Wednesday, February 5, 2014

49 1/2 Inch Musky Lake Hopatcong; Ice Fishing Opportunities Now Include Round Valley

 49 1/2-inch true strain musky recently caught on Lake Hopatcong by Bill Archinbald, Knee Deep Club's "Web Guy". Photo care of Joe Landolfi.

Joe got this photo from Dante Dimarco and supposedly the musky is New Jersey's lengthiest so far, besides a 50-incher Dante caught a few years ago. But who knows, really. Muskies get caught, released, and silence kept. But big shiners from Dows Boat Rentals certainly serve the ice season on the lake for big results. Bob Neals' state record 42-plus-pounder was 48 inches, a very fat fish, also caught through the ice, but that of Monksville Reservoir. I'm wondering if any muskies are being caught on Greenwood Lake and also the small Furnace Lake, known for tiger muskies. Mercer Lake is surely fishable through the ice now as well.

My son and I ice fished Furnace Lake in 2009, a nice outing to remember, although we got skunked. For one thing, I probably concentrated too much in the deepest water. I don't know. But I do know Joe Landolfi's big tiger through Lake Hopatcong ice, about 44 inches, came from 20 feet with plenty of water down to 50 feet deep nearby. We fished mostly 25 to 35-feet deep on Furnace, the deepest water.

I get a needle thrust into my spine next week. Whether or not this makes late season ice fishing possible for me this year or not is yet to be seen. Now my reliable trout fishing (not reliable catches) at Round Valley is rendered impossible by ice cover that may remain a while. I recall that during a colder winter, Round Valley remained frozen until late March, 1994.

New Jersey has abundant ice fishing opportunities, and in all of my 38 years of ice fishing, I've hardly begun to fish everywhere. I used to ice fish in Mercer County during my teens and 20's, and we did pretty well on Gropp's Lake, a Delaware and Raritan Canal basin pond of about five or six acres, and especially well on a string of four to six-acre ponds that at the time were owned by Princeton Day School. Since a friend and I took our limits and placed them in a cooler filled with cold water from Colliers Mills one December afternoon and transported the pickerel to PDS, the lower pond became loaded. The largemouth population seemed to remain stable, too. That was illegal activity, but we were 17 in 1977 and not filled in on the prohibition against transplanting fish, at least not enough not to do it. Now I've heard of pickerel being caught in Stony Brook...

We've caught pickerel on Little Swartswood, tried for walleye on Swartswood. Lake Musconetcong has some big perch, and this winter might be a good one for pickerel and largemouths, since last I saw the lake, the weeds were back. Eurasian milfoil apparently does a great job of filtering the water, making it clean, clear, and good for fish. 

Budd Lake was once my favorite. For three or four winters I spent time alone on the ice in the late 90's and early 2000's, catching some pike, but none of them really big. I caught my only channel catfish through the ice there also. Now I'm eager to ice fish Lake Hopatcong more, and over the next few years, the lake may be my only ice destination, since I'm interested in developing a collection of black and white photos associated directly with the lake and depicting any and all forms of recreation I may encounter, as well as scenes. Perhaps sometime I'll try Lake Aeroflex or even Wawayanda. I would ice fish Round Valley Reservoir, perhaps even soon, since my persistent trout fishing has got me interested. I really thought the reservoir wasn't going to freeze over this year, so I was surprised when I drove down into the South Lot yesterday, viewing ice clear across and everywhere. 

Round Valley Reservoir yesterday. 4 1/2 inches of ice near the ramp.
 39-inch northern pike from Budd Lake.
 Joe Landolfi and 25-inch pickerel from Lake Hopatcong.
 Joe Landolfi and hybrid striper from Lake Hopatcong.
Pickerel from Lake Musconetcong.