Friday, July 1, 2011

Lake Hopatcong Smallmouth Brace

My son, Matt, had trouble sleeping last night. He's still asleep now after returning from Lake Hopatcong. Just before he conked out, he told me he didn't fall asleep until 2:00 a.m. He was up at 3:45.  I have to say he did well on the lake considering.

To rent a boat from Dow's is to gain access to a great lake if you don't own a boat, so long as you have a NJ Boater's Safety Certificate. But without electric for positioning, and the irresistible temptation to stock the livewell with herring for hybrids and walleyes (last August we actually went without the live bait), the way we fish is different from the way we would fish while strictly going after bass, with allowance for pickerel. 

Along a shoreline I fished Senko-type worms both Wacky and with inset hook to penetrate weeds as deliberately as would surely bring results under better conditions. We did not see any clouds in the sky at all upon sunrise. The air temperature had dipped to about 50 degrees. Fishing very hard, I used the 9.9-horsepower gas outboard as best I could like an electric to position casts. Matt used his "secret weapon," Berkeley Worm Blower-adjusted nightcrawlers (they float) and didn't even catch sunfish. Not even a tap.

Finally by about 8:00 a.m. we got to a rocky point. Matt pulled up a one-pound largemouth from 10 feet directly under the boat. I fished the Senko hard, and put out herring. The shadow line extended out over 25 feet deep of water, and I had vague hopes for a walleye or hybrid in the shade. After a half hour Matt caught a 10-inch smallmouth on herring just about when the guy who had been fishing further west, over open water, motored near and offered us the remainder of his herring. 

"Sure!" I said. I had hesitated, as if I would depend more on plastics instead. But I had the stirrings of desire to do something with the herring for pickerel.

"Catch any?" I asked.

"Two smallmouth and walleye," he said.

"The walleye good sized?"

"Yes. I'll show you."

We pulled boats together, traded off the herring, and he opened his livewell. The walleye was huge. I have never seen one so large. Big and thick bodied, it weighed eight pounds at least, possibly 10.

"Did you get it deep using a slip bobber?"

"Eight to ten feet down over 26 feet of water, just a hook and a barrel swivel over the side of the boat."

Of course it couldn't have been too deep, since oxygen is depleted now.

I had a moment of decision. Would we move on? I knew we should go back along the rock faces and that shade. We did, and it felt right. It didn't take long before I was into a very good fish that took herring over about 25 feet of water. The smallmouth measured 17 1/2-inches, weighed about three pounds. I put herring back out and caught another exactly the same size the same way. (The first fish took my hook; it wasn't the same bass.) Then something good sized took my son's herring. He had it on a couple of seconds before it pulled the hook. 

While the herring took care of themselves on no more than a light wire, plain shank, size 6 hook, I fished that Senco hard and sensitively. I lost a good bass--at least two pounds--and had the peculiar experience of hooking, for a moment, what I think was a good-sized pickerel 15 feet deep, outside the shadow line (which had receded). The line clean cut, I saw no indication of a bad knot. But I made damn sure I then tied on a tiny barrel swivel and a 15 pound test fluorocarbon leader.

I did try the herring for pickerel later over weedbeds. I had one hit that took the herring clean off the hook in a split second. Another herring came off on the cast, and fluttered at the surface, taken by the slight chop, and several minutes later we saw the splash. 

I have to say I took a lot of pleasure in using herring today. I never succumbed to nightcrawlers. But the herring and the smallmouths made sense. Apparently these were suspended fish and tube jigs (or Senkos) would not be so effective. I wish I had inquired about that man's smallmouths, but I concluded that, yes, he got them suspended way out off the point. He had told me he caught the walleye at about 7:00. The entire time we observed him fishing he stayed out there. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fluke at Long Branch, New Jersey

Yesterday after work my son and I arrived in Long Branch, bought the best killies I've ever seen at Long Branch Bait & Tackle, along with four fresh clams, and set up on the beach immediately south of Seven Presidents Park. Not one of the killies is really small, they're about 50/50 medium and large, and I have a whole five gallon bucket full (aerated) to use for stream smallmouths this weekend. After half a dozen casts and a missed hit, I beached a 16-inch fluke, let it out with the wash, then put my rod up with the rest of our things. My son had persuaded me to go in for a swim, which invigorated me through and through since water wasn't warm, but not cold either. As you can see in the photo, my son got cold.

Tide had crested not long before we arrived. The sharp drop behind the breakers to about five feet of water, right off the beach, held plenty of fluke when we returned to cast with light spinning rods. Lip hooked on plain shank, size 6 hooks, the killies live-lined on six-pound test and weighted with single large split shots yielded three more fluke one right after another. But when I returned to pitch another killie just five yards beyond the wash after taking care of a keeper, they were gone. My son didn't bother to fish anymore, concerned about keeping warm rather than standing in the wash and getting wet to the waist. He had missed a hit. "I set the hook too hard," he said. He had echoed his Uncle Rick's advice to just lift the hook into them so that the bait and hook doesn't get yanked out of the odd mouth. I fished most of the next hour for one more hit. The small baitfish remained, so why did the fluke take off minutes before sunset?

No sign of stripers. Nothing touched my clams all spring, first time that happened. We had our heavy duty rods ready to go with bunker-snag trebles, but nothing happened. A lot of fun catching those fluke. It would have been incredible action had they kept hitting like they did for about 10 minutes. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

All this for a 10 inch Bass! Mount Hope Pond and Other Places

I didn't expect to get a hit, besides those from numerous sunfish. In the morning the sky, completely clear, signaled hopelessness by the water, but by the time I fished the sky had become partly cloudy. Still, plenty of sun from noon position threatened to ruin my time out, which began way off kilter. This is Monday, I hadn't fished all weekend, the last I had fished--I will tell you--I got skunked for the fourth consective time on the water, and a separate, large writing project had become uncertain in my mind, driving me nuts. Little things seemed to pop up and threaten to unnerve me. My new camera had a problem with image stabilization apparently, and my Penn spinning reel's (425S? I don't remember exactly and it's downstairs) head had come loose--I could barely use it.

I fished Round Valley Friday. Literally, I had just taken my second cast when rain began to fall. By my fifth cast I knew I wouldn't take my camera out. By my 15th or so I marched out quick for cover, and thunder rolled high in the clouds, but directly over me. In the car, I put aside the camera--I had paid over $16.00 to have it arrive quickly by UPS--and put on rain pants and what I thought was a top-half rain shell. Then I actually went out in the thunder. Thunder up in the clouds. I fished the rocks along the dike, reservoir side. Rain poured. But what pissed me off was that no bass finned back in the far pond corner to take my Senco. I had given it a good, patient 15 casts. Meanwhile, I knew I was a lot wetter from my shoulders to my waist than I was when I put on the "rain shell." It's just some sort of windbreaker that looks and feels waterproof. When I took it off in the car, my shirt was entirely soaked. So was my hair, the hood had been useless.

That was number four and I was numb to the apparent inevitability of number five today at Mt. Hope Pond. I kept thinking about how I didn't know I had it so good back in May. I couldn't even begin to cast with my normal accuracy. In fact, my first cast hung my Senco (and why cast that at all, no good reason) in two branches, which despite the inset hook would not let it go, and I snapped it off. Then my line moved off. Another sunny? I tightened to check, I never failed to do this, but no, a bass! I set the hook and almost pulled the Culprit twister away from it, since plenty of bow in the line startled me. But I got it up on the bank when the hook fell out. A 10 inch bass hasn't felt so good since I can remember.

I did miss another bass. How big I couldn't tell, just that the weight, when I tightened to tell, was much more than the peck-peck of a sunfish. Then I realized this Culprit probably sinks too slow without a split shot. To use just enough to make the tail flutter... but all I had were large shot, the size I use for salmon in October. What the hell, I put one on. But I got only four more casts. I had somewhere else I had to go.

And maybe my son and I have somewhere to go tomorrow--Long Branch. Stripers pushed bunker against beaches last week. Who knows? (As Victor Hugo or Jimi Hendrix would say.) But we're seriously after fluke. Would rather be after big stripers, but chances are... but we will have our bunker-snag trebles ready. We may even put some clam out.

Anyway, I had the camera right in a minute. And the wobbly head of my Penn--like my own of course--I tightened up with a wrench in the same amount of time. David Lee Roth said, "I been to the edge. And there I stood and looked down." I don't know if I drove myself over or got thrown off, but it was a long climb back up, and I still feel I'm hanging onto the rocks. Not today I mean, today was just a slight taste of how bad it can be!