Friday, June 3, 2011

Windy Lake Ames Near Hibernia, New Jersey

--Is not a lake, but a 16-acre pond, mostly very shallow, with a lot of weeds, but not nearly so thick as I feared. Several years ago, returning home from a nearby Scout camp, I saw a group of ice fishermen out, and stopped to check out the scene. They had caught a couple very small pickerel, so that's always been my impression of Lake Ames since. But before I went on Blogger this evening, I did a little web research, and at least the pickerel reported were slightly larger, with a report, also, of a 24-incher, and a four-pound largemouth.

I set out along the west side, cast a spinnerbait in that tiny cove, then headed into the woods. I came upon what I thought was the Hibernia Brook, and saw that Oliver Shapiro, in his book Fishing New Jersey, minced no words when he suggested wading this area. I had brought along both old sneakers and shorts, but just wasn't motivated to change. 

And as it turned out, good thing. I ended up hiking entirely around the pond and through some briars, my long pants helped. On the way I discoverrd a second brook, all the way in back. I'm not sure, but it seemed more tannic than the first, and just as large. Both of them beautiful mountain streams. I got some good casts from the east side for a stretch, and then, as I headed on down toward the dike, I saw skunk cabbage crop up, and remember thinking, "This means the ground will be spongy at the very best." 

It was worse. But rocks interspersed deep muck; I attempted to balance my steps on these uneven stones. Very suddenly, I lost control. My senses, just as suddenly, came alive like lightning. For a split second I felt very young again, like a mountain goat on rocks. I knew two things very vividly: I didn't want to break bones, and I didn't want to thoroughly muddy my dress clothes and return to work like that after lunch. As it turned out, I danced over another five or six yards of uncertain rock supports--and didn't leave a spot of mud on my clothes.

Finally--I walked along Green Pond Road for a stretch--I got to the dike, and discovered the best water to fish just as I ran out of time. I would have switched to a plastic worm. The water here is perhaps eight feet deep, and I did actually sight a bass. This will be worth fishing some cloudy afternoon, and perhaps in the fall with live shiners. Today the sun was bright as can be, although a cool wind tore through and shook up the surface so that a spinnerbait, it seemed to me, could have been effective, reflecting scattered light beams. I walked to my car with a satisfied feeling of discovery, which had come so close to having been denied. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mt. Hope Pond Still Promising

Some days don't start off right, and although I arrived after noon at Mt. Hope with little more than a half hour to fish, all morning I had been off kilter, and remained so. As briars seemed to grip at my dress shirt much more than usual, I swore under breath, and getting in among the tangles along the bank, I muddied my dress pants. But I wore hiking boots, no doubt about this.

I saw an 18 inch largemouth cruise in heavy sunlight and blazing heat on the water. Indifferent as a zombie, it mingled with small sunfish that took no alarm at all, sure evidence that this bass gave off no aggressive vibes. Surely I'd get skunked today.

During the dreggs of summer dog days--unless you thrive in intense heat--under brilliant sunlight largemouth will cruise a pond's shallows in full view. All I know, and I don't know all the variables, far from it, is that unless damselflies and dragonflies are present, hunting smaller insects related to aquatic vegetation that meets water surface, I haven't been able to coax such cruisers to hit. I thought this would be today's situation. Mt. Hope's shoreline drops sharply to 15 feet and more of water, no shallow flats for bass to cruise and attack those damsel and dragonflies--at least smaller bass do this where they're available.

But within ten minutes I had my first bass. I casted my Chompers perfectly next to overhanging brush, some of that brush in water, except that my line get caught by a thin branch. No more than a couple seconds elapsed, and the line suddenly took up the slack swiftly. I felt my mood shift. Despite the branch, when I set the hook, it gave. I found on inspection afterwards that it didn't even nick the line. This bass weighed at least a pound and a half.

I fished at much faster pace, getting all the way up the shoreline in almost half the time as usual. Most of the water drenched in sunlight, I had less of it to fish, focusing on shaded areas. I tried a tactic that makes sense, and seemed to make the difference, casting the worm just outside shade, in sunlit water, so that a bass present in shade sees the sunlit worm very clearly, and dashes from the shade to grab it, the way that striped bass stay just outside illumination from docks during bay summers, and crash the baitfish drawn into light. Near the very end of my jaunt, I picked up one more just over a pound. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Round Valley Reservoir Last Stop

Last I looked, the Ranger Cove area from the dike and beyond, including the pond in that area, are closed as of this evening until fall. Wanted very much to give it a last try, and drove over on the suppositiion that I had over an hour and a half until 8:00 to vacate the premises. Over in the far corner, I noticed the sign directed all to leave at 7:00, and remembered, of course. I did follow the rule, but plenty stayed over there until after 8:00. I kept within the law, hoping that some day it will change, and meandered over to the reservoir corner between the launch ramps, knowing that 10 foot depths exist almost within casting range, and some vegetation.

In the pond I caught three largemouth, one about four or five ounces over a pound, the other two about a pound. All struck in the first corner, which served me well this season. I worked my way along the treacherous rocks for a stretch; weeds grow out in batches for six or seven yards, and no doubt bass haunt them. I lost a good one--but nowhere near five pounds--to one of the thick clumps. It buried its head into it, and while I pulled all out, it still managed to loosen the tensiion on the line enough to throw the hook. Bass dig their heads into weeds like that so the connection of line to the hook is no longer direct and tight. They don't think, "I've got to slacken this line," they just dig into cover, but by effect they do slacken it. This is why I use 15 pound Power Pro braid in Lake Musconetcong. Braid stretches less, and 15 pound test you can really horse. The way Lake Musconetcong used to be--weed heaven--often I would almost break my rod, but boat a bass or pickerel. After this episode in the weed patch, I casted to the spot again after one cast away from it, had another take, and missed it. I think a lot of commotion often does the opposite of spooking other fish.

So. Coming off the dike, through the official fence, I noticed that corner invited me, unoccupied. Without much hope at all, I knew a bass cruising the sparse vegetation in the relative evening shade bore some possibility. Since the surface had completely calmed, I opted for the more subtle and slow sinking Chompers, rather than a Senco. Soon I landed another one pounder, then a nine incher, and an eight incher that attacked some tiny baitfish near my feet, so I just pitched my 7 1/2 Chompers and yanked it up, to return it unharmed, myself a little embarrased.

I'm a longer way from that five pound plus bass now. I've heard nice stories about the pond, and not only have I lost that to absolute reality, regulations, it gets tough now with the heat, and fewer days of persistent low pressure. Without a boat in New Jersey it's tough, if not impossible, to catch big bass consistently. I checked out Split Rock Reservoir on Friday to find three marginal spots to fish from shore. From a boat the place is obviously Paradise, although I have plenty experience with boats to know this can be tough, too. It would be nice if more shore access to places like Round Valley and Merrill Creek were permitted, especially with low water conditions existing at Round Valley now. But with the present state of our society, attitudes are such that regulations tend not to be made to make it nice for recreationists, but to control us from the point of view of suspicious regard.