Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Father's Day Bass Outing (A Pickerel, too)


Yet another Father's Day off from the job. I felt surprised about this last year, and now Matt came down from Boston and his internship to spend the weekend with us. I felt a little guilty taking him away from his mother yesterday, but he had the day with her on Saturday, when I had to work. 

We fetched the canoe at Brian's house, where Matt got to meet Brian's wife. He had met Brian once before, almost a year ago, though it seems as if it can't be that long. The four of us hung out awhile, getting photos of the two black Labs together--Sadie and Juno--and talking about things under the sun. I wore a flannel shirt and thought I had dressed too heavily. Finally, Matt and I loaded the heavy canoe and soon made our way thought Dover, onto I-287, and over to Tilcon Lake.

That's our favorite spot, ever since I bought the flatback in 2016. It's difficult getting all 110 pounds into the lake, plus the battery, and etc. We've destroyed two carts taking it in through the front, so as of last year, we haul everything down a very steep and lengthy embankment, and then haul it up long after sunset. It winds us both. We don't complain, because the fishing's good and usually solitary. Yesterday was a Sunday, and Father's Day, no less. Only one other guy fished from a one-man pontoon during all the six hours we fished.

A stiff breeze in our faces, conditions seemed just right for what I'd planned. We trolled very deep-running crankbaits (18-25 feet) up along the side, hoping for smallmouths or salmon, and then cut across to the flat, where I raised the electric so it wouldn't collect too much weed. We snapped on buzzbaits. After 10 minutes and not a hit, I said, "There's no bite."

A moment later, a pickerel rushed Matt's offering, and he got the 20-incher boatside. As pickerel typically come here, a good one. Most are about 17 inches. Bass average two pounds or better. We cast for another five minutes, not getting hit, and switched to spinnerbaits we fished along a slope. I hooked and lost a nice bass about 10 feet deep, when I let the lure pause, but couldn't get another to take. We trolled shallower running crankbaits to a small cove, where I tried a weightless plastic worm, and where Matt hooked a very nice bass on a spinnerbait. He saw the fish rise from weeds and engulf the lure. It's photographed above, where it doesn't look as big as it looked to us, 18 inches. Matt measured it. 

The day felt very long and very relaxed. We fished a lot of spots with a variety of lures thoroughly, and I even hooked a largemouth on a crankbait trolled about 15 feet down. The bass leapt high, throwing the plug, a fish clearly at least 17 inches long. 

I felt the absence of sonar. The unit is going to Alabama on Wednesday, if trouble-shooting over the phone doesn't work. All day, we never experienced a distinct bite, not even as sun got low and set, but despite the lack of telling exactly how much water was under the boat, we caught bass here and there. We knew depth and spots plenty well to be set for a bite anyhow. I caught four bass, and Matt two, in addition to the pickerel. We lost a number of others, including some big ones. My biggest, photographed below, measured 19 inches. I also caught a 17 1/4, and another that might have been 15 1/2, plus a little one.

Turned out the flannel shirt wasn't too much, after all. The sun mostly obscured by clouds as it set, the lake felt chilly. I had brought a thermometer, which we determined registers about five degrees too warm, since Matt's mobile device had juice when we began, and we compared an 80-degree reading on the thermometer to the temperature in Stanhope, 75. The Stanhope report felt right. The thermometer gauges water or air temperature, so I subtracted five degrees to guess that the water was 70, the same guess I made before getting there. Besides, the weather has been so cool recently, I can't imagine that deep lake was 75 at the surface. But I forgot to check the temperature when we decided to head in and pack out. I think it was about 65. We loaded the car with headlamps on, in nighttime darkness. Brian met us when we returned the canoe, expressing concern that something happened. No, we fished late, and I had left my cell phone home. When we got to Bedminster at 11:07, we learned that Brian had called that phone, and my wife had almost phoned Brian. Good thing that didn't escalate. (Matt's device had lost power.) Temperature down here at lower elevation was about 75 at midnight when I walked Sadie. 


Monday, June 10, 2019

NJ State Record Cunner Caught on May 26th.

I caught my first cunners while fishing with a friend from the rocks of Manasquan Inlet, about 1972. My father took us there. He didn't fish, but it was nice of him. Cunners are also known as bergals.



The following message was sent by the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife to e-mail list subscribers. Press inquiries related to this message should be directed to the DEP Press Office at 609-984-1795.



John Zema of Laurence Harbor reeled in the new state record Cunner on May 26. The fish weighed in at 3 pounds, 8.8 ounces eclipsing the previous state record by 6.4 ounces. It measured 18.5” in length and had a girth of 13”.

John was using a conventional rod and reel with 50 pound braided line off the boat Voyager, captained by Denis Katliarov. A clam served as the bait.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Word from Dow's Boat Rentals

Laurie Murphy:


Several nice fish have been weighed in this past week, including Jim Welsh with a 4 pound pickerel. He also had Hybrid Stripers in the 5 to 7 pound range, several nice walleye, some crappie and lots of yellow perch. Jim Macolusa made his way to the scale with his largest hybrid of the day weighing 6 lb 3 oz. Junior Knee Deep Club member Jake Bozik added a 7 lb 1 oz Hybrid,  a 1 lb 10 oz crappie  & a 5 lb 5 oz walleye  to his catch. We are open early from 5:30 AM - 7 PM 7 days a week, with bait  & boat rentals. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass season opens up again on June 16th and Knee Deep will be holding their bass contest on Sunday June 23rd. It is a free fishing day on Saturday June 8th, no license required. Have a great week !

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Great Day on Way-Way--Wawayanda Lake

My wife got a kick out of this photo.

Brian and I have been jinxed for a couple of years, breaking the cycle of not getting out as we try to plan and ice fishing in January, today finally getting out on Wawayanda Lake. I didn't quite realize beforehand how long the drive, about 20 minutes further distant after passing Greenwood Lake, near the New York state border. My son and I fished here in July or August 2011, the boat rental shop opening at 8:00 a.m., and I think I paid, without any reservation, $120.00. We got skunked. (Matt did loose something big that took a herring he let down deep.) It was a sweet day. Bittersweet. That feeling wasn't going to tinge this day. 

The way I feel now is the way I expected to feel. The afterglow of a successful day. It started out OK, us launching around 7:00 a.m., after I had got to Brian's house before 5:00. My Minn-Kota hustled that squareback towards the far end, where my sonar unit showed plenty of depth to scout for herring schools and salmon on them. The screen froze. I tried disconnecting the battery a number of times and restarting. Nothing showed on the screen at all. Just the water temperature. 69.

"That's alright," Brian said, "We can rely on Joe's unit." His friend had arrived here at 4:30 a.m. from Rancocas south of Trenton. He pointed to Joe's one-man pontoon in the distance, got out his mobile device, and asked him if he was marking any. Very few.

"Bruce is bent out of shape," he said.

I knew the day was no loss without another screen to look at, but the need of repair after just two or three years of use, especially when just yesterday I got a check in the mail for an article published and felt that bonus feeling of money going to the savings account, stuck me. We tried and tried to catch a salmon, Jim never finding a real school of herring and salmon on them, us getting a couple of really good drifts under a light breeze, but Brian got the only hit, until later, after the two of us turned to pickerel and bass, Jim lost a couple of salmon that hit his spinner. Meanwhile, I came out of my silly withdrawal. I knew in my head it's not worth quibbling over, but I fight for every cent; paid an hourly wage by a supermarket, very little of that going towards outings like today's, most of it supporting my son's Boston University education, so paying for the likes--although I thank Brian for his generosity in buying the bait today, a big Frabill bait unit, and driving us up there--and for paying the cost of all of my equipment by getting paid for writing, this didn't mean I was set back so much as in need of keeping up, as I have for more than a decade. Besides, had I remembered then how much it cost to fish this lake with my son, how willing I was to take the opportunity, I could have told myself all the more that equipment failure is not worth the trouble of misgiving.

You tell yourself it's not, but if you're in the habit of getting ahead on little, it takes awhile to bounce back. Maybe not long. Soon out of the mood, I never missed the graph.

Brian learned a neat method from his Uncle for catching pickerel and bass. Former Frank's Bait and Tackle, on the way here, and from what I understand from Brian most anglers still call the shop, now named Tackle and Field, used to sell redfin shiners imported from Arkansas, big ones about five inches long. "They were for lunkers. We didn't get many hits on them, but the bass were big."'

They became unavailable, and Brian and his uncle tried the herring they used for salmon on the bass and pickerel, getting results. Instead of anchoring, or floating out the wind, and waiting on the bobbers to go under, Brian had me set the electric motor on low speed, trolling them, bait set about five feet underneath, through weedy water 10 to 15 feet deep. It works. We caught three pickerel apiece and I also caught the biggest black crappie I've ever caught, about 13 inches. Maybe the only black crappie I've caught. I once caught a 15-inch white crappie at Spruce Run Reservoir, and that's the only specie of the two I remember catching. Plenty of those and plenty this big, but I like the dark shade a lot better. Brian also lost three pickerel and a bass. I lost a few, too.

We had forgotten the wire leaders bought at Frank's. I feel responsible on two counts. They were stashed on the passenger side, and I told Brian out on the lake that 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader should suffice. He later said all three of his lost pickerel bit through. One of those three was bigger than any we caught. Maybe I'm sold on wire leaders now. When we ice fished in January, pickerel bit through fluorocarbon then, too.

We went through four dozen herring. Some of them died, but the Frabill unit--big as a cooler--kept them alive a long while.

I suggest weightless plastic worms. Out of the wind--I had forgotten my anchor--Brian hooked a nice bass that came half way out of the water, displaying the wide-opened mouth of a three pounder. He also hooked a small bass that leapt off. I missed one hit from a bass. Panfish seem attracted to the impregnated scent. They pull on the worms a lot.

We were out for hours. Slowing down. Slowing down better than you can read this entire post. Rain came and we headed towards the ramp, coming upon another cove out of the wind as rain subsided. There we caught three bass and a pickerel. Brian was the first to break with targeting the edge of thick weeds as he began reeling his worm over the stuff, getting hit on the first cast. "Just like the Princeton Day School Ponds," he said.

I had fished bass there the same way. Eventually, I tied on a Scum Frog, a soft weedless topwater froggy thing that took three or four missed hits. One of those hits, Brian pointed out, might have been successful, had I waited a second before I tried to set. I know that in principle, but it's still hard to know that in habit, the way it counts.

On the lake eight hours, by the time I got home in Bedminster, more than 14 hours had passed since I had awakened after about four hours of sleep. Brian had bought two Monster energy drinks before we got on I-287 South; I settled on a mix of nuts, filling and plenty good for energy, and I drove the 45 minutes home from Brian's house without feeling exhausted. I cleaned the crappie for dinner and two rainbow trout given me by someone at the ramp who decided he didn't want them--a 12-incher and 16-incher--and got an hour of sleep before I unloaded equipment from my car. My canoe stays at Brian's, thanks to him, and thanks to restrictive condo association measures, but the battery is back on the charger upstairs, and the electric motor in its place. Brian can use my canoes any time he pleases.

The important thing about outings like this is the enjoyment of the day, but plenty of thought goes into them afterwards, more than I ever disclose in a post. If I gave up this mad fishing, this hard work at preparing equipment and carrying a heavy battery and carrying a canoe that weighs 110 pounds up a fairly steep slope to where its kept and, in general, utterly breaking with the comfort of routine, I wouldn't sin against the social system involving work hours that tends to reign us in to habits of obedience; I would sin against life. Brian and I have a way out of getting told what to do. Better. We find life the way anyone knows it as his or her best, and speaking for myself, I'm not only willing to suffer for that, I find the suffering is a lot less than I would think it is, if I didn't get out and have a day with a friend like today.

At the ramp, Brian got out and asked me to look for the keys to his truck in the bottom of the canoe. Not there. "Maybe I left them in the truck."

He came back, "They have to be in the canoe."

They weren't.

"Brian, how could you lose your keys?!" I said, feeling they couldn't really be lost. And in that moment my hand went for my pocket. "They're in my pocket!"

He had me go get something last minute in the morning. Both of us had forgotten.  

Joe and his one-man pontoon.








Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

My wife goaded me into going to the town parade, and as I told myself I would enjoy the event, the walking, the lemonade and iced tea, the river, I did. And I experienced a moment of heady gratitude for our armed services, which, after all, is what the holiday is all about.

Last night, we watched a special on TV about a WW II battle between British and Nazi forces. Never before in all my life--it featured real footage of skulls splintered and bodies of former friends dumped in view beside trenches, rotting corpses, trench foot, talk of tanks running over their own who had fallen dead, because they had to get forward position, etc.--never have I experienced battle as realistically as this documentary recreated it. Supposedly, creative art does that, not documentary, but no, this production was so intensely realistic it beat any story. What nations have to do, sometimes, in defense.

On the way to Far Hills, we walked over the North Branch, witnessing a fly caster catch a trout. On the way back, we witnessed a trout caught on a spinning rod.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quick Catch at the Zoo


At the AT&T Zoo just before 5:00, getting just a little preoccupied with photography, flippin' an egg into the current under the exit bridge a couple of minutes later, I hooked my first quickly. I spent more than three minutes with my Go Pro mounted on my extension bar and placed underwater and half-in, half-out, taking that long to make sure some footage works as still shots.

Then I got into what turned out to be an onerous process--feels real good now--of missing at least 50 hits. I caught 13 in the hour-and-a-half I fished, losing another almost at my feet, losing a few others during the fight, all of them coming on one-pound test Suffix. A couple of them measured nearly 13 inches, these fish really running long and hard on the microlight.

That current right at the downstream edge of the bridge is especially difficult to drift when water is high and moving as it did today. Color was OK. Not clear, but not dingy, either. But the flow made getting a direct pull impossible, though I picked up the line quickly enough on these 13 fish. I let the trout take eggs a couple of seconds before setting, but obviously this didn't work too well, though it did work better than pulling back immediately.

I emptied a  large jar of Atlas Mike's King. (I think it's possible I bought the last large jars of salmon eggs available in the nation, at Walmart, Morris Plains, in December last year or January. I cleaned them out of large jars.) Then I got started on Shrimp. I was going to stay around until I reached a total of 15, but I inadvertently snapped off my rig, and then I found tying on a new little snap with that thin line so aggravating, that I decided it was wise to bow out before I felt any worse. Doesn't seem I would have felt that way now, but getting home early to get started on other stuff hasn't let me down. My hand-to-eye coordination has gone so far south with age--they told me 15 years ago I need tri-focal lenses, but I use only reading glasses on occasion--that it is the revenge of my brother David. I pitied him while I was growing up. He does use glasses. His frustrations with tying knots. I was reminded of Winston Churchill--"Never, never, never, never give in." Then, I kept trying, but when a wisp of wisdom visited me, whispering that I can let it go and it will be OK, I listened instead to this.

Eating some trout at present. Cooked them well before darkness fell, thinking I could have caught 25 or 30, maybe more, had I stayed. Definitely would have caught more, had I got the hook into them more often.

Have music playing on my laptop. "Haitian Divorce," Steely Dan. Segued into it from a number of old Motown selections: "Family Affair," "Diamond in the Back," Boz Scaggs' "Lowdown" tossed in, "Who's that Lady," and "What's Going On." Makes Chris Hayes on TV interesting.

Donald Fagan just drips with sentimentality. So much for the tearful reunion. I'm going back to Motown.


…Though you may not drive, a great big Cadillac.

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