The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is a small minnow that is commonly encountered by anglers in the United States. Creek chubs are among the most common fish found across a wide swath of the US. They are often caught incidentally or accidentally on live bait, flies and sometimes even lures.
Although they are written off by some as trash or rough fish the creek chub is of course an important part of the ecosystem. Growing to lengths of up to a foot (31 cm) they can also provide a lot of fun on hook and line whether or not they are caught on purpose. They also used as bait by many anglers and can be quite effective for larger fish like northern pike.
Creek chub identification
Creek chubs are a somewhat small fish with a typical minnow type body. They normally have a darker back and lighter stomach. A dark horizontal bar usually stretches from the eye all the back to the base of the tail that can almost make creek chubs look like little largemouth bass. But that line can fade to the point that it almost seems to disappear. The area around the horizontal line can vary in color from a silver or gray to a yellow or even bronze green shade.
Creek chubs do have a similar appearance to some other species. They may be mistaken with other fish like river chubs, fallfish or central stone rollers. For specimen anglers working on a life list identification is thankfully not all that difficult. But many others might not bother to make the distinction anyway.
Creek chub caught in Minnesota
As mentioned above creek chubs can grow as long as twelve inches. Some have reported specimens even longer than that. The average creek chub is probably closer to six or seven inches. Note that the dark bars found on creek chubs do tend to fade as fish get older and larger in size.
Creek chubs spawn in the spring. The males build gravel mounds as nests that can be surprisingly large. The construction of these mounds can bring in other fish too. Some smaller fish will lay their eggs on the gravel piles. Larger fish will come in to feed on the spawning fish or scoop up the nymphs and other aquatic insects that are kicked up off the bottom.
Creek chub range and habitat
Creek chubs can be found throughout much of the United States. Their range extends from the east coast of the US as far west as Utah. In between, they can be found from the northern border area with Canada all the way down to the gulf.
Creek chubs are a tolerant species that can survive in all sorts of habitats. They can even put up with some degree of pollution that would drive off or destroy other species. As the name would indicate, the creek chub does seem to prefer moving waterways like rivers and streams with rock or rubble bottoms. But they can also be found in some lakes and ponds.
Fishing for creek chubs
As stated, most people catch creek chubs by accident while fishing for other species. But fishing for creek chubs can be rewarding in its own right. As with most small species, microfishing is a great way to target creek chubs. But since creek chubs have large mouths and can grow to a foot in length, you can also catch them with conventional tackle. Anything from a size 12 hook down to a tanago hook will work.
Creek chubs are fun fish to catch and they can be found in small waters right where a lot of people live. If there’s a small stream near you there is a good chance it has some chubs. In some water creek chubs can even prove to be the only catchable species you can find. That is especially true in warm water streams wracked with runoff and pollution.
This creek chub took a jig
Of course creek chubs can also be found in clean waters and are even common at the lower warmer stretches of a good amount of trout streams. So you don’t have to go seeking out a storm water outlet just because you want to catch some.
Wherever you fish look for deep holes and cover. Creek chubs will often sit around logs, sticks and overhanging root systems. This helps them hide out from overheard predators like birds and perhaps stay out of the sight of hungry fish like trout and smallmouth bass.
Good baits for creek chubs include maggots, wax worms, small balls of white bread or bread dough, and artificial bait like Gulp! Maggots. You can also catch them on small jigs, ice fishing jigs and any number of fly patterns in the size 12 to 20 range. Just get the bait in front of the fish and you will have a very good chance at catching them.
Creek chubs are typically a schooling fish. They will attack new baits aggressively. Yet after a few members of a school are caught they can get spooked or even shut down completely. So although there are those who consider catching chubs a nuisance, there are actually times when they can be difficult to hook!
Lures that mimic creek chubs
Since creek chubs serve as an important source of food for many species of fish it only makes sense that anglers would want to mimic them. There is nothing new in this. One of the most collectable and expensive old fishing lures were called “Creek Chub Lures.” But you don’t have to spend big money to replicate a creek chub.
A Smithwick Suspending Rogue in Gold Rogue is a good match for a creek chub in terms of color. A classic Floating Rapala in gold isn’t bad either. Neither of these lures is a perfect match. But they should do the job. In any event there don’t seem to be many crankbaits or plugs being made with horizontal bars.
If you’re fly fishing, Beel’s Creek Chub fly is a great choice. It looks a lot like a creek chub as soon as it gets wet. But a woolly bugger in the right color combination could do the job too.
Of course there’s nothing like the real thing. So many anglers simply catch or buy live creek chubs and use them for bait. Creek chubs have been known to catch everything from catfish to muskie. They can also catch other predators like bass too.