Saturday, August 20, 2011

Exmore, Virginia, on way to Fishing North Carolina Outer Banks

We're in Exmore, Virginia, Delmarva Penninsula, Eastern Shore. The weather is nice, mid-80s, sunny today, and we expect good weather to begin our Outer Banks, North Carolina, fishing in Ocracoke Inlet on Monday. Ryan O'Neal, Captain of the Tar Heel skiff, has about two decade's year 'round experience fishing the inlet, having been the youngest on the southern East Coast to receive his Captain's license at age 18. If he shows us fishing as fast as he did last August, I'll have lots to report.

In addition to the Spanish mackerel, blues, and fluke, I caught a seven pound cobia, and Ryan told me about spotting them much larger frequently in the Inlet. It's the matter of tossing a four ounce bucktail and retrieving it past the fish quickly.This year we plan to fish off Portsmouth Island right where the Inlet meets ocean, having paid for a ride over and back in another tour skiff. I've got some three ounce bucktails and plan to fool around with them on my eight foot Tica--which won't handle four ounce bucktails--as well as fish killies for fluke. I hope my son succeeds at potting killies. They're not sold down there. Behind the house we're staying at, down where the long boardwalk over wetlands ends, a dockspace exists with three comfortable wooden chairs, perfect number for our family. Right off the dock killies swarm. So let's hope the minnow pot works with some fresh meat of some kind. The killies would be good at the Ocracoke Village launch ramp into Pamlico Sound too. All sorts of fish are available right there, even fluke on occasion.

Later in the week my son, Matt, and I will fish Rodanthe Pier. I know Hatteras Pier was out of commission last year, and as I think I recall so was the Avon Pier, or was that the pier we fished and will fish? Anyhow, pier fishing last year was fun especially for large pompano. Some Spanish came over the rails, but I never got one--in fact, I've been trying to pull a Spanish over a pier rail since I was 17. I've had some hits, but haven't caught a single one yet, plenty blues on the Gotcha jiggers, even some weakfish years ago. We have Berkeley Gulp! synthetic clam bait for black drums. Why? Because no one had fresh clams down here last summer. In 2005 we caught plenty fluke from Hatteras Pier, none in 2006 and last summer. Spot and croakers have been around all three times, and last summer Matt hooked a sting ray in the hundred pound class--he used a 10 foot surf rod, and a Penn Captiva 6000 reel fully loaded with 40 pound Power Pro braid. When the ray had pulled all--what, 200 yards?--of the braid but little that inevitably would be lost, I took the rod from Matt and pointed it directly at the fish so that the line would break. As I had hoped, it broke at the knot and all that expensive line was spared.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lake Musconetcong Gray and Dead: Considering the Lake's New Environment

Six years ago I first took my son, Matt, to Lake Musconetcong. For five years, until May 2010, we fished the lake often in rowboats rented for 10 bucks, catching fish--largemouth, pickerel, or both--every time out. Before I took the shot above of Matt, I reminisced about these years, and when I saw the image on the camera screen, knew that this was the perfect way to end a personal history of the lake. And then I began to converse with him openly about all the good times and great fish we had caught.

Those cormorants are hawking them; you can see my close-up of a few. They eat nothing but fish, fairly good-size fish like six and seven-inch bass, even bigger. Look at those beaks and necks--they could strike and snake down a 12 inch pickerel with a moment's ease.

Not a hit this evening. We fished from 6:30 right up almost until dark. We used to catch bass and pickerel on hot August evenings after 98-degree afternoons. Plenty of clouds billowed high in the skies this evening, and temperatures remained about 68 degrees. We even saw shiners flicker at the surface in pods with nothing chasing them. Did the bass and pickerel die out, many of them?

The six fish my friend Steve Slota and I caught in May did not serve an average number, and the two bass I caught in July were far from that. I suppose I may try again next May, but I doubt this and feel I might otherwise betray the instance of the photograph I got of my son. We have other places to go, but it amazes me it's come to giving up on this lake. It was our favorite.

Water chestnuts have invaded. It's the way they're combatted here that's destroyed the lake, at least for indefinite years ahead. The chemical treatment has resulted in water, formerly of pristine clarity, off color and ugly. And the bass and pickerel which remain live in reduced habitat, while the cormorants can swim freely to eat them. 



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smallmouth Bass, Walleye Fishing: Annual Barryville, NY, Delaware River Float Trip

Ever since my friend Steve Slota introduced us to this area of the Delaware Wild & Scenic Rivers designation in 2004, we've been coming up to Barryville, NY, at least once annually to float trip by rented raft. Yesterday we actually went from Staircase to Matamoras (across from Port Jervis), but afterwards drove on up to Barryville for ice cream and one more crack at walleyes at a spot I know is good from shore. The best I've done on any of these trips by numbers is 16 smallmouths, and the largest of them 17 inches. One of us usually gets one close to 16 inches. My largest yesterday of six caught was a little over 14, maybe nearing 15. My son decided to just relax, read, and explore a cave.

Surprised at off-color water yesterday, it didn't phase me since walleyes typically hit better. I hooked one on a Rat-L-Trap in the typical 18-inch range, but lost it alongside the raft just as I had grabbed the net. Later, near dinnertime, I tried a section of current that cuts close to the bank in Barryville where, with similar water conditions, I caught four walleyes within an hour a few years ago on Rat-L-Traps. Not a hit yesterday, even with clouds and rain beginning to fall.

While float tripping, a lot seems random. We do use an anchor to give us some control. But typically close to half of our bass and walleyes get caught rather blindly, though out in mid-river where we can't see whatever rocks or boulders might have held the fish underneath. The best we do is keep the lure close to bottom, and doing that is inexact with spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps, and Rapala Countdowns. When using diving crankbaits, if I don't feel an occasional click of the lip hitting a rock, I change to something else I know will get deeper. I lose a lot of Rat-L-Traps because I do let them sink. Often as soon as the line slacks when the lure hits bottom, it's too late, it's snagged.

Jigs get lost plenty. Even the snagless jigs--snag. Nonetheless, my favorite water condition is fairly low and clear. I love to toss an 1/8th-ounce jig and try to dance it so that it keeps touching bottom, but doesn't snag. But the best number I scored, those 16 smallmouths, all came on a #9 Rapala floater. Water conditions low and clear, I caught most of these bass in very shallow pockets isolated in fast moving water.

I almost forgot to mention that my wife, Patricia, and black lab Sadie were along, I'm so used to either solo accounts, or those with my son. Last we visited Point Pleasant at the shore, Patricia got hit by a large wave and tore three ligaments in her right knee, so she's still using the brace until well after the surgery. Point Pleasant at high tide usually seems visited by those high rollers that break right onto the beach and pull back towards a sharp drop-off. The entire coastline is a narrative of current, depth and sand, but the waves can be treacherous. Since Patricia's injury, we've heard many stories, including one of a mid-30's phys-ed teacher who is now paralyzed from the neck down from body surfing.

On a lighter note--winged--we saw two juvenile bald eagles, which are common in this region of river and another specimen of lobelia, a flower.

It's fun, but I keep dreaming of a real good-size bass, and walleye.