything was just the way the humans wanted it again.

Then it rained, water came up and moved things around and put the gravel bar back where the creek wanted it. The big rains haven’t even started yet this year so I imagine this gravel bar will continue to grow over the next couple of months.

That’s the thing about controlling water, you can’t. Water will do whatever it wants and move things however it wants. Water has all the time in the world. All it has to do is wait and move things and over time it wins.

Water always wins.

I started out scouring the gravel bar to see if any human type remains were washed down. Not bones, but objects left behind. Objects that might have got tossed into the creek over 200 years ago and now have someplace else to go.

That’s when I stumbled upon the first fossil.


Now I was intrigued. I knew there would be fossils around, why wouldn’t there be, but that was an easy find and now I wanted to actually look. It didn’t take long to gather up what I thought were the best of what was lying around.

I have no clue if these are just a few hundred years old, or 10 thousand years old, or millions of years old. My interest ends with finding them. Identifying them by type and age add nothing to the find.

I also fished the creek, my second time out this year. The creek was completely devoid of life. Not a minnow, carp, sucker or anything else with fins. It’s early and the water is still cold, but one fish right at the mouth cooperated and I mechanically reeled in a cold water sluggish smallie.

I immediately noticed that the fishing ennui that had settled in last year was still there. Nice fish, that was fun, who am I kidding.

This year marks my 20th year of fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouth bass. Virtually all of that in northern Illinois. In that time I’ve estimated that I’ve caught around 10,000 smallmouth, give or take a few, with 90 percent of those caught in the Fox Valley.

I can continue to kid myself that somehow it’s still exciting, but I’m at the point where it’s barely even interesting.

I’d rather go fossil hunting, wandering around with my camera, even go wading around the river with my camera, but without the nuisance of carrying around all that extra fishing baggage.

I don’t see any of that as a bad thing, just a change.

Change is good, or as B.B. King would say…

The thrill is gone baby…

10 thoughts on “Fishing and Fossil Hunting

  1. bob

    I must admit, I am not as into fishing as I once was for say 30 years. Kinda’ wore out on it. I too still enjoy being out, but (always that damn “but”) it isn’t quite as enticing. Once upon a time I could put in 12 hours before passing out. Now four seems about right, maybe five, and then its time to head ot the car, eat, drink, relax, sleep a touch or drive home. Hum. Oh well, c’est la vie.

    Sadly, maybe kinda’ sadly, I’m feeling a bit like that about the photography thing too. Always had the camera with me. Always had it on the seat of the car. Always had it ready. Always saw LOTS of things to photograph. Now…. camera not out, not ready. Don’t see much I wish to shoot. That worries me. A little. Somewhat. We shall see.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I got to the 4-5 hour limit a few years ago Bob. I am interested in wading those same stretches with my camera and tripod just to see what I can do. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things over the years from that vantage point and never took a shot. Might be time for that.

      As for your images, I have a feeling you have a massive collection. I was looking through some of my older ones today and wondering why I never did anything with them. Might be time for you to revisit old things and play/create. Plus, I think it’s high time you exhibit what you have, seriously give it some effort. I think the results of that will please you.

  2. RK Henderson

    I got to the point where it was more fun for me to take other people fishing (especially kids) than to fish myself. In fact, I never fish alone anymore, and often don’t even fish when I’m guiding others. Also, I seldom keep a fish unless I have some specific recipe in mind for it. All catch and release for me.

    Interests just change, I guess.

    Cool fossils! We get stuff like that washed up on the beach after a storm. Different species, though. It would be neat to learn what exactly those shellfish are, and what kind of habitat they lived in.

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

    1. Ken G Post author

      I still enjoy the solitude of fishing alone Robin, when I want to turn left I can do it without having a discussion as to why. Somewhere on this site is my Fishing Life Plan, lots of little water around here I’ve always wanted to fish. I hope to cover a few of those this year.

      Whenever I see new gravel bars in the river after flood events, I always go looking for what got moved around. Sometimes it’s fossils, other times it’s old stuff left behind by humans. I’ve found bottles that are easily 100 years old. It’s amazing that they’ve been rolling around in the river that long and have never broken.

      A friend on facebook said the fossils look like Silurian era, I have to take his word for it. That would make them between 400-500 million years old. Kinda cool to know that.

  3. Howard Levett

    Ken, it’s sad in a way to hear you say that, but I do understand. I’m not there yet myself but I do find myself at times looking for excuses not to go. By the way, I pulled back the covers on my bed last night and found an old fossil lying there. I swear, you’d better not tell my wife I said that. 😉

    1. Ken G Post author

      My wife kinda laughed when I read her your last sentence Howard.

      I look for excuses to not bring fishing gear and just go for walks. I am going to go wandering down the creeks and rivers without fishing though. See what I can find to photograph that I’ve always walked past.

      1. Howard Levett

        I just read an interesting post over at Dry Fly Expert. He talks about walking the river before the season starts, to see what changes have been made over the winter. This really resonated with me as did this post. Thanks for that Ken.

        1. Ken G Post author

          Your welcome Howard.

          I don’t know if you saw some of the recent post Quill Gordon put up, but one was of all the ice in the little river/creek near him. Things move around a lot over the winter months, along with the usual spring high water. You just never know what got moved around. Sometimes quite dramatically.

  4. bob

    Actually, yes, I do have a lot of images I could work on for years. I tend to use only one image from any particular shoot. I don’t know why. I could create themes, serials, etc., that would be just as creative as I feel I’ve done with the one image. hum. I do find, however, I’ve a new interest in doing portraits. I think 66 years of life has given me insight into the human face I didn’t/couldn’t have had at 20, 30, 40 or maybe even fifty. hum.

    As for fishing, the only thing I really get juiced about now is Tenkara. That really feels cool, new, vital to me. Of course, i don’t think about it as “tradition” but as something new to explore and see what it can do with smallmouth. Very, very simple and elegant for me.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Look at all the portrait shots you did with the Kid Fishing program, kids and adults. I’d say you have a knack for that.

      I’m telling ya, exhibits, gallery representation, playing with past shots. Opens up a whole new world.

      I am going to go do some of my Fishing Life Plan exploring. Time for new water, preferably small new water.

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