Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fishing Salmon Eggs For Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout

For recently stocked rainbow trout, nothing beats salmon eggs. If trout have been in a stream weeks or months, it's time to fly fish. But for the April weeks rainbows get stocked, fishing salmon eggs properly is a challenging, exciting, and rewarding exercise. Plenty of trout may be caught, but probably many more hits missed. Rainbows and salmon eggs are like sheepshead and sand fleas--both species bait stealers par excellence. But a salmon egg placed on a size 14 snelled hook (doesn't have to be a gold salmon egg hook) on two-pound test leader attached to a small snap tied to two-pound test spooled on the tiniest spinning reel you can find, seated on the shortest. lightest rod you have searched out, is game, no doubt about this; this is fun and something you will never feel you have mastered.

With my three-foot, six-inch ultra, ultra light rod I cast a single salmon egg with only a small snap for additional weight halfway across the North Branch Raritan. Compare the butt thickness to my thumb in the photo above. It is quite thin, thinner than the diameter of a salmon egg. The tip is so light I can bend it to the rod shaft. When I hook up, the fight of a ten-incher is strong and drag-screeching; it takes a while to bring the trout alongside my waders. I once landed an 18 1/2-inch brookie on this rod, foul hooked in the back near the tail. And you know how a fish advantaged like that fights.

Brookies take salmon eggs, but not as unhesitatingly as do rainbows.

For either fish, you need to practice, practice, practice at getting the eggs to drift right. (You will never hook every trout that striikes.) In deep, fast moving water you need to use some split shot or cylindrical weight such as the Boss Tin Stylers or Stix. But most situations call only for a snap; some demand that you add a piece or two of the swivels attached to the snaps, which you cut off from the snaps with nail clippers, only the snap leftover remaining whole. I keep what I cut by running a baby pin through the remaining loop of each swivel, then pin my vest. It's a small detail, but such a subtle difference--which gets a salmon egg in range of trout at the bottom of a faster moving run--can mean a fish or not. takes you to a more comprehensive article on the method. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pike Fishing Tips Early Season in New Jersey

Notice the big rod. This was my first open water pike caught six years ago at Spruce Run Reservoir, a nice fish, but all that power in an eight-foot rod unnecessary to catch it. Thanks to a little experimentation since then, and Manny Luftglass's persuasions in his Fisherman articles, I now use medium-power spinning tackle with six-pound test monofilament. To catch a pike over 15 pounds in New Jersey is a rare event. I've fished for them late March to May 1st persistently for six years now and haven't caught any over nine pounds. I usually bring guests along with my son, too.


Pike spawn shortly after ice out. When they have spawned this year I don't know, but they've been caught in the shallows of Spruce Run since early February. For spawning, they seek out residual vegetation in very shallow water near the mouths of waterways. In Spruce Run, for example, this gives you five options, all of which are accessible by foot, some more easily than others. Even in rivers such as the Passaic, pike will seek the mouth of the little creek in Verona, for example, and even enter that creek to swim upstream. For reasons I don't understand, pike stick around these areas long after spawing until about May 1st, so long as a major heat wave does not drive water temperatures through and out of the 50's.


Pike eagerly hit spinnerbaits, minnow plugs, crankbaits once the water temperature hits 50, and will possibly strike these lures in colder water. The best bet for water colder than the upper 40's, in my opinion, is the Rapala Husky Jerk because it suspends, which means you can retrieve it ultra slow, allow for pauses, and possibly provoke strikes no matter how cold the water. Pike are caught in shallows of four to six feet or so under ice, so cold open water invites this lure. But nothing beats a large shiner for cold water and I like to use them even in 50 degree water for pike at Spruce Run. Large shiners allow longer casts; they also have more presence in the water, more lure appeal from longer distance.

I use a barrel swivel to separate line from 15-pound test flourocarbon leader, with a size 6 plain shank hook. The shiner makes its way to bottom poking about on its own while I slowly help it cover the range of a retrieve, this known as live-lining. Often you'll feel the strike only as a tug. Swing the rod in the direction of the pike to allow a quick run. The pike will stop after running about five yards to turn the minnow headfirst into its maw. Don't wait long to set the hook so that healthy release is possible. 

With kids along, setting bobbers may make sense. My son is very proficient with retrieves and lures; he's been fishing since age two. But he prefers to set a bobber for pike. The jetty at Van Syckle Road, for example, is actually a lot of area to cover live-lining. While you do, you can set a bobber for yourself as well, and never get so far from it as to not to be unable to check on occasioin.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Early Season Largemouth Bass Fishing Tips

Here in New Jersey largemouth bass can be caught on the surface with 2 1/2-inch Rebel Minnow plugs, which sit at a slight angle on a calm surface, twitched very slightly so the rear rises and lowers in water warmer than 47 degrees that isn't cooling. It may or may not happen, but has happened for me in ponds recently iced out while Lake Hopatcong still hosted ice fishermen, particularly in northeast corners of these waters that warm best. Of course, this year we had almost no ice. And with afternoon temperatures sustained in the 70's, a balsa Rapala would probably work now with its tighter action, straight surface posture, and fast rise to the top when jerked under and paused so it floats.

Spinnerbaits are great now. I like the Strike King Mini King in ponds. The small profile just seems to suit the time of year when bass may be reluctant to react as they will react soon. I've caught plenty of bass over two pounds on these eighth-ounce lures. In-line spinners buzz right by whatever bass are staging towards the shallows; a medium retrieve can draw them to follow and overcome those vibrating blades.

Even with another cold snap bass can be caught. I used to catch bass with water temperatures in the mid-40's or colder by slowly retrieving a Johnson Beetle Spin right on the bottom, the blade barely turning--ticking is the word for it. Largemouths will hit tube jigs dead sticked for up to half a minute before subtly moved forward. Sometimes the slightest twitches set those tentacles to just the right motion to entice a take.

New Jersey early season largemouth always gets underway in ponds first, since they warm first. If Lake Hopatcong is 46 degrees, a pond may be 10 degrees warmer. It's essentially the same wherever chilly springs feature the new season.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fly Fishing New Jersey Trout Before the Bell

Today's trip to the Pequest River reminded us both, my son and I, of the Salmon River near Pulaski, New York, because the lot at the Trout Conservation Area just off Route 46 filled.

Temperatures in the 60's made for a great afternoon. Everyone I spoke to appreciated the warmth and some of them caught trout on nymphs, all of these fish released. I did manage to turn a fairly good-size brown, about 13 inches, on a zebra midge, missing the strike. Much larger trout frequent the river and get caught on occasion, and while of course we had such fish in mind, we didn't expect any, since our experience with this river before we stepped in was nil. For a river experienced fly fishermen can depend on for action before closing in anticipation of Opening Day, it's beautifully marked by boulders and deep pockets between, by bank cuts, holes, and stretches that can occupy you for hours if you like.

We spent at least a half hour plumbing a long stretch far downstream of where we parked, along with another angler fishing a Hare's Ear. We got involved in conversation, during which he claimed to have once caught a 10-pound brown right where he stood as evening approached.

After he spoke of this fish, I just savored a long moment, cast and relaxed before we would head back to the car, having to drive nearly an hour back home, reflecting on all the things a day away from more narrow routines inspires.   

I'm a novice fly angler and so is my son. I can catch dozens of stocked trout on salmon eggs, fathead minnows (brown trout), or spinners,  and for the salmon eggs I use a 3 1/2-foot super ultra-light with a tip so light it can seemingly almost be tied in a knot. Two-pound test carries no more than a small barrel swivel for weight. It takes skill. Trout steal salmon eggs like blackfish chop pealer crabs off a hook, or sheepshead remove sand fleas with teeth that look exactly human on a small scale. Whether or not I continue fishing this method I first adopted at age 14 is yet to be seen.

This angler captures a 16-inch brown he released

Zebra midge, I believe size 20
Something hatched a little, don't know what