Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hybrid Striped Bass Off-Structure and Mid-Lake

One of those trips when we get out fresh early in the morning, endure hours of fishing, and leave grateful for the day. Joe's long experience on the lake told us we're past the spring trolling, so we drifted herring for more than five hours. Actually, the best Lake Hopatcong catches come at night now, on surface lures for walleye and hybrids. Rental boats aren't available after dark.

We began at Sharp's Rock and drifted at about a 45-degree angle back into the condos. I've heard that softly sloping drop-off where Bertrand's Island Amusement Park used to thrive on days like this is good fishing, and we did mark fish on the graph.

In Davis Cove, I caught a crappie. Joe tied on a jig and fished that for a short time. Otherwise, all day we fished herring. I caught a white perch, also, at the end of a drift from Nolan's Point right to about where weeds begin across Great Cove.

I would have fished closer to the drops, closer to shore, the points, shelves. But not only have Joe and his brother Jimmy caught hybrid striped bass mid-lake from June through August--if not right out in the middle, well out from the bottom edges of drop-offs--I've seen the fish out there in July. My son and I once fished Pickerel Point in about 35 feet of water, casting into about 25 feet and allowing un-weighted herring to suspend over wherever the oxygen line ends everything in the summer. I heard a sound like horse hooves on concrete, swung around and saw hybrids busting herring right at the surface, way out there far beyond casting range.

So I had some faith in what we did, but it yielded not a hit from a hybrid. Fishing two rods apiece, the three of us set herring from 12-25-feet deep in the water column, weighted by egg sinkers, and let one of the rods present an un-weighted herring at the surface. Last I fished with Joe, Jimmy came along also, and though we fished on the drop in late September, the hybrid we caught (I lost a real big one), hit an un-weighted herring swimming over about 30 feet of water.

Come October, we'll surely get them. My son and I never get skunked. And it's not only Joe & Jimmy's word that that's when the hybrids come in and hug the drop-off's of points and shelves, where--for whatever reason--herring bunch that time of year. Lots of people know this and it's been written about by some. My son and I have been on the bass for years.

I felt today as if held in suspense. After Sharp's Rock, I felt we'd never get a hit, but also that if we did, then I'd get a direct glimpse into another way of fishing hybrids Joe & Jimmy have succeeded at, the possibility I saw with my son that day in July.

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