Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Knee Deep Lake Hopatcong King of the Lake Results

Once again, a lot of smallmouth bass caught in the most recent Knee Deep Club derby, King of the Lake, the largest at three pounds, four ounces, and a number of them near three pounds. Jack Dziduck emerged as the contest winner for the fourth consecutive year, so it may be interesting to hear if he can pull this off next year as well. At any rate, I find four consecutive wins astonishing.

The largest hybrid striper weighed seven pounds, 11 ounces; a four-pound, eight-ounce walleye got weighed in, and three crappies well over a pound weighed as much as one-pound, 10-ounces. Laurie Murphy from Dow's Boat Rentals also reports that some nice perch and bullheads made it to the scales.

Where have the largemouth bass been? I remember this lake from way back in my teens, when I constantly read The New Jersey Fisherman and viewed the water from afar, through the lens of the weekly fishing report, living in Mercer County. This lake with its intricate coves and weedy shorelines seemed like the largemouth lair of dreams, and there seems no doubt they predominated in considerable numbers over smallmouths. A member of Mercer County Bassmasters at the time, I heard some stories, and though I got to ice fish the lake once at age 17, I was ready for it when I began fishing summers and fall with my son in 2007. At first, we caught largemouths, some of them 3 1/2 pounds, and then we discovered smallmouths, plenty close to three and better, and since then, no more nice largemouths.

I'm looking forward to October, when we go for hybrids and walleye, but I had just been thinking, before I began this post, that I would like to spend a little time in mid-October casting a spinnerbait, hoping to hook some largemouths.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Last Rites for Our Inflatable Boat

We intended this outing back in mid-August, found a dolly tire flat, and had to cancel, since it wouldn't inflate. After our Outer Banks vacation, I had slim time available, and made three stops to get the tire back on the rim after fixing the tube with a bike patch. The last stop in Warren nearby got it on the rim, but the tire went flat by the time I got home, so I purchased another dolly. In the photo above, Matt shows our Intex inflatable balanced on a 3 1/2 x 4-foot piece of plywood on the dolly underneath for support. We put a smaller plywood piece inside the craft, and the 70-pound marine battery on it, dead center. Then we put the electric outboard and all of our other stuff in, carefully balancing weight. 

The lake is about 400 yards distant from where the photo was taken. Getting the boat around the gate made us feel like pioneers from two centuries ago. We had to unload stuff and repoisition the dolly by scruffing around underneath a couple of times, but we got everything wheeled to the lake and the boat in the water.

And then I realized I left the complicated board attachment, the motor mount, for the electric at home. We had absolutely everything else, down to bug spray, but I've been busy and the mount slipped my mind. That's not an excuse, just what happened, and I vowed on the spot that it wouldn't next time. It's not that fishing from an inflatable difficult to wheel in is crazy; you just have to get things right and in order, and then it's doable like anything else, not to mention very comfortable, as previous outings have proven.

But another contingency is storage of the boat. If you purchase an inflatable, don't store it outdoors over the winter. I thought of this a week or two before we went out today, but I didn't think last summer of this issue of keeping it in a storage bin on the porch causing damage to the material. We had morning after morning of zero-degree temperatures, and this boat is some sort of vinyl or whatever. It has no holes, really, but folded neatly in the bin, it was creased, of course. You can just imagine what those temperatures must have done, and as I mentioned, I did imagine this before today. We floated--using paddles and doing fine with them for three hours--but when we beached well into dusk, we had lost about 50 percent of the air.

So a little twist of fate. Good thing I forgot the mount, because with the battery on the smaller piece of plywood and the motor on the rear, loss of air would have been a problem.

With the paddles, we got hundreds of yards out there and clear across the lake. I got a strong pick up from a bass on my weightless Chompers rigged Texas style for the weeds, allowed to drift slowly down among them as deep as 25 feet. Power Pro braid doesn't stretch, but I still missed that hit. We drifted across the lake by the strong breeze, and I jigged a Kastmaster about 30 feet deep, while Matt cast his. A salmon or trout hit my Kastmaster so delicately it felt as if I fished a streamer, a jib jab, jibber jab, and setting the hook proved nothing. A smallish Kastmaster is about as close as you can get to suggesting an alewife herring, abundant in the lake.

We fished more weeds. Both of us had bass pick up our Chompers, swim aside, but escape the hook. Just one of those days when you can't say you're skunked, because contact with fish on the line doesn't stink, but you feel the losses nevertheless.

We never saw the trace of a cloud. Classic cold front conditions don't intimidate us. As a habit, we fish confidently, but we might have seen some salmon bust herring had the water been calm, and thus have felt a little stronger. That breeze finally convinced me to switch to a jig so I could better control line. But no hits came, so just the same, the Chompers remained the winner.