Thursday, January 12, 2017


Nearly 70 degrees here in New Jersey today, so as expected, ice fishing is out at least for now. Unexpected plans mean I probably won't fish on the 18th, either.

Last winter was even warmer on a much more consistent basis, and some people believed we would have no ice fishing, but as winter is winter, arctic air masses pressed down and February witnessed ice fishing. So patience has us waiting for what's all but inevitable, though I really would like a good thick ice cover of at least eight or 10 inches. I just like the feel of thick ice under my auger blade signifying a winter that really means it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ice On

Won't get a chance to fish this latest ice, before it gets sketchy again judging by the next warming trend predicted with temperatures near 60 by Thursday. Too busy.

Spoke to Joe Landolfi on my way home from work. He can't wait to get out, so he plans on taking a day off to fish with me when I get the chance, which could be the 18th of this month, but my gut tells me ice won't be safe.

So which will it be, Round Valley, fishing from shore, or wading in my stocking feet when I know I really should use boot-foot this time of year? 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Jersey: Beacon of Hope

Drove over to the Lamington River in Bedminster for another photo shoot of the Burnt Mills Remnant Dam, slated for removal in 2018 by Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC. Since I need photos for a couple of articles I hope to get published, I haven't posted most of what I shot.

Anticipate new holes for stocked trout and smallmouth bass, since Trout Scapes will do more work than just take out the dam. Dams come down; rivers and streams receive restoration work true to natural dynamics yet creating new possibilities within the larger context of a stream's general course.

It's all happening where the industrial revolution originated to greatest degree. If New Jersey will reach its ideal as The Garden State, then everywhere else on the planet will see a beacon of hope to look up to. After all, we're only the most populated state in the nation, the most built-up and industrialized with dozens of Superfund environmental clean-up sites to boast.   

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Another Ice Blip

By the weather report, some safe ice in the New Jersey Highlands by Sunday and Monday at the latest will once again become sketchy with a return of milder weather. The bass pond near my house has featured open water for days on end. That was a nice early start to the ice season, and now I hope it gets cold and stays cold.

Otherwise, I just might take my fly rod and cast nymphs. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Lake Hopatcong: Oppose the Measure to Limit Anchoring

Anchored 40 yards from Raccoon Island, Matt would be scratching his head, if he heard the news this past August about the proposal.

I just got word from NJ that legislation is proposed to outlaw anchoring 200 feet or closer to shore on Lake Hopatcong between May 15th and September 15th each year. Some people don't like the partying on boats in Byram Cove, and we all know what nefarious political solutions  can arise when power gets involved; power that doesn't care about the rest of us, if we don't care for ourselves. If enough of us write to oppose this measure, they'll listen. Someone on has suggested that in writing a protest letter, we ask for an exception clause for fishermen. I further add that if the politicians learn of who and how they would deprive, they will feel less inclined to do this. Tell them why you value fishing on the lake, why it matters to anchor in close. Tell them why fishing the lake matters to you, make a connection in the email you send.

This is the language on page two of the New Jersey State Police website: "At the request of citizens who own property along the shores of Lake Hopatcong, particularly in Byram Cove, and after consultation with State Police Marine Services Bureau, the BRC proposes new N.J.A.C.
13:82-3.11(l) to prohibit certain activities on the lake between May 15 and September 15 of each year. These restrictions will alleviate crowding and dangerous behavior during the height of the boating season when the lake is most crowded. Specifically, the BRC proposes to prohibit vessel from anchoring closer than 200 feet from the shoreline. The BRC also proposes to prohibit the tethering of a raft or tube more than 20 feet from an anchored vessel and prohibit more than
10 vessels from anchoring together (commonly known as rafting)"

Here's who to write:             
Edward Harrison Jr., acting Chair Boat Regulation Commission, c/o Marine Services Bureau, Div of State Police, POB 7068, West Trenton NJ 08628 . His email is           

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Coming for Lake Trout, I run into Fred Matero

After disentangling six rods and reels--brought six because I didn't care to sort this out at home--and carrying three to the point, I spoke to who I later learned is a man by the name of Ben. He had caught a 16-inch rainbow. I tended to my rods, dipped my hand in the bucket for a shiner, and happened to look back his way. One of his rods bent, pulsing under a striking trout. I called out and by the time he looked, it was all over.

Back at my car for the last of my stuff, including a foldout chair, someone yelled my name. Fred Matero had just pulled in! Auspicious coincidence, because we just don't get many days any more when both have off to fish together. The temperature of about 60 degrees brought him out on a day off, and though the warmth made the fishing easy, the easy fishing yielded nothing to either of us.

Since Fred had marshmallows, mealworms, and Power Bait, I fished a shiner, marshmallow & mealworm, and Power Bait. Three rods, three baits. I hoped lake trout might have migrated in close to shore by now, and perhaps some have, but they do like that water really cold before they might get caught regularly. Some years they do, some don't. Ice covers lakes and ponds, so the water is cold, but I get suspicious about shallows warming slightly when it comes to sensitive trout. How a laker 60 feet deep could possibly tell the shallows' warming to just slight degree, I have no idea. But the whole ecosystem functions singularly in ways we know little about.

Fred and I tentatively committed to fishing the Meadowlands for stripers in April. I suggested trolling Hopatcong in May also, but Fred especially likes the strange allure of those tidal waters in the Lyndhurst area. After we parted, I thought about our jobs making very little opportune, when his suggestion that we go in the morning resonated as very possible, in spite of the fact that I have to start work at noon. I can take sleeping pills and try to nod off by 9:00 to get up at 4:30 or 5:00, and we can fish before 7:00. Two hours is really all we need.

We talked a lot about work. Both of us take an attitude of adjusting unpleasant demands to our own need to be happy, despite what's in the way. Five months ago, I felt like I was clobbered over the head; the new job put demands on me like no other, but though my usual activities seemed threatened, a stronger determination within me stayed calm and focused as if it would work out, which it has. Americans come from pretty strong stock. I sometimes think of the westward pioneers. The hardships they overcame, not just to survive but to flourish, were nothing to complain about because there wasn't time for that.

I told Fred I feel like I'm in a pressure cooker all the time. I stay up writing essays until 3:00 a.m., sometimes 5:00 a.m., and then I wake and go directly to my specialty meat counter job. And then I come home, spend a half hour, maybe an hour with my family, and then go back to work.

I continued, "I'm doing some of the very best work I've ever done. I sort of don't like to admit it, because I'd rather feel good. But all that pressure results in form I never achieved before."

Of course, I achieved plenty before the summer that needed to get done before I could do what I'm doing now.

Upon arriving today at 1:00 p.m., the news came on to announce the death of Carrie Fisher. I admired her. Or still do. After coming home, I told my wife she had a hard life, and of course, I didn't mean any disparagement.

"She never made it a 'woe is me' story. She had the courage to come out about her bipolar disorder, her drugs, and she was a really good writer," Patricia said.

"Yes. Hardship just is that. It doesn't warrant complaint or dependency," I said.

Hardship is the greatest opportunity for character.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Setting is the Opportunity

 Mike Maxwell's first time ice fishing.

"I should have brought my skates."

Maybe not with the marginal safety. Ice five and five-and-a-half inches thick in close and outward about 50 yards from where we entered the lake, I found the ice about four inches thick beyond. Further out, I never bothered to test the thickness. The Morristown Daily Record reported some open water at the lake Friday, three-and-a-half-inch thickness where four anglers fished, so as usual, the wind is playing its game. Small ponds usually freeze evenly; lakes can issue shocking surprises. Just a few years ago or so, two teenagers fell through and died, unspeakably tragic.

I used the splitting bar in the photograph above to judge safety as we progressed outward, but once we got our belongings in place, fired up the power auger to cut, after I had whacked out three holes with the bar. Even ice this thin put some pain in my old man's right shoulder. Mike stayed safe; only I ventured beyond what we first established as quite safe at better than five inches, and then as we gathered the tip-ups deep into dusk, he accompanied me a little further out where the ice is four inches thick. The two of us stood apart from each other. That's safe ice, but no neophyte gets any recommendation from experienced ice fishermen with conscience to venture on ice any thinner. During my younger years, the rule was three inches. But at three inches, the ice had better be hard and clear through and through, and the weight of anyone walking on it not excessive. Two people standing side by side on three inches is risky. Some of the ice we walked on has gone through wind breakage and all of it slight refreezing. Snow fell over the weekend, totally gone and melted into the ice surface moist on top with afternoon temperatures above freezing--slippery, we wore boot spikes. We never encountered any thinner than four inches. Where I found it that thin by placing my hand in holes I cut and grasping the thickness--first cutting with my splitting bar and accurately estimating thickness--the ice was quite hard and clear, having frozen a little later than in closer to shore where wind had broken some portions of an initial freeze, now frozen thick and secure.

Since I've done this strange ritual of contemplation--ice fishing--since I was 15, I'm not much afraid of falling through, or I guess this has to do with other things, such as my spending years treading clams in wetsuits for a living in freezing bays. I know what it feels like, since my wetsuits once ripped open to brine that freezes at 29 degrees. Twenty-two degree, 45 mph wind--I don't even know what the wind chill--the shallow bay's temperature was pretty cold. I felt relieved that whatever cut the neoprene, didn't cut my leg open.

Besides, it was always such a pleasure to leap off the boat's gunnel and feel that freezing brine race up my spine before the wetsuits warmed the brine by insulation.

We began by riding to Stanhope for live shiners. Once again, Bait & Boat was closed and as our Delaware River trip required, we rode on to Andover. We lost at least 45 minutes, so our time fishing got shortened, for a short stint to begin with. I usually walk out on the ice at least a hundred yards from shore before I start cutting, and then spread tip-ups each about a hundred feet from another. The lake is shallow throughout--six feet--except for a hole of 12 feet. Northern pike, largemouth bass, and a relative few pickerel and smallmouth bass spread out. Ice fishing is typically slow.

Today, though, I kept the tip-ups pretty close to where we sat on fold-out chairs, spaced apart by about half the typical distance. Most of the holes allowed the sinker to fall about six feet, though, so it's not as if no possibility awaited us. Typical ice fishing here results in no tip-up flags anyway, unless you were to stay out all day, perhaps. I've seen pike caught as large as 39 inches, have heard of larger, and it interests me to encounter such an animal. The teeth of a smaller pike I once caught sliced my thumb open. I took my knife out of its sheath and cut the cuff of one of my white socks I had put on under wool socks. That served as bandage as I continued tending tip-ups. I'm fascinated with the teeth of northern pike, rows of hundreds of them in each maw. The poignant beauty of such ferocious power implied.

I've ice fished alone more than I have with others, and yet the best of ice fishing is the conversation, or when it does ignite, as it did between Mike and me. I have no desire to reproduce what we said, but I think of Marshall McLuhan's phrase, "The medium is the message." I also think the setting is the opportunity. Since most of us spend most of our time in routine settings, there's not much hope of conversation that gets very interesting, at least not when we're doing-as-we-do. But get outside where expanse can't help but subtly suggest possibility and refreshing thoughts expressed in words will likely occur between you and whoever's along.