Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Round Valley Lake Trout Dominate Catches

Here and Merrill Creek Reservoir remain active for open water fishing, although I've heard no word of anyone fishing or catching trout at the latter. Lake trout are all the news for weeks now, and this goes directly against the grain of what I assumed for a long time, that lakers are few and far between from shore, although apparently they wait until it really gets cold, and then they come in close, at least enough of them to dominate catches recently, not that I'm referring to a whole lot of fish. I had two trout on that got the shiners before I tried to set hooks. Lakers or not, they were surely trout, and while a hit is a lot better than nothing, losing the fish was disappointing.

Mike told me lakers over nine pounds are a rarity with the lack of forage in the reservoir. I've heard of some 10 to 14-pounders last year, though, and an eight-pounder from shore. Mike also told me about the shiners I heard got stocked last year, 800 pounds of them by the state. This just doesn't seem nearly enough to feed the trout populations, yet Mike pointed out the browns this year are fat compared to last year. The lakers are plump, too, compared to what I've seen before.

Mike slit this fish's belly and more than a dozen banded sunfish dropped out. I was amazed to see this species for perhaps the first time, tiny sunfish about an inch long, and they don't grow much larger. In addition, a killiefish, which made me wonder if the laker hadn't been feeding very shallow. None of the state-stocked shiners comprised the fish's recent diet.


They trolled along an ice shelf...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ice Fishing Great Cove Lake Hopatcong

Maureen and Jeff's first time ice fishing, we had a number of options. State Park lots make the lake very accessible for pickerel fishing on the six foot deep flats. Possibly, we could access River Styx, though parking is dicey there. In any event, we had to visit Laurie's shop for bait first, and I had Great Cove in mind. After Oliver and I were all but skunked in mid-January--Oliver caught a tip-up perch--we got word of a lot of pickerel caught back in the Cove. My son and I once ice fished the mouth of Great Cove in depths as great as 35 feet, hoping for a musky, but since I never had fished back in the relative shallows, I decided to go this way rather than around the bend in front of the Jefferson House, where word had it some nice pickerel were caught recently. I've never ice fished in front of the House per se, but have a few times in that area. I like to try different places.

I found I was short a couple of tip-ups, but after we got, I guess, 13 in place, we settled down to coffee, sandwiches, crab dip and conversation. I've never experienced such fog while ice fishing, and some sleet, rain and snow spattered on a very light breeze. Very mild at 34 degrees or so, I thought the temperature was just right for initiates, although hard core ice fishing challenges have had my son and I active at 0. Tough morning for a nine year old, but the photos I have don't lie. He enjoyed it.

I watched the tip-ups now and then. All was quiet and still. I knew, like on many outings, things can seem unyielding quite as if nothing will happen, until something does. Hanging out was enough, and if we caught nothing, the day would have been fulfilling.

And yet, had that flag never risen--and a second flag after sunset as we packed up, perhaps a missed hit, Jeff wasn't certain if a breeze kicked it--Maureen and Jeff never would have got that taste of childlike innocence in so humble an event as a fish on, certainty no one can deny, no one who has experienced.