The Great Clam Fishers
the artificial lures of freshwater mussels
This lure of the orange-nacre mucket looks convincingly like a small minnow.
Click on the picture to see more including a movie.

In Iowa rivers, glochidia, the young of freshwater mussels,  attach themselves shortly after they develop to the gills of  specific fish in the stream and stay there for several weeks or a month.  This is a great way of spreading their young around, but the problem is how to get to the gills of the local bass or other fish.  Some of the mussels (clams) have solved that problem by an amazing array of artificial lures that not only mimic the fish's favorite food but also show great action.  When the fish snaps at the bait the glochidia are released and pass right through to the gills.  One of the best of these is used by the kidney shell mussel that packages it glochidia into sacs called an ovisacs that attach to a rock and look like an aquatic insect attracting the young of fish like the rainbow trout.  The Unio gallery has a great sequence of fish being attracted to and snapping at an ovisac (See video on kidney shell. Click on the last picture to view the movie). On the Unio Gallery several of the species have movies. . A quite different lure, and one of my favorites, is the rainbow mussel's lure designed to look and act like a crayfish.

Unfortunately Northwest Iowa streams and rivers that once were sandy and full of fish are quite silted up and many of these mussels are in trouble in Iowa.  More information about mussels including good pictures can be found on the Illinois Mussels web page created by the Illinois DNR.  But Art, one of my fisherman colleagues here at Dordt College, thinks the mussels should have used natural bait since nothing is better than annelids (earthworms) to pull catfish from the Big Sioux River.

Page designed by James Mahaffy on Jan 13, 2014 (10:14 AM)
Last modified on: April 13, 2002 (4:52PM)