Trip Report – Raleigh, NC

On the 16th of July, we decided to sample a few nearby creeks for green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus, to add to our collection of North Carolina fishes. Although a common fish, it is one that we have yet to photograph to our liking. There were a few waterbodies where we have landed green sunfish previously, and we decided to head to them to try our luck. As our luck would have it, the night of the 15th marked some of the heaviest rain that Wake county has seen in a while, which can be problematic for sampling. 

Speight Branch Greenway
Speight Branch Greenway – Cary, NC

Our first stop was at the Speight Branch Greenway, in Cary. This is a little greenway near the Crossroads Shopping Center, and although unassuming, has produced enormous green sunfish in past years.

Unfortunately, the water level was really high, and very turbid, a bad combination for fishing. We still managed the following fishes, through a combination of hook and line, and dipnetting:

Common Name Count
Largemouth Bass 2
Gambusia spp. 5
Bluegill 2

We didn’t want to keep this young fish in our phototank for long, so just a quick snap and he was released.

Micropterus salmoides
Juvenile Largemouth Bass – Micropterus salmoides

Next we headed over to the Lassiter Mill Dam, with hopes of catching a few more common fishes that we still lacked photographs for. We knew our odds of being able to access the waters here were slim to none, thanks in part to the heavy rains the night before. What we weren’t expecting was the enormity of the water overflowing the damn, it was truly immense. Normally heavy rains will increase the current, overflow the damn, and create problems, but today there was absolutely no bank visible, it was in full flood stage. So we moved on.

Lassiter Mill Dam
A quieter day on a previous visit to the Lassiter Mill Dam

From the dam, we decided to try out one more site where green sunfish were known to hang out, Kaplan Drive Park. Kaplan Drive Park is a small park located between the 440 and a residential area. It is also home to Simmons Branch creek, in which many green sunfish have been caught over the years. City ordinances prevent wading or trapping of any kind in the park, so we were left with hook and line fishing, which suited the habitat just fine.

Kaplan Drive Park
Kaplan Drive Park

Kaplan Drive Park stated producing green sunfishes on our first casts, and continued for the next hour as we searched for the best colored fish we could find.

Green Sunfish
A Green Sunfish going airborne.

It was about time to start photographing that I realized that I had left an important piece of photography hardware at home. So through a bit of photoshop, I was able to piece together a composite green sunfish. Not my best work, but it will do until we catch another.

Lepomis cyanellus
Green Sunfish – Lepomis cyanellus

Our next and final stop, was at a park about a mile from Kaplan Drive Park, Kentwood Park:

Kentwood Park is home to a creek who’s name I was unable to locate on any map. It flows from an unnamed lake to its North, and into Walnut Creek, and then into Lake Raleigh. It really is a beautiful creek, and seems quite secluded for being in the middle of the city. No new species were caught on this leg of the trip, but wading down the stream was very enjoyable. I want to note that there were shiners that eluded us in this creek, we caught a few glimpses of them, so it might be worth a second visit.

Common Name Count
Creek Chub 2
Red Breast Sunfish 5

4 thoughts on “Trip Report – Raleigh, NC”

  1. I just recently found your website and am thrilled that it exists and that you are adding to it all along.Having expressed my admiration,now I will already say that I question your ID of the green sunfish (July 2014) caught near Speight Greenway(It’s shown on a fannypack).It looks for all the world to be a warmouth.The second observation is that the warmouth collection sites seem to be very sparse.I know that nthey are common to abundant in many more areas.Is this just a function of not finding many so far?

    • ghotiman,
      First of all, you are absolutely correct on the green sunfish/warmouth ID. I have no idea how we overlooked that for so long, thanks for the sharp eyes!

      As to the warmouth distrubution, the map data is taken from museum collection locations (as accessed through, and not from angler interactions. In other words, these are records of scientists encountering them and preserving the fish in formalin/alcohol. Often times these museum collections have plenty of records of a given species, but they were collected prior to GPS, and were therefore not plottable. I believe this to be one of those times. When I was cleaning the dataset before mapping these fish, sometimes I would start with 1000 records of the fish, but only 20 usable points!

      With that said, we don’t really encounter warmouth that frequently, they seem to really be a solitary fish, yet as you mentioned, locally abundant. Creel compositions in my experience on the lower Neuse and Trent rivers (this is an off the fly comment, only anecdotal data here) seem to be something like 40% bluegill, 20% redear, 20% red breast, 15% pumpkinseed, 5% warmouth. Maybe there is something different about how anglers fish for warmouth that is biasing the data, I really am more of a net guy than a hook and line angler.

      We are currently working with to display their fish maps on this site. I looked into it, and they have the same sparse distribution that we are displaying as well.

      Thanks for checking us out, if you find any more errors (I’m sure there are some!) please don’t hesitate to point them out. We welcome your insight!

  2. Great article! The creek that flows through Kentwood park is named Brushy Branch or Bushy Branch – depending on which City of Raleigh site you go by! When looking at the public information they put out about greenway development easements, they call it Brushy Branch. When looking at documentation on the stream restoration project undertaken in the early 2000s at Kentwood Park, it’s called Bushy Branch. Given that the Adopt a Stream sign posted where the creek passes under Avent Ferry reads Bushy Branch, I lean toward that name. Not to mention it forms the Bushy watershed in Raleigh. Love the creek! Lots of panfish, some creek chub, and I’ve even caught a couple juvenile bass in it. Thanks for sharing!

    • It has been a number of years since I visited this site, but I still remember it well! I was very surprised at how wild it felt for being an urban stream, and really enjoyed my visit. Thanks for reaching out!


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