Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lake Hopatcong Fishing: The Difference a Day Makes


This outing with Brian Crunket escaped the typical apprehensions, which, though they rarely defeat any of my fishing endeavors, usually make me and anyone with me uneasy for awhile, at least until the skunk gets off the back. Not Thursday morning. First trolling pass--wham! Brian wrestled a hybrid on the rod, boating the fish a little shy of legal size. Second pass--slam!

He caught eight hybrids in no time, before I caught my first. All of these fish but one hit an X-Rap, the other a Shadow Rap running deeper. The bass shunned my favorite #9 Rapala floater, until finally a 15-incher socked it, and then the action died.

We trolled up lake and then westward, happening upon big fish marking on the graph. Brian said, "They're stacked."

Big hybrids on a school of herring about 29 feet deep over bottom 33 feet down. Out with the Binky's, we jigged until satisfied these fish wouldn't hit, deciding to go in and buy live herring later if we would fail to find a lot of fish trolling.

We rounded a big cove a couple of times, me losing what I'm sure was a trout, and Brian catching a pickerel. Finding shallows elsewhere our plugs barely made it through, weeds reaching up as if to grab them, I caught a pickerel, a crappie, we missed some hits, and then I caught my first rock bass from Hopatcong just after we left the area to troll on down along the shoreline.

The day had that element of letting all else go to just involve the lake and conversation, keeping words in the moment as benevolent time unfurled possibilities, a lot of fish coming and going, a lot of interesting structure to marvel at and get some interest from fish associated with these habitats. I had shot some interesting photos early on, and some of the fish shots I've filed have proven worthy as possibilities for magazines. Heat intensified, reaching at least 90 before we left just after 2:00, cooking us both without sunscreen, and rather than feeling oppressive, uncomfortable, or like an alien force that won't let a person be who needs stable room temperature to feel the environment is right, the weather's presence possessed quality improving on experience, rather than breaking it down as if too much and not good.

If it were zero degrees out and my clothes suited the weather, I might say the same, and I've been on the ice of Lake Hopatcong with temperatures around 20, on Lake Musconetcong at zero. The ability to normalize outdoors is a very healthy practice. The real world outside the box-like cells of four surrounding walls allows you to expand and grow, feeling well and fully human--if you will enter that world. It's too easy to physically be in reality and remain preoccupied with nonsense in the confines of your skull. Jailors are the most envious spirits among us, and each of us has multitudes of them to contend with.

This lake with the sort of grandeur you know isn't contained in space as big as a bay, sound, certainly not ocean, nor many lakes and reservoirs of other states, gives anyone who chances on learning its secrets a lot of time to keep learning more. I've fished the lake almost 10 years, and I've learned just enough--and that's not much compared to what I can yet--to have felt on this outing that I'm ready to take my wife out on the lake and express my fish-finding ability.   

We returned to our big hybrids with herring, finally finding the fish in about 33 feet of water over bottom 37 feet down. Not surprising they'd moved during the course of a couple hours. They just wouldn't hit. A breeze had picked up, but not enough wind to make drifting weighted herring any problem. The bait swam right in there among the predators, which wouldn't touch it.

So we returned to our sweet spot, and got two trolling passes in before floating masses of weeds broken at the stems made trolling an absolute mess. On the first pass, I caught another 15-inch hybrid and on the second, a 15 1/4-inch rainbow trout.

Hybrid Striped Bass
Pickerel always associate with weeds.
Crappie, one of the two species--black and white, respectively--I first learned about at age eight named calico bass.

Rainbow Trout
Dow's Boat Rentals
I never knew a mallard could sleep on one leg, and never noticed until I developed the photo.

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