Funny how, by mid-January, it still didn't seem Round Valley Reservoir would freeze. By March, 18 inches of ice had accumulated in the main launch area.
Round Valley Lake Trout are a Winter Possibility
The recent cold snap never froze Round Valley Reservoir. Chances are good for open water fishing the rest of the winter. I’ve been fishing for rainbow and brown trout since October, using the classic mealworm and marshmallow combination. M & M, as it’s called. I’ve meant to try shiners and think I will buy some to use before this article gets to press. Both rainbows and browns hit shiners, but lake trout do also, and I would love to catch one.
I’ve had lake trout in mind for years. While in Maine six years ago, we rigged a canoe with a portable graph recorder. Our lines with ounce-and-a-half metal spoons got down to the needed 63 feet or so in a jiffy. Big lake trout marked on the graph as I back-paddled the canoe against the breeze. My son jigged a spoon in their midst. None hit. We tried Lake Wawayanda in Passaic County, deep drifting live herring from a rental boat. Nothing there, either.
But during the late fall, winter, and early spring, some of Round Valley’s many lakers venture close along shore. Last winter, someone landed a 28-incher from a stretch of iron-tinged sand and gravel near the South Lot. This isn’t especially large for a lake trout—30-inch rainbows get caught from shore sometimes—but I would be plenty happy with a 28-inch laker.
My son and I, and his Uncle Jim, have together tried live shiners, and I’ve tried them on some occasions solo. We’ve caught bass 25 or 30 feet deep on sharp drop-offs in the dead of winter, but my largest trout so far, a rainbow well over five pounds, went for the humble M & M on a size 1 plain shank hook. Two small marshmallows floated the mealworm three feet off bottom, the leader attached to a small barrel swivel. A three/fourth-ounce steel egg sinker guided the main line running through the middle of it in the South Lot area.
A mile or so of shoreline to the left of the main boat launch ramp, along the dike, and on around the bend into Ranger Cove and beyond the South Lot area is good fishing. Apparently, trout roam around all of the roughly oval shoreline outlining the reservoir’s 2350 surface acres. Those are many miles to perhaps spread pods of trout apart by wide distances, but if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you may enjoy a flurry of action.
I spoke to an angler who caught three rainbows just under the 15-inch minimum size and missed six hits yesterday. Today neither he, nor myself, got any hits. With the rain and fog I thought we might have some fun, but it doesn’t always work out as the conditions seem to augment.
A couple of years ago, the wind blew from the west 25-40 mph steadily, driving rain like pins into our exposed faces, and this was too much for trout to resist. Four browns came ashore on the hook along with a 20-inch laker between me and another angler in little over an hour. I can’t say for certain whether the weather moved these fish to feed, or whether we were at the right place and right time to meet a pod of trout that could have been elsewhere, but it seemed quite obvious that the trout were feeding actively.
If you want to catch a laker from shore, you will probably have to spend years fishing. But in any event, live shiners are the bait to use, and bottom fishing may be most effective. Throughout the Ranger Cove area, bottom usually drops off quickly. You can fish from 15 to 30 feet deep or more using the same steel egg sinker for casting range and secure hold. A plain shank, size 6 hook through the back behind the shiner’s dorsal fin suffices. Attach a small piece of Styrofoam to the leader between the hook and the barrel swivel, about eight inches from the hook tie loop, to keep the shiner floating away from obstructions.
Even at this time of year, Round Valley is a beautiful destination which I find worthy of photography on every outing, in addition to fishing. Since the method is called still or bottom fishing, there’s nothing to prevent you from getting some reading done. Most anglers use a bell device on the rods’ tips to alert them to a hit. In any event, be in close earshot, or check your two or three rods often.