Saturday, March 22, 2014

Greeting Spring at Dingman's Ferry, Delaware River, for Walleye

For many years, reading the Freshwater Report of The Fisherman magazine, I've come upon references to winter walleye caught at Dingman's Ferry, those winters when the river didn't freeze over, or during periods of open water. I've held the desire to try for winter walleye for years, having caught a number of small walleye a couple of times in December at Bull's Island from my 12-foot boat as a teen, with a younger brother. Early spring not excluded, the water is very cold, but walleye happen. The river changes with the seasons and conditions, and I like familiarizing myself with differences.

So when Joshua Bunkers, blogger at , messaged me yesterday, I was just minutes away from a fast affirmation of the invitation to try Dingman's. The idea of meeting up to fish with someone new on a mild, early spring afternoon felt rejuvenating, and at least when the wind would subside out there, we stood and sat unmistakably on the better side of the season.

The clouds broke up, the sun came out, Sussex County fields and ridges on our return ride glowed with the awakening presence we all expect this time of year. We had fished jigs tipped with shiners, and I also worked a Rat-L-Trap slowly, right at the bottom, 10-25 feet or so deep, finally losing it to a snag, surprised I got as much use from it as I did.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Catching Pickerel Through the Ice in River Styx, Lake Hopatcong, Knee Deep Derby Day

I don't know how I got the notion in my head that the Knee Deep Ice Fishing Derby on Lake Hopatcong would begin at 8:00 a.m., and registration could be effective any time thereafter before the 4 o'clock close. Joe phoned Dow's to have bait bagged before our arrival, which would be about 9:30, and got the bad news. My feelings sank especially since my son felt somewhat excited about participation. We agreed that next year we will do it. I just have to take the time to read the procedures carefully.

But we had a great morning and early afternoon, fishing until 2:30. River Styx tends to be productive. My pickerel measured 24 inches, Matt having first caught a largemouth about 11 inches, and Joe jigged a perch. All released. We also witnessed a larger pickerel caught, over four pounds. I asked the guy if he registered in the derby, no. Photography a maze of opportunity, it always is with Joe along, who is photogenic and doesn't mind my habit of endless shooting with my Nikon.

The ice had melted to 12 to 15-inches thick. I learned today that it's thick at the edges, where melt tends to be vertical, rather than horizontal. Joe went right to the edge and put his hands in the water, finding the ice five inches thick. I told him to please not do it, feeling nervous. And yet, if he fell through, I had ice spikes on hand. I feel my conscience is absolved by having the device. The car situated a hundred yards away, he would have warmed up after I tossed the spikes to him. Nevertheless, he learned a lot from Bob Neals, holder of the New Jersey state record 42-pound and some ounce musky, who introduced Joe to ice fishing more than 15 years ago.

On Joe's first ice outing, Bob cut a hole and told him, "Put your hands in the water, then hold them out to dry in the wind. You won't be cold the rest the day." The wind then happened to be about 15 degrees, minus wind chill factor.

Today it remained cold, never getting above 30. The breeze felt pretty fierce at times, since we weren't dressed to the utmost protection, expecting temperatures in the mid-40's. But we dressed well enough to bear it and have a good time, layered, although my son could have used his wool pants, even though he did have long johns on.