Friday, April 4, 2014

Salmon Eggs Over Power Bait and Worms for Trout

Salmon eggs tempt reluctant trout when fished well and persistently, and more often, perhaps, are taken eagerly, but some anglers prefer to weight bait with medium sized split shot and fish on the bottom. Something like fatalistic desire to sink into the abyss characterizes this method, but it works in holes with slow current so long as the bait is a worm, Power Bait, or fathead minnow. Power Bait floats. It has high visibility and plenty of fishermen walk out with limit catches. But salmon eggs don’t float, are tiny, and tend to fall into crannies and through cracks on the bottom when tossed out with a heavy weight. In nearly all cases of bottom fishing salmon eggs, trout will ignore the offering.

          Salmon eggs are all about the drift and this is the great advantage. How the current takes an egg to the trout in large measure determines whether or not the fish will strike. The aim is to drift an egg as naturally as possible close to bottom without ever resigning the bait and yourself to the gravel, rocks, or silt. In most stream situations, a weightless presentation is necessary. Only a size 20 snap is used to connect leader to line. In deep holes with a fairly strong current, a BB split shot is needed. I separate snaps from swivels with nail clippers and keep the swivel pieces. Many situations call for no more weight in addition to the snap than a swivel piece looped onto the snap. I keep snaps and swivel pieces on separate safety pins on my vest.

          Drifting salmon eggs is difficult to learn, but anglers who master the technique easily catch and release 30 or 40 trout on Opening Day. For such results, low diameter two pound test line is a must to cast a single salmon egg effectively. Size 14 hooks with inset eye loops are snell tied on 12 to 18-inch leader lengths of two pound test line tied by surgeon’s loop. Two leaders of different lengths can be placed on one snap. The rod should be delicate and very short in length. Efinger Sporting Goods carries four and a half foot rods, and it may be possible to find even shorter online. Mine is three-and- half-feet, super spry, and the Daiwa S-500T spinning reel is tiny.

          Most of New Jersey's trout fishing happens in the Highlands. Hunterdon County has a number of trout streams that empty into the Delaware River, which my family has loved since the mid-1970’s: Alexaukin Creek, Wickecheocke Creek, Lockatong Creek, Frenchtown Brook, and a couple of streams in the Milford area. Also, the South Brank Raritan, Spruce Run, Capoolong Creek and many others exist in Hunterdon. The Musconetcong River is shared with Warren County, and the Pohatcong Creek, Pequest River, and Paulinskill River, also in Warren, are great fishing. In Morris County, the North Branch Raritan River, Rockaway River, Black River, Lamington River, Peapack Brook, India Brook, Hibernia Brook, and a length of the Musconetcong River and other streams are all stocked. Sussex County’s favorite is the Big Flatbrook, but the Little Flatbrook, upper Paulinskill River, Glenwood Creek, Dry Run, and Lubber’s Run are also possibilities. In Passaic County, the Pompton River, Ramapo River, and Pequannock River all offer the chance at a big trout. Some of these streams have wild trout and will not be stocked this year due to the furunculosis infection at the Pequest Hatchery. Lists can be found online. They’re great places to approach with a fly rod and practice catch and release.

           When we experience muddy waters, Lake Aeroflex, Lake Hopatcong, Lake Ocquittunk, and Lake Musconetcong in Sussex won’t muddy. Nor will Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon or Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren. Trout are available from shore at all of these lakes, although the holdover and trophy lakes aren’t stocked this year, and the acreage ratio of available water to public access at Lake Hopatcong is little. Lake Ocquittunk is a six-acre pond protected from muddy run off in Stokes State Forest, so it’s protected from too large a crowd perhaps as well. Power Bait is a top choice in lakes and ponds, but Kastmasters, Binskies, and Rapala Countdowns are more exercising and may be more fun. Streamers can be effective fly fished, also.

            Tomorrow is Opening Day, and it won’t be so chilly. I remember snow and ice on Opening Days past, but the ice was only the kind you shake out of the rod guides as trout tested numb fingers. takes you to a comprehensive article on salmon egg fishing.

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