Posts Tagged ‘fishing’


The Falls of the Ohio offers a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the year.  Whether you prefer light tackle action in the shallows or the pull from a fifty pound catfish while sitting on a boat…you can find that on the Ohio River flowing by Louisville.  I always check out what’s happening on the riverbank when I come out here.  I am especially interested in seeing what species are being caught and what’s being used to catch them.  On this warm December day the action was happening in the shallows.  Fisherman were using soft-bodied jigs to catch Sauger (a smaller relative of the Walleye) and this nice White Bass.



The White Bass, (Roccus chrysops) was first described by the eccentric naturalist Constantine Rafinesque who was familiar with the fish life at the Falls of the Ohio.  The White Bass is a big river fish that is also found in impoundments.  This fish can get to be 15 to 18 inches long and a maximum of around five pounds.  We also have a smaller relative, the Yellow Bass that is also found in the Ohio River.  Both species are related to marine sea basses and scatter their eggs without further care of their young.


Since there is a lot of fishing activity on the river, I also find a lot of lost fishing gear. Broken poles, snagged line, and lots of plastic fishing lures like this recent example. It’s very easy to snag and lose a lure in the rocky bottom out here. Usually, when I find a lure, it is minus its hooks which either have broken off or have dissolved away.  I also pick up lost fishing floats and have been amazed by how much design variety that fishing tackle can encompass.  On the negative side, I also have a fairly full sandwich bag of lead fishing weights that I have accumulated over the years.  When the river is down during the height of summer, I will check out the dried holes in the rocky bottom that catch and tumble lead and other metals.

If nothing else, 2016 will be remembered by me for the quality of the fishing.  I was able to catch three species new to me to add to a growing list of species I have documented at the Falls of the Ohio.  Check out the next couple of images of a rare Ohio River Bowfin (Amia ohioensis) I angled from under the railroad bridge.



The Ohio River Bowfin is only marginally related to the better known Bowfin, (Amia calva).  The Ohio River Bowfin has adapted its life to living in shallow rocky streams where it ambushes other fish, frogs, crayfish, and other river invertebrates.  Uniquely, its anal and caudal fins have fused into one large fin that comes in handy for scraping out nests in the gravel bottoms it prefers to breed on.  After the male entices the gravid female into his nest and with a little luck and persuasion, a clutch of about fifty eggs is deposited and fertilized.  The male assumes all parenting duties.  Can also be distinguished by it long slender body and bright orange-colored eyes.  After a few pictures and measurements the fish was released unharmed back into the river.


On another river expedition in November, I visited a different Falls of the Ohio location near the Interpretive Center to sample the fish life there.  Within a minute or two of my first cast I caught this near world record Copperbelly Suckermouth, (Catostomidae cupricana).  I was using a hook baited with clam meat which is the principle food of this Ohio River oddity.  The boats anchored in the river are probably going after large catfish.  This view gives you a good indication of the body type that evolved with some fish that inhabit swift flowing water.  Drag has been minimized and the pectoral fins are strong enough to anchor the fish in place as it hovers over the clam beds it prefers.

Here’s a symbiotic side note…several fresh water clam species use the Copperbelly Suckermouth as an intermediate host during part of their life cycles.  The nearly microscopic clam larvae attach themselves to the fish’s gills where for a short time, the larvae suck blood and grow before dropping off the fish to complete their life cycles in the gravely bottom. The host fish are left unharmed during the process.



A sneak peek on why this species is called the Copperbelly Suckermouth.  It’s undersides are a deep, rich, red to orange ochre color that is particularly intense during the Spring breeding period.  The strong sucker mouth is located on the fish’s ventral side and is flanked by barbels that help it locate food in the river’s bottom.  This was also strictly catch and release as was the case with my next fishy find.  As with most bottom dwelling fish at the Falls, one should limit how big a meal you make from your catch.  Toxins are more prevalent in the lower reaches which then are ingested and stored in the fish’s fatty tissues.  This particular species, however, has minimal food value.


Another day and location at the Falls of the Ohio and another unexpected catch!  Using a grasshopper I caught on the bank and a beaver-chewed willow pole I found nearby, I fashioned a rig with an old line and a hook and caught this Kentucky Killifish, (Cyprinodontidae gargantua) by jigging the grasshopper around the shadows cast by the fossil-loaded limestone.  I dropped the grasshopper into just the right dark hole and pulled out this beauty.


This is a giant among the killifishes as most are under a few inches in length.  Its blue eyes are distinctive.  Small invertebrates in the form of insect larvae are its main food item, but experience has shown it will go for whatever it thinks it can swallow using its relatively tiny mouth.  This fish has no food or sport value what so ever.  During the summer breeding period, the males of this species can get very colorful in an attempt to impress.  Still, a very nice way to cap the year with a new fish to add to the life list!


Fishing on Mars or the Falls of the Ohio?  The setting sun has colored the dried riverbank a lovely Martian red.  Here explorers are doing what we do…searching for life in the most promising place we know which happens to be by the water.  I hope 2017 manages a way to be kind to our rivers and freshwater everywhere.  I’ll end my fishing story with a look inside the box where I keep my found fishing lures.  See you next year…from the Falls of the Ohio.



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On the dry Indiana bank, Falls of the Ohio, Oct 2014

After my all day excursion to the Kentucky side of the fossil beds…my next visit to the park was a relatively short one.  I had a few hours to work with and decided to check out the riverbank on the Indiana side.  It has been very dry of late and I heard on the radio that farmers have begun revising their optimism about this year’s corn crop.  Once again, we have had a season that seems atypical in a few respects.  Most notably, our summer has been a cool one.  No temperatures in the high 90 or 100 degree range…that would be about 35 to 38 degrees on the Celsius scale.  Climatologists point to the cold Arctic air that came sweeping down from Canada during July as the reason our summer was not as hot.  People around here aren’t complaining about that, but after last year’s polar vortex winter… folks are wondering if that bodes well for this year’s fall and winter?

Cracked, drying mud, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

In addition to the coolness, it’s also been dry of late.  Seems that we haven’t had a significant rain storm to speak of in weeks and the river continues to recede.  New pools are formed stranding fish in them and many creatures take advantage of this bounty.  Walking along the cracked riverbank I find evidence of this.

Dead Longnose gar and decaying Bull gill, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

I soon came across dead fish left behind in the wake of weekend fishermen.  In this picture, an armored and toothy Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) lies side by side with an equally interesting fish that is rarely found here.  With its thick body, white caudil fins, and unique pectoral fins…I identify this smaller fish.  It’s more commonly called a Bull Gill, but science also recognizes it as (Taurus opercula).  I wonder if there are any other specimens hiding in the deeper pools around here?  To find out, I gather waste monofilament line found all along the riverbank along with a found lead-headed jig and before too long I have improvised a hand line for fishing.

Bull Gill on a hand line, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

Bull Gill on the line, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

After some trial and error, I succeeded in catching a Bull Gill by bumping my jig along the bottom of a wide, but shallow pool.  The fish was well hooked and after a short struggle I was able to bring him up for a better look.

Bull Gill in hand, Falls of the Ohio, October 2014

Captured Bull Gill facing left, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

I hurriedly take as many photographs as I can.  My intention is to release this fish back into the water after I document its presence here at the Falls of the Ohio.  As you can see, this fish contrasts greatly with the dead gar we saw earlier.  The gar is in fact a more ancient and primitive fish that relies on its hard armor for protection.  The gar is mostly a surface fish mimicking a floating piece of wood while it stealthily seeks out smaller fish to ambush.  The gar’s strategy has been so successful that it has changed little after millions of years.  The Bull Gill evolved much later and lacks prominent scales on its more compact body.  It too, however has evolved a unique method of feeding.

Bull Gill seen head on, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

Bull Gill supporting itself on its pectoral fins, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

The Bull Gill gets its name from its powerfully muscled head.  Just below and behind its gill covers, the unique pectoral fins have evolved so that this fish can support itself on the bottom of a swiftly moving stream or river.  I was able to demonstrate this with my specimen.  I placed my fish upon the rocks by the riverbank and it was able to support its body off the rocky surface using its strong and rigid fins.  In the water, the Bull Gill secures itself on the rocky bottom with its stiff pectoral fins and with its head facing upriver.  The Bull Gill is a predatory bottom feeder.  As prey fish swim by, the Bull Gill with a quick burst is able to capture its food and swallows them head first before returning to its spot on the river bottom.  I had this fish out of water for just a couple of minutes before releasing it safely back into the Ohio River.  I had to say that I enjoyed encountering a creature you don’t see every day.  It’s presence here is a good sign since the Bull Gill needs good quality water to thrive.   I gathered up my collecting bag and walking stick and decided to check out my stash of Styrofoam under the willows.

Up the riverbank and under the willows, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

The willow trees are up the riverbank and the leaves are beginning to yellow more noticeably.  Along the way you pass by a couple of courses of deposited driftwood.  I love the silvery color of this wood which is due to exposure to the sun and elements.  I had a great surprise in store for me once I ducked under the cover of the trees.  For many years I have known that White-tail Deer are present in the park because their tracks are all over the place.  These ghost deer are fairly close to a populated area and extremely wary of people.  They must move around the park in the middle of the night or really early in the morning to avoid detection.

The deers' resting place, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

deer tracks in the sand, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

As I moved near my spot, I spooked a doe and her late season fawn.  I could still make out the spotted pattern on the fawn.  They were bedded down near a large log that floated into the park last year.  I first saw the doe which rose and ran off upon sighting me.  The fawn then stood up and followed after its mom.  I was unable to take a photograph because this sequence happened in just seconds.  I then followed to see if a second glimpse was possible and I even doubled back to this spot should the deer attempt the same maneuver.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get another look at them, but since they are near my outdoor studio, I will be sure to check for them next time.

My stash of Styrofoam, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

It had been many weeks since I last visited my larder of river-gleaned materials.  I could tell that people had been through here, but there is obviously nothing of value.  I mean what could one do with water-tumbled polystyrene and sticks?  If the river doesn’t rise anytime soon, I will come back and make something from this odd deposit.  My next post, however, will come from the Kentucky side of the fossil beds.  After this adventure, I returned with my river-polished coal and explored a few more areas around Goose Island and the hydroelectric plant.  I think I made some compelling images that speak of a sense for place and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Fall color at the Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014



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Falls black styrofigure, July 2013

With the sun spotlighting this little patch of sand…my newest Styro-figure proudly stood upright.  He’s the first persona created in the reconfigured studio.  I found a rare piece of “black Styrofoam” on today’s walk.  It’s part of what passes for car bumpers these days.  This material has a rubberized compound mixed throughout the foam which makes it harder to cut or pierce.

Leaving home, July 2013

After making new friends it’s time to venture out into the world.  The leafy green complete with bird song is complimented by the creaky willows that sway with the occasional breeze.  There is another sound, however, that your feet are hearing and you walk in the direction of its source.

Black Styro-figure by the river, July 2013

The mighty Ohio River has been running muddy for more that a week now.  Although it’s hot and humid today, thus far, this summer has been wetter and cooler than average.  As a result of all the rain, the river has been higher than usual.  What I like about the Falls of the Ohio is that in such a relatively intimate space the park can take on all kinds of different looks depending on the weather and season.  Small waves break upon the heightened shoreline and there is a family nearby fishing and playing by the river.

Family fishing for catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Seeing that they were having some luck catching fish, I gestured if it was all right to take their pictures.  The family didn’t speak English and I’m guessing that they are recent immigrants from Southeast Asia?  Regardless, both adults and children were having a ball in the river.  I wondered if they came from someplace like this since they seemed so comfortable and natural by the water? After receiving the okay signal I recorded these images of people interacting with the river.

little boy, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

This little guy was cute and really determined that I should take his picture in what I’m assuming is a martial arts pose?  I obliged him several times and this was my personal favorite snapshot of the group.  Looking through my riverblog…I’m struck by how often children appear and interact with my artistic process.  First, my own two sons would accompany me and now it’s the kids in the park on any given day.

Man with Flathead Catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Flathead catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

I watched this fish being landed and it’s a decent sized Flathead catfish, (Pylodictus olivaris).  This fish probably weighed in the ten to twelve pound range, but this catfish can get as large as a hundred pounds.  It is a fish of big rivers.  A very simple rig was used to catch this fish.  Four slipshot lead weights were clamped onto the line about eight inches away from the hook.  A single nightcrawler worm was used for bait which was cast about 25 yards from the riverbank.  The fishermen would wade in about knee-high to waist deep to increase casting length.  I was amazed that with the current and all the potential underwater obstructions that their lines didn’t get snagged more often than they did.

Catfish stringer, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

This was the stringer of catfish they were working on.  In addition to the Flatheads…another big river fish the Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) was also being caught.

catfish stringer, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

The Blue catfish is a slatey-gray color and has a forked tail.  The two fish on the lower right in the above image are blues.  The flatheads are more of a mottled olive color and have very different fins.  Both are omnivorous and will eat most anything that they can catch.

Man and catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

All the fish on the stringer will be used to feed this family.  It is still not recommended that people eat the larger fish (especially bottom dwelling species) from the Ohio River. The river is much cleaner than it used to be, however, toxins do build up in the fat tissues of the fish that live the longest and grow to be big.  Every once in a while, making a meal of some of the smaller fish should be okay.  Because I was needed elsewhere today…I let my day at the river draw to an end.  Good thing too…because if you stand too long in the same spot at the water’s edge…you chance sinking down too far!  See you soon.

Styro-figure in black, waist deep in wet sand, July 2013

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Fishermen, Falls of the Ohio, June 1, 2013

It’s the beginning of June at the Falls of the Ohio.  I arrived at the river to find a dozen or so fishermen that were up on this cool, grey morning before me.  There are both people and boats in and on the water.  Many fishermen are knee to thigh high in the river balancing themselves on the shallow, but rocky bottom.

Fishermen at the Falls, June 2013

The river attracts all kinds of fishermen.  I see people who have lots of fancy, expensive tackle and for the most part they are using light gear for smaller, sporty, quarry.  And then there are the guys that seem more local and blue-collar.  No fancy gear here that the anglers might prefer.  Rather this is a big pole, five gallon bucket, come as you are affair.  Word has probably been passed down the line that the “shad” are running and it’s a good time to catch a mess of fish.

Skipjack herring at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

This is the fish of the day…the Skipjack Herring, (Alosa chrysochloris).  This fish was first described by the naturalist Rafinesque in the early part of the 19th century.  It’s an abundant and beautiful fish found in all of Kentucky’s major rivers and up into the Mississippi River too.  The Skipjack is anadromous which means it migrates up rivers from the sea to breed.  During the right time of year large schools of Skipjacks are congregating under the dams and waiting for the chance to move forward.  The Skipjack gets its name from jumping out of the water like a skimming stone in pursuit of the smaller fishes it eats.  At the Falls, the fishermen are catching Skipjacks to use as bait.  The fish is cut into quarters and set upon large treble hooks in the hopes of catching big catfish.  One fisherman told me he witnessed a 30 pound catfish being caught with this method the previous night.  I recently read that these waters were also once home to the Ohio Shad (Alosa ohiensis) which were first described from specimens caught in the Ohio River at Louisville in the late 19th century.  This fish is so rare now that it is on occasion listed as being extinct.  The Ohio Shad was probably not common to begin with.

dead fish, June 2013

Along the water’s edge the smell of dead fish demarcates the air where water and land meet.  The riverbank is littered with the unlucky who through lost scales and exposed bone are returning to the world from which they came.  There was one unfamiliar fish that I came across and I did a series of photos of it.  Here are several views I made of this new fish.

Yellow-fin Carp with skipjack, June 2013

Fish studies, June 2013

There isn’t anything in the literature about this fish and so I’m going to designate it the Yellow-fin Carp for obvious reasons.  In life, it probably was in the 3 to 5 pound range and I’m surprised it didn’t get cut up for bait as well? It has the tell-tale large eyes that suggest it is a deeper water fish.  It was probably caught by mistake, released, died, and washed up here with the other unfortunates.  Here’s a couple of images made along the riverbank.

Yellow-fin Carp in hand, June 2013

Yellow-fin Carp in hand 2, June 2013

Since this is something you don’t run across out here very often, I thought I would post a few more images that provide a more formal portrait.

Yellow-fin Carp, facing right, June 2013

Yellow-fin Carp, facing left, June 2013

And now for a head-on view of this interesting fish.

head-on view of Yellow-fin Carp, June 2013

People were not the only animals out here after the Skipjacks.  Several bird species including Ospreys, Double-crested Cormorants, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Great Blue Herons were taking their share.  Here is a heron couple that are set up by the tainter gates in the eastern section of the park.   Between catching fish they mirrored each other in a few courtship moves.

Great Blue Herons by the tainter gates at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2013


The fossil limestones at the Falls of the Ohio are famous for the diversity of Devonian Age life forms that are preserved within the rocks.  Ironically, the Devonian Age is also known as the age of fishes because they first appear in the fossil record over 350 million years a go.  At the Falls, however, fish are poorly represented in this rock record.  I imagined that if they had preserved as well as other creatures…their remains might look something like this.

dead fish at the Falls, June 2013

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Last Saturday was a fun adventure for me and involved a few more people than usual too!  First, the morning light was fantastic and I met photographer Ross Gordon down at the Falls who is working on a photo project of his own.  We walked to my outdoor studio to see how things were weathering.  Everything looked relatively undisturbed.

On our way back to the parking lot, I was able to locate the Pied Woodpecker that had taken up temporary residency in the park.  My friend saw this as a great opportunity for a one of a kind photograph. Here’s Ross in action while the bird looks on with puzzled expression.

After that early adventure I had an appointment at the Interpretive Center I didn’t want to miss. I had received a nice invitation to hang out with Girl Scout Troop # 1008 while they pitched in to help clean up the park.

My friend Laura who works at Gallery Hertz has a daughter in scouting.  Since Troop #1008 had already scheduled a clean up at the river…she wondered if I could join them to talk about what I do in the park?  I began by showing the troop the bottle piece I had just finished and photographed before catching up with them this morning.  After the show and tell, the gloves were put on and the litter bags were distributed as the young women started cleaning up around the Interpretive Center.  They did a really good job too as shown by this large sheet of plastic they pulled out of the underbrush.

I followed around collecting trash with the scouts and made this figure from the junk I found.  I left him standing near a path along the Woodland Trail.

The figure included bits of hickory nuts, wood, and plastic.  The small purple ball was a good find and helped make this piece more interesting. The nose is part of an old corn cob.

My composite figure had to give a little shout out to the troop for their hard work.  In what seemed a short amount of time, an impressive pile of trash bags appeared by the park’s dumpster.  In a great mood…the clean up team assembled for this celebratory photograph.

After the troop left, I hung out at the river for another hour or so.  There was still a little color left in the trees that soon would be gone.

The little dark dot near the center of the above image is a fisherman I had been watching.  He has hip waders on which has helped him get out to a channel where the fish were biting. While working with the girl scouts, the fisherman passed by on his way home.  He was nice enough to show me his impressive stringer of fish.

He had some nice saugers (dark and mottled) and a few hybrid stripped bass.  I’m always pleasantly surprised by some of the fish I see being caught out here.  Well, that’s all the time I have today.  Have a great week and see you later!

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I’m at the Falls of the Ohio again because the Ohio River has been priming my subconscious all week with the sound of running water.  I am also very close to finishing the piece I’m making for an invitational art exhibit I’m participating in which revolves around the issue of coal and mountain top removal.  This is a topic of some importance in Kentucky.  We have a love/hate relationship with coal.  On the one hand it is an energy resource we have in some abundance and it does provide much-needed jobs and revenue, however, the toll it takes on everything it touches is also well documented. Over the last few posts you have seen some of the process I’ve been involved with the coal the Ohio River has deposited at the Falls.  Today I’m gathering the last of the coal I need for my art.

The spring floods of 2011 washed a lot of coal into the park.  My “usual” Falls of the Ohio project touches upon another important issue which is the quality of our number one vanishing resource… fresh, clean water.  As is the case with most aspects of the environment, few issues stand in isolation from all the other problems out there.  Considerable overlapping is the norm which makes all these problems that much more complex and challenging.

The piece I’m making for this invitational exhibit isn’t intended to be a didactic one.  I’m not sure that screaming at people ultimately does much good when it comes to something as complicated as the coal issue.  I also don’t pretend to have the answers.  I’m hoping that the artwork I’m making with this coal will operate effectively just under the surface of people’s imaginations where it might linger long enough to resonate.  We will see.  In the meantime, I’ve “enjoyed” working with this material.  I have decided that it does have an odd beauty of its own especially when the river tumbles away its rough edges.  I have found simply creating small mounds of coal whether in old car tires or just by itself to be a reflective act.

After playing with the coal for a few hours, I decided it was time to do something else.  It has been a while since I last baited a hook and went fishing.  I got the idea when I came across a long willow branch that a beaver had gnawed all the bark off for food.  Looking around the riverbank, I also found a hook, lead sinkers, and enough waste fishing line to outfit my found pole.  Fishing floats are something I find in abundance and always have a few in my collecting bag. I also pick up the lead weights that other fishermen lose because this metal doesn’t need to be out here either.  Looking under rocks, I scrounged up enough insect larvae to use for bait.  Now I was ready to throw my line in the water…and wait.

I guess about twenty minutes passed before I got my first nibble.  I lost my bait several times before I was successful in hooking a fish.  The sight of my float going completely under the water was a thrilling one!

This fish didn’t give me much of a fight.  After a few runs in different directions I could feel it tire and lifted it out of the water. To be honest, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what species this was, but I know that I have never seen anything quite like it here before.  It’s coloration was unusual with its light blue body and bright red tail.

It’s eyes are large and I surmised that it usually lives in the depths of the river where light rarely reaches it.  I thought it had some similarities to the sauger which is a walleye relative and also found here, but it lacked the sharp teeth that the sauger has.  It’s gill covers or operculums were metallic and reminded me of the bottoms of aluminum cans that the river washes into the park.

I quickly took a few more photographs and then released this fish safely back into the river.  When I got home I tried to look up some information about my catch, but couldn’t find much about it.  Apparently, Rafinesque and LeSueur, two early naturalists who described many of the fish found in the Ohio River and Falls of the Ohio, were mum on this subject which was disappointing.  Until I can locate better reference material I decided to just call it something descriptive like the Red-tailed Goggle-eye.  Of course, any information that any of you out there might have would be welcomed! Seeing this fish I also had another more disturbing thought.  What if this is evolution in action and the continued degradation of the environment is shaping new species from older ones that can deal with the new reality?  Evolve or die. This brought the question of man as an agent of evolutionary change to mind since we are culpable for many of the changes going on in the larger world.  Well for now, I’ll just sleep on it and see what turns up tomorrow.  See you by the water!

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The fishing had been good and attracted both experienced and novice fisherman.  People were catching some of the smaller striped bass and the occasional catfish.  Summer has descended full-bore with its twins…heat and humidity and so a visit to the river is a welcome diversion for many.  The parking lots around the park are full.  To me, this is a mixed blessing.  You want those who can appreciate nature and the surrounding area to enjoy themselves, however, there is always that element present that can’t resist despoiling for their own selfish reasons.  Sometimes it seems that visitors leave as much trash here as the river does in its wildest moods.  Please pack your garbage out.  After checking out the fishermen, I head up the bank to locate my last project with its polystyrene figure.

I’m not shocked at all to come across Joe Coalman’s eyeless skull resting in the hot sand.  To be honest, I would be more amazed to find him still intact.  My postmortem revealed that he had the stuffing knocked out of him.  I found his body about thirty yards from his head.  I take some photographs and gather the remains.  I’ll probably recycle him into another project in the future.  As for the tire with the coal in it…

…well, it too has been altered.  I can see how a standing Styrofoam figure would make a tempting target, but what about a tire filled with coal?  It must have provoked someone because the coal had been knocked out.  The black rocks were scattered all around.  I regathered them, but I could not find all the coal that was originally in the tire.  Curiously, if you look at the rim of the tire you will see something I had not originally placed there.  It’s a tiny white clam shell left perhaps by another visitor?  I appreciated this simple gesture and moved on.  Soon I reached my outdoor atelier with its latest cache of Styrofoam.  I laid Joe Coalman, skull and all back into the pile and wondered what to do next?

While sitting on the enormous wooden beam that defines one side of my outdoor studio, I spied something interesting on an equally impressive log.  Growing along the margins of an old bird dropping was this wonderful fungus.  At the Falls of the Ohio, there are many different types of fungi that help break down the organic bonanza that washes into here.  I wish I knew more about them, but realize that this is another entire field of study.  Nevertheless, fungi are of immense importance and help recycle nutrients among the many other useful services they perform.  With this particular fungus, it looked like it was on the downward cycle having already released its spores from the fruiting bodies that were now arranged like some organic version of Stonehenge.  After studying this curiosity for a few minutes, I settled into the familiar activity of creating a figure that would be the benchmark for the day.  Before revealing it to you…here are a couple of other things that I want to show you that I happened across during my walk.

I’m always looking at the evidence and trying to figure out what occurred at a particular place?  Here a fisherman on his way back to the rest of his life has dumped out his bait bucket and left the four tiny bluegills in the sand.  Perhaps they were dead already since fish in a bucket die of oxygen loss without an aerator to cycle air back into the water?  I wondered if the use of these bluegills broke any laws since using other sport fish for bait is generally frowned upon?  I could imagine the size of the bucket from the wet area in the sand.  The silver circular object is the bottom of an aluminum can.  Near this scene, I also came across this discovery.

Less than a stone’s throw from the dead fish I found this arrangement in the sand.  I love it when people opt to leave their mark on the land in this fashion.  Present were two complete circles in the sand defined by upright sticks with mounded sand in their centers.  In my mind, I imagined two gears or cogs moving in response to each other.  The movement of the sun provided some of the energy needed to activate this metaphorical machine.  I decided that this place was a good site to unveil my latest figure which implies movement too.  I let it dance throughout this arrangement in the sand.

Maybe this was originally made by a child while his family fished?  It doesn’t matter because it gave me something positive to react with and made my day.  Feeling satisfied, I started back to my own vehicle, but there would be one more surprise on this day.  Perhaps this was also made by the same folks who did the circles in the sand?  Again, sticks were employed albeit much longer in length.  See for yourselves.

Logs and long branches were leaned against a willow tree and the effect implied shelter to me.  Other long sticks were placed upright into the sand and helped define the area.  A wooden palette was dragged to this location and left to provide seating.  Because the materials used are all local, it would be very easy to walk by this if you weren’t paying attention.  That’s one of the things my Styrofoam figures have working against them…their stark whiteness usually gives them away even at some distance.  But then again, for me that’s part of what I do which is to call attention to the stuff that doesn’t belong out here and through a little creativity, show what can be done.  I appreciate the stick pieces because they only use the natural materials that are out here.  I wish I could do this more often myself, but this isn’t the reality I usually discover out here.  Leaving the area, I came by this wonderful flower and in its center…was this tiny bee carrying on as her kind has for as long as there have been flowers in need of pollination.  Until next time.

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The huge mound of recently deposited driftwood under the railroad bridge is both an obstacle and a magnet.  It’s not easy to walk over and it helps to have a good walking stick to help maintain your balance.  The rewards for persevering are a nice elevated view of the Louisville skyline and the potential for finding interesting junk intermingled with the wood.

Once you move over or around this mound you enter the margins of the willow forest and you can see what the full force of the river can do to a landscape.  These black willows are tenacious and their roots hold on.  Here’s another image of a remarkable willow tree and its root mass.  This one wears a trophy from the flood like a victory pennant.

From all the cars in the parking lot, I’m guessing the fishing must be pretty good today.  I stepped by some earlier evidence in the form of this longnose gar skull.  I think this one was caught by rod and reel.  But, I have seen the remains of hundreds of these fish before stranded and killed by a retreating river.  Longnose gars are routinely in the 3 to 4 feet range in length.  The jaws are lined with small needle-like teeth for catching and holding on to smaller fish.  The gar is a surface fish and floats in on its quarry like a piece of driftwood very stealthily before surprising it with a quick flash of the jaws.

Moving to the river, I decided to watch what the fishermen were doing and catching.  In about twenty minutes, I watched two large catfish being landed.  Here are two guys that have this down.  Using multiple poles, they cast both worms and cut shad into the swiftly moving waters.  Snags and lost tackle are common since this part of the river is also full of rocks and boulders.

I was inspired by the scene and left them this contour drawing in the sand before moving on.

Earlier I had seen a flock of grackles by the water flowing under the bridge.  They were catching some food item here that I wasn’t able to figure out what it was…perhaps dead minnows?

The grackles were working the river just like the fishermen were.  I left them a drawing in the sand as well made with the tip of my walking stick.  The sand today is moist and firm which holds a fine line better than usual.

Of course, while I’m walking along I’m filling my collecting bag with the odds and ends that make up the rest of this riverblog.  Some of it is just stuff that I will attempt to make art with and the rest are souvenirs of our material culture.  Once the bag was full, I turned and headed up the bank to get under some trees and out of the sun.  I then made this sand butterfly to mark the spot where I turned for the willows.

I have set up a new outdoor studio near the margins of the driftwood mound.  Instead of a plank to sit on, I’m using this large wooden bridge or railroad tie.  I haven’t found the large sections of Styrofoam that mark last season, but what I can find I’ve gathered at this spot.  I did make a figure on this day which extended this adventure, but I will wait until next time before unveiling it to you.  Thanks for tagging along…you have been good company!

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The other night after supper I had an hour or so to visit the river before the sun set.  So, I escaped to the river and my favorite park to check out the quality of the light as it slowly sets below the horizon.  During this time of year, the days are longer.  In short order, I was able to make this little figure from Styrofoam found on site.  What looks to be a green feather on this guy’s head is actually a miniature plastic skateboard missing its tiny wheels.  I used found coal for his eyes and his ears are small clam shells.  I tied some string around his waist for a belt.

Although it rained lightly a couple of days a go, things are looking a bit stagnant and dry in places.  The weatherman on the television gave some earlier hints that strong storms were a possibility for our area.  We shall wait and see.  For now, a quick stroll is in order before the rain comes or at least until the sun sets for another day.  Wandering near the river, I hear the calls of Killdeer plovers who are so good at sounding the alarm whenever danger is present…in this case, it’s me.  I managed this one quick photo of a bird hiding in an isolated patch of  grass.  The bright red eye-ring is visible making its eyes appear larger.

I noticed that whenever one of the resident vultures flew over, this bird would duck down in the grass.  Although the vultures don’t pose any danger, the Killdeer instinctively hide from what might be a bird of prey intent on eating it.  I have seen an American Kestrel make a meal of one of these large plovers before way out on the fossil beds on the Kentucky side.

There is a drying out occurring and all the small pools of water are evaporating.  In the process, they become more and more stagnant and I bet there’s a wealth of life in a single drop of this water.  I move the figure closer to the river’s edge to see what we can find.

The fishermen have had their moments.  Left on the bank are the remains of dead fish and the trash the anglers didn’t want to deal with packing back to their vehicles.  Of course, the vultures love all the fish and make short work of them.  What the birds miss…the flies find.

I do get a bit upset by the litter left behind by the fishermen.  I wouldn’t consider them sportsmen because they seem to have little regard for this resource.  I wish the people in charge of patrolling the park would come down here more often than they do.  I’m sure they would find many people out here fishing without a license.  I think some official presence visiting occasionally would be a good reminder to keep this place cleaner.

There are still isolated piles of previously collected river debris waiting for the trip to the landfill.  I hope at some point in the near future that this junk gets picked up for good.  For the moment, it represents a job half completed.  At this point in my visit, I perceive  that the quality of the light is different and a breeze is kicking up.  From the west I can see that the weatherman has a good shot of being right about his forecast.  A storm is on its way and I gather my stuff for the return trip home.  I hope the storm is a good one because this place could use a little freshening up.

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Fishing is an important year round activity at the Falls of the Ohio.  When the right conditions are present (and this is best known by the fish) the fishing can be excellent.  Such was the situation this past weekend.  It was unbelievably hot and humid, but the fish were in the shallows and everything that fishes was out here.  Lining the more accessible banks and from boats, anglers were throwing both natural and artificial lures into the riffles and coming up with some nice stringers of fish.  On the less accessible fossil banks on the Kentucky side of the river and from strategically placed rocks in the flowing water, herons and vultures were waiting.

While the herons were actively fishing, the resident colony of Black vultures were doing their part by scavenging on dead fish.  I came across this one bird dining on this fish head from a large carp.  Their sharp beaks have no problem picking out the best morsels.

The human fishermen were catching a variety of big river fishes.  I watched one angler land a large Blue catfish that gave him quite a fight.  He placed the big catfish in a wire mesh cage which kept it fresh in the swiftly moving water.  Large rocks stacked on top of the box anchors it in place.

Among the other fish being caught included striped bass hybrids, channel cats, drum and more.  It is still not recommended to eat the larger bottom dwelling fish for fear of toxins in their tissues.  The smaller fish supposedly are alright if you don’t eat too many too frequently.  With the economic conditions as they are, I know there are many people out here augmenting their diets with these fish.  It’s not just about sport anymore.  The top two bass in this photo are about 3 or 4 pounds each.

I was doing my own brand of angling but not for fish!  I walked the riverbank and collected as much Styrofoam as I could find and carried it  to my studio spot under the willow trees.  This is what it looked like when I posed it all for a photograph.  Until the next bout of high water, I’m going to try to use as much of this material as I can for my sculptures.

I have some large chunks in here, but the heat prevented me from getting too ambitious with it.  After drinking much of the water I brought with me, I did make one modest figure and moved it around the different contexts presented by the Falls of the Ohio on this very hot and sticky day.

Here’s the nameless figure with the dark eyes standing in what was its nursery.  This guy has walnut eyes and his nose is a plastic strawberry.  I’m guessing that this figure is about 3 1/2 feet tall, but truthfully, I don’t pay much attention to scale out here where everything is as big as life to me.  Most of the time, I prefer you gauge scale by comparing it to what else is  present in the context that you may be able to recognize.  Not knowing also lends some mystery that I find appealing.

First, I posed this figure near the spot where I made it.  I found a plastic flower and placed it in his hand.  This area is cool and shady, but the mosquitoes are also waiting for any passer-by pumping blood through their veins!  I quickly picked this piece up and ventured to the riverbank where the insects aren’t as bad.  The soft mud makes it easier to stand this figure up, but traction out here can be a slippery affair.

So far, it’s looking like this June will either be the hottest on record or second hottest.  The difference between the two is about a degree.  The final place I photographed my newest figure is by this improvised child’s fort.  This is the kind of activity my two sons enjoy doing out here.  My sculpture looks at home and is enjoying a respite from the oppressive heat.  The shade does look inviting!  I returned “dark eyes” to my outdoor studio, collected my belongings and trudged back to my car.

Today’s final image came from this morning’s adventure.  I saw this trumpet creeper vine growing on a tall tree and thought it attractive.  When I got home and downloaded my pictures I could see that many small bees were swarming around the blooms pollinating the plant.  This is what I like about the Falls of the Ohio.  In a relatively small area, you can see so much life going about its business.

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