Monday, June 17, 2013

Exploring a Small River for Smallmouth Bass

Resumed my exploration of the South Branch Raritan River smallmouth bass fishing today. Some largemouths are present too. If I were as earnest as I could be, I would spend many hours on weekends wading far between bridges, but I'm busy with other things. That sort of deep gain of knowledge about a stream I exercised in my teens on Stony Brook in Mercer County. Some day I want to walk between the North Branch Raritan's confluence with the Lamington River and the route 28 bridge, a five-mile hike round trip. Whether or not I'll ever actually do this, I'm not sure. Years ago when my son was six, we got downstream a half mile or so. He had gone far enough for the day.

The water was high and off color today, but not so off color that I had no chance with my favorite killies. All sorts of ways exist to catch bass in small rivers, and not all of them have been dreamed up, but I love using these hardy fluke baitfish. I parked on a bluff about 25 feet over the river and made my way down, which wasn't as easy to do as it would have been as a 17-year-old. My knees are not in the best shape and I weigh 70 pounds more than I did then. But I don't balk and stop at being active. I just take care and don't feel as much of the dancing step I used to, but it's not altogether gone.

Some three or four feet of water to the left of the photo looked inviting, but nothing took the killie. I fished almost a half hour altogether, and when I took the killie off the hook and chucked it into the river, it swam off in good shape.

I read in The Fisherman magazine three years ago about a 6.6-pound smallmouth and seven-pound largemouth caught in this river. I felt deeply moved. This river certainly has mystery if bass like that exist. Stop at any bridge or pull over, get out and fish, and I bet you'll doubt they do. Even so, what's the point, exactly, of pursuing a big one, if only 3 1/2 pounds or so rather than near state record size? Did Lewis and Clark explore the Western United States just to send report to the government? Not that my little exploration is anything near the scale of theirs, but we get away from the known and familiar to be aroused by whatever we may experience.

If I'm going to park and fish here again, I want low, clear water so wading upstream is possible. I don't know what's around the bend.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Island Beach, Trying for Bluefish, Striped Bass, and Fluke

We fished Island Beach State Park, Fisherman's Wharf, which the half of the wooden walkway is wiped out from Sandy and not replaced. Reports of bass thin, I only bought fresh bunker in addition to a pint of live killies.

The surf fairly light looked real good for fluke, but I didn't get a hit. I even put a killie out on my eight-foot Tica with a two-ounce sinker. Otherwise, I used a heavy split shot like I usually do in the surf with my medium-power freshwater St. Croix. So long as the surf is light enough, that's usually all it takes to catch some fluke.

Wind shifted from out of the south to out of the west, and with it came biting flies. That's when I decided we would leave early. All we caught was a sting ray of about 18 inches in diameter, the rounded kind. That's the first we've hooked in New Jersey. My son hooked a southern sting ray of about 100 pounds at Avon Pier, North Carolina.

We used to catch a lot of stripers as late as June 22nd. In recent years, they just don't seem to be around as they were six years ago.