Monday, May 21, 2012

Lake Musconetcong Largemouth and Pickerel Action

Lake Musconetcong Largemouth and Pickerel Action

          I hadn’t decided which to favor: Lake Musconetcong, or Lake Hopatcong even with the recent history. Both are beautiful lakes with unique fishing opportunities. In June, I've preferred Lake Musconetcong; spinnerbait action can be searing. By July 1st the Stanhope/Netcong border of Morris and Sussex Counties used to be wall to wall carpeting of aquatic vegetation. But summer 2010, the Lake Musconetcong Planning Board loaded the lake with weed killer, which has changed the ecology radically at least for now. It seems possible spinnerbaits will be effective through the summer with the Serengeti gone, but last July two bass caught (not a good traditional score) hit topwater plugs and nothing struck spinnerbaits. Other open water lures like floating minnow plugs may have some use, and last May, Steve Slota got away with a shallow running crankbait, nailing a two-foot pickerel.

          Despite the increase in cormorant interest—these shore birds consume pounds of fish each day—with obstructing vegetations' absence having opened the season on young gamefish for birds six months or so a year, two years is not enough time for the really good sized fish to be gone yet. I’m only surmising things anyhow, but it seems to me that with so much habitat simply executed, the fish go with it. 

           This lake used to be crystal clear. Last I saw, it was a muddy hole by comparison with people desiring to water ski. It’s not cormorant excrement that makes the water off color, it’s the lack of filtration vegetation provided and microscopic algae in place of healthy greens. Now that people dunk in the lake, I suppose it’s less safe on the lips. Huge largemouths over seven pounds lived in the thickest of the vegetation through summers; possibly very few by comparison will reach this size in the near future.

          No doubt, topwater plugs will be the best choice around sunrise and sunset through summer unless a stiff wind disturbs the surface. The lake is very shallow. Almost everywhere it’s five feet deep, six at most. I know of no other lake on the planet that afforded its fish—largemouth bass and pickerel—such habitat. Literally, these species could be caught anywhere. Most lakes have fish populations in certain areas, but Lake Musconetcong was total fish habitat. Lily pad clusters remained best last year.

           Last year I fished with Steve Slota, renting a rowboat at Stanhope Bait and Boat in May was best. We had fair action within three hours, Steve catching that pickerel of about 3 ½-pounds on the shallow running crankbait, and losing a largemouth at least as big that blasted a topwater plug at sundown. I caught four pickerel and a bass, one of the pickerel close to 3 ½ pounds, and the others about 19 inches, three of these fish on spinnerbaits, and two on a Senco plastic worm. All six of these and those we missed associated closely with lily pads mixed with Eurasian milfoil and other vegetation.

          Anyone can row a boat (you need no boater’s safety certificate), wind is usually light, and Lake Musconetcong is fairly small at 329 acres making an excellent proposition for beginner’s luck with fish all over and pads easy to target. But rental boats are only 12 feet in length, which makes two people busily casting lures a subtle threat to one another. If you stand in the boat, sit down immediately if  balance gives, and good luck—once and a while it’s too late, and once it almost happened to me.

          A hit can come anytime, and if you cover enough water it’s still likely you will connect. It’s about 50/50 largemouth and pickerel averaging very good size close to two pounds. If you don’t bring a pair of pliers or hook disgorger, you may as well cut the line with the lure lodged in the jaw as often as not, and apply pliers when you get home—you’ve committed to dinner. Often it’s easiest to remove the single hook of a spinnerbait, not always. The structure of the jaw is layered (even a single hook can lost in there), the teeth sharper than razors and sizeable. Even with precautions, bring along a first aid kit. I’ve had over 35 years’ experience with these fish; two years ago I sliced my thumb badly removing a hook.

          Senko style plastic worms are good near and among pads, usually taken on the initial drop, so a quick retrieve for the next cast after that may be sensible. Use a weedless #1 or 2 hook and try “Wacky,” hooked right through the middle, weightless. Experiment with topwater plugs. Different lures and retrieves (as irregular yet natural as you can conjure from your own nature) are worth playing. And with any lure, always tie a 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader to a barrel swivel and check it for tooth nicks after every hit that might have been from a pickerel. Fill your spool with 15-pound test Power Pro braid to steer big ones from heavy weeds.

Crappie Too



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