Friday, October 23, 2015

Bass Bunched Together Striking Spinnerbaits

Wednesday evening, I fished the neighborhood pond and experienced bass short-striking the spinnerbait, which surprised me, since I figured the water would be warmer with temperatures in the mid-70's or better. A smallish bass whalloped the lure, though, and that's when I felt how cold. With calm surface, many bass lay right up on top, and I thought I'd have done better lightly touching down weightless plastic worms--my favorite Chompers--but I had just marched out with camera around my neck and rod in hand, no extra lures, not even my fishing license. The pond's right here. I could have walked back to fetch some worms, but just played out 20 minutes or so, losing another bass and watching many roll right behind the lure, some of them tapping it.

So today, driving from Bedminster at I-78 to north of I-80, I came armed with two stinger hooks. I teased out some ruckous coming out from right against the bank that refused to give chase, quickly snapping on a Chompers and nailing the bass, a little 11-incher. Further along, much the same happened, although this time, a nice wake rose behind the chartreuse willowleaf spinnerbait; I kept retrieve pace steady--never slow down if a bass comes behind--but the bass turned, nor did it take the Chompers the next moment.

And then I worked towards the back of the pond of about 10 or 15 acres, playing with a few bass I sighted bunched together that refused to take the Chompers I snapped back on, a little snap, not much to affect life-like presentation, though I never use snaps when I'm committed to worms. Just convenient.

I snapped on the spinnerbait and found that in the process of unloading and loading it back on, the stinger hook came undone, lost. And instead of burrowing out the other from a black spinnerbait deep in my bag, I took fair warning--the hook might come off in the fight. I need better stingers.

I got further back, cast in close to shore, and watched a big bulge rise behind the lure, kept that pace, and the bass overtook and engulfed the lure with a great, heaving pressure on the rod.

Nice fish. About 17 inches. But not the five-pounder I really want before the year is out, and it looks like I won't get. I duplicated the cast exactly, hooked another and lost the bass. Often they bunch together like this, and instead of a catch spooking the others, they seem all the more ready to strike.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cold Morning Walleye on Lake Hopatcong

When Steve and I crossed Lake Hopatcong nearly an hour before sunrise, temperatures had fallen somewhere in the 20's, but we felt comfortable with layered clothing. The ride to my favorite drop-off took about 10 minutes with 10 horsepower; we saw no other boats and lakeside houses gave us a feeling of being abandoned, quiet like a place forgotten. I anchored from stern; early on, the lake lay almost calm, and no water splashed over the transom.

By the books, oh, you never anchor from stern, but I always do when I can have better control, quick to pull if the wind comes up. We set herring 20-33 feet deep and began to wait, casting nightcrawlers among shallow boulders. We caught a couple of big yellow perch about a foot long; Steve caught many smaller; I gave up on the nightcrawlers after catching a couple of small largemouths less than a pound apiece.

With no clouds in the sky, I soon began to feel we might get skunked on what we came for. Usually, hits come within five or 10 minutes. Cold temperatures posed no problem as such, and with the lake's depth and expanse, water registered 58 degrees. We waited more than an hour before Steve caught the smallest walleye I've seen at Hopatcong, about a foot long. After 9:00 a.m., he caught a walleye of about 20 inches. 

By 10:30 or so, Steve pulled the anchor set at the bow with increased wind, and we motored off. I gave my spot a silent and solemn farewell, knowing the slow hours we spent there had been full and worthwhile; knowing I might not see it again this year, and certainly not with my son, as we have fished it every third October weekend since 2007.

We anchored on another sharp drop-off, this one with depths of about 45 feet at bottom, rather than 35, finding some refuge from variable wind, a few clouds in the sky. Almost immediately, I caught a small, foot-long walleye. Wind kept whipping around from different directions, and the anchor lifted; we drifted slowly, marking fish on the finder.

"Steve, let the sinker hit bottom, then reel the rig up about 10 feet."

Seconds later, his rod doubled over, and I thought he had a seven or eight-pound fish. The walleye weighed about two-and-a-half, but a nice chunky fish.

We fished intensively. For a good two hours or more I controlled drifts with my electric motor all about this drop-off and sort of pocket of deep water, marking fish on occasion, keeping a herring apiece suspended just off bottom and higher up, while I jigged a Binsky for all I was worth, but just did not connect again.

I had the long drop-off of Chestnut Point in mind, but when we finally turned back to Dow's Boat Rental after seven-and-a-half hours total, we found, as I knew all along, that it was a mess with a prevailing current of head-on wind, rather than an east-west or west-east flow that would carry us along the drop. Clouds had thickened and snow sputtered onto our faces. I wondered how cold the afternoon, and I guess temperatures never rose out of the low 40's.

We passed a boat that had sort of messed around near our second spot, along with several others in the vicinity, no word of any fish caught. Hopatcong has always yielded for me, though once my son and I came in mid-November with water temperature at 45. We jigged hard for five hours, catching nothing, though it's quite possible to catch walleye in water that cold. 

The important thing is to get into it, as we used to say in the 70's. Fish are there, and if you feel out of touch with them, then it's a lot less likely you'll connect.       

Lighting Up
Catching a Few Rays

White perch take the herring deep on occasion, and so do yellow, but we never catch white perch shallow.