I know, some lakes form elongated shape, but even these have edges rounded by water flow. Here's another of my column articles. It sketches some basics for anglers who want to catch trout this winter in New Jersey, and it relates grasp of ice fishing experience that will be of interest to ice fishermen and others alike.
New Jersey Winter Trout: Lakes and Ponds
New Jersey’s Division of Fish & Wildlife began this winter’s trout stocking of lakes and ponds in the region November 19th, completing the mission November 21st. Morris County’s Mount Hope Pond and Speedwell lake; Little Swartswood Lake, Lake Aeroflex, Lake Ocquittunk, and Silver Lake in Sussex County; Hunterdon’s Amwell Lake; and Furnace Lake in Warren County have received rainbow trout 14 to 18 inches long.
I recently spoke to Fred Matero, eager to fish Speedwell Lake in Morristown, an impoundment of the Whippany River with architecture left standing from about the time of the American Revolution. The size of the pickerel Fred has witnessed is outstanding. The lake is not loaded with them, but it’s heartening to know gamefish other than those stocked exist right at the edge of an urban setting. Take the trout home—they never make it through summers here—but leave the pickerel behind because they exist as resident fish that make the lake special.
Any of the waters listed will harbor rainbows vulnerable to shore fishing. Perhaps most anglers use Berkeley Power Bait, which rainbows fall for easily, because the bait floats and the bright colors also create visibility. Use enough weight to place the bait in fairly deep water with about three feet of leader margin. Or you can try a marshmallow and mealworm on a size 6 hook this way, since a small marshmallow will float the bait. Some trout get caught on worms on the bottom, and weighted shiners allowed to swim on a long leader prove somewhat effective, perhaps small size best. Spinners hook a few also, but the water’s cold and if you can fish on a mild afternoon, it’s a good to let bait do the work, sit back and enjoy the weather or read a book. Open air does wonders for health and concentration.
But the most interesting approach to lake and pond rainbows usually happens in January, February, and early March. Ice fisherman tend to catch the interest of anyone who sees them busy jigging through a hole, tending tip-ups, or sitting out on a lake on a fold out chair. The unusual extremity of weather exposure makes people wonder. But most of all, people seem to question what enjoyment exists in trying to catch fish in the dead of winter. Ice, of all things, seems counterintuitive to the freedom of casting a line and fishing currents, depths, or surf. I once got a magazine article assignment about ice fishing because, the editor told me, “I think you guys are friggin’ nuts and want to know something about it.”
Most people aren’t drawn to a stark, frozen landscape to find serenity. Doing something very different than any activity in a controlled, heated environment provokes us to feel that others can speculate all they want about just why. It’s a good time; elevated feelings have their reasons. Going solitary or social, ice has its attractions. One of the things I like about my life is that time does not seem to steal it in the way I’ve heard others complain about this loss, and ice fishing slows and deepens experience of time uniquely. Nothing further removed from usual recreation exists--besides winter trail hiking, perhaps, or skiing a course-less, wilderness slope. Ice fishing is pursued in an environment that does not exist every winter, but when it does exist, it's as absolute as any other and stranger than most. What might astonish you is the levity you feel once you stand on frozen water. It’s impossible to know how ice awakens senses until you cut the hard stuff yourself. Ultimately, the mind centers experience in space so that time encircles you, rather than runs ahead dragging you with it.
But if you never have tried ice fishing and want to find these things out, don’t venture onto ice alone unless you are absolutely familiar with the outdoors. No one wants to stand over water that would kill a human being in ten minutes of exposure, without knowing it’s safe or not. Find someone who knows who will take you. Guide services for hire exist.
I first ice fished shortly after I turned 15. An older angler introduced me to a frozen pond near Plainsboro, N.J., before the vast farming acreages became McMansions. No sooner had we set a few tip-ups, I heard a thunderous crack and a deep, fluid grumbling sound, sort of like weaponry. I must have jumped three feet into the air, and Joe laughed out loud, me staring at him directly waiting for an answer.
“The ice settles!” He said, and turned back to cutting more.
I’ve ice fished ever since as if that first time showed me a different world. I keep going back because what I found is better than salt for sanity in a distracting world.