Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hybrid Striped Bass on the Flat-Line Troll

"Do we use the tolling motor?"

I told Fred we use the outboard, and I was a little nervous when we actually began trolling, because I had never flat-lined like this before on my own, only in very small lakes behind a trolling motor for largemouths, besides Manasquan Reservoir...there we've trolled for the heck of it while getting around limited to electric, catching only big white perch. Last year, me, Joe and a friend of his flat-lined Hopatcong in May, but Joe was introducing me; he's done it for many years.

We turned around the corner of a point and motored on down into the belly of a cove not much more than an indention, very small as coves loom large at Hopatcong. The four-pounder struck like a freight train. I'll never forget how it whalloped the #9 Rapala and streaked away, drag screeching. It happened within a half hour since launching, and I released the fish for good luck. My family's in the habit of eating hybrids, but I hoped I would catch two more even larger today, more than a little presumptuous of me. Some big hybrids over five, six, or seven pounds get caught almost every week, but most are about three pounds, if that.

We managed to stay in 10-14 feet of water trolling with ease, and caught three more small hybrids: one for Fred, two for me. Fred hooked something really big that somehow broke his line, despite an apparently well-set drag and I think eight-pound test. It was a clean cut. Fred thought pickerel.

"Not out here, more likely a musky."

If pickerel, then enormous. A really big pickerel might inhabit 12 feet of water, but wouldn't streak upward to grab a plug swiftly passing through near surface. Muskies are more open-water oriented. But Fred's fish was on and running too long, it seemed to me, to have been a matter of razor-sharp teeth cutting the line, which happens more or less instantaneously. Who knows, maybe the plug situated in the mouth in just such a way that the line didn't become vulnerable to a musky's teeth until it had taken about 12 yards of line. 

I used six-pound test. Lighter line gets a Rapala down just a little deeper than heavier line with wider diameter and more resistance from water.

Besides this trolling, which got really exciting when for awhile the little hybrids swiped the plug and didn't get hooked, we fished Senkos for bass and trolled three pickerel in three and four feet of water in a matter of minutes. I lost a bass on a Senko-style worm and also caught the pumpkinseed photographed while trolling for pickerel.   

 The colors are too good to always take for granted.
Looking west with Halsey Island to the right and out of the picture.