Sunday, July 3, 2016

New Jersey Salmon Lost and Largemouths Fill the Day

Another long-planned trip during a summer I just won't have time to get out and fish and do other day trips as previous summers. I'm hoping next year or during 2018 I find more time. I took my son, Matt, to North Jersey with both bass and salmon in mind. Before we left Bedminster shortly after 2:00 p.m., I made a quick decision to forego live herring. With only so much time, we would troll for salmon and concentrate more on largemouths. In the past, we've seen salmon come to the surface during July and August to bust herring, and obviously that's an opportunity to get on them. Once last summer, I hooked one after a bust.

But we've only seen this happen under calm conditions, and today the wind blew enough to make positioning with the electric a little troublesome, though I brought an anchor and we used it. I missed a hit from a bass rather early in the pursuit, and then it took awhile before I caught my first. I had been comparing how I approach summer bass to other guys I know who use all sorts of lures. My summer choices for largemouth in recent years have been: weightless Chompers worms, weightless Senko-types, and a wide array of topwaters. And since I catch plenty of bass, I like to keep the approach simple and improve within these limits.

I caught another bass on my next cast after the first, so my fear that the day might prove to be typical of public waters for most who fish began to wane. We went to my favorite spot on this lake and I quickly caught two more. And then another favorite spot, three more, two bass on two consecutive casts and a hit on the third cast from a bass I'm sure would have been the biggest of the day. You can feel those takes and measure them with enough practice. The knot had gone bad and the Chompers with the 2/0 inset hook broke off. These words I write are the surest self-reminder. Check those knots!

One of these three bass from this second favorite spot got hooked way out from the weedline over 30 feet of water or more. I heard a splash and cast to where the commotion had settled, suspecting a largemouth after herring, because last summer, the same event happened. Immediately, I got a take and set the hook into a bass of about 2 1/2 pounds. We think of largemouths as holding close to cover, and far and away, most do. I wouldn't be surprised if the biggest bass in the lake buried themselves so deep in dense weeds, we had no way to get to them, but a marginal number of fish will take liberties--if there's food to be had--such as cruising out in open water near the surface some 20 yards away from weeds. I had told Matt before we came it would be ironic if we never hook up with a five-pounder at this lake, which is known for nice ones, when we did hook a bass that big at Spruce Run Reservoir. I still have hopes, but I'm very impressed with Spruce Run by comparison, fishing it some since last year. Spruce Run bass see a lot of lures and so they're less likely to hit than if they didn't get so pressured, but on the other hand, they don't have forests of weeds in super-clear water to hide in.

"Matt, you've got to catch one." I began positioning the canoe entirely in his favor, refusing to cast where I sure would have otherwise, pointing out to him just where to put that plastic, and he's accurate. We explored some real good looking water, and I snapped on a topwater as wind died. Nothing doing.

I got a hunch and didn't waste a second. As we motored off, I cast my trusty Phoebe out in back of the wake and put the rod in a holder to troll. We moved over 40 or 50 feet of water out towards the lake's middle when I heard a whack and looked sharp. The rod had doubled over. Suddenly a salmon leapt four feet out of the water. I grabbed the rod and felt the weight of this good fish, began pumping, and looked at Matt.

"It's yours."

"Are you sure?"

"Here." I kept line tight as I passed him the rod. "Keep that line tight."

Well, truth be told, I knew that as I passed the rod, chances were good that salmon would rush forward ahead of the tension--just a couple of seconds when neither of us could reel to keep up. Matt reeled in the Phoebe.

These summer salmon stay down at least 30 feet or so. But they are lightening embodied. They sense that Phoebe, see the sunlit reflections in the clear water, and rush up to strike. Thirty feet seems a great distance to a bass fisherman, but to salmon, it's like sport.

We got on the spot I had a feeling about, and Matt quickly caught his first bass, and soon thereafter, a second. I missed another hit on the Chompers, and missed a hit on a Rebel Pop-R. So all told, nine bass and a lost salmon...and a bass bigger may have a Chompers worm stuck on its maw. Three of mine weighed over two pounds and the biggest was pretty close to three.  

 With the Mets T-Shirt on, Matt makes a wild pitch, the Shakespeare reel sort of looking like a baseball, Matt standing in the canoe as if he would fall over backwards, but no, he got the balance he tried for, while I got the shot before he could act like it didn't happen. 


  1. I love the third picture in this series. I have never seen Matt like this before, serious and focused. I sense a powerful intellect!

    1. He reminds me of British philosopher Colin Wilson--all he needs is the glasses! No, Matt usually has an insouciant gaze, but he's had a way of looking inward since early boyhood that isn't a hard look, but querilous. Thinking is too precious to be lost on the "demands" that make people serious, but I do like that photo. Even though I prefer Matt's open trust, it's good to see he's had to contend now with some of the conflict of maturity. Interesting you picked this out.

  2. Are you keeping the name of the lake a secret? Salmon, huh? Awesome.

    1. I guess just about anyone who reads the article can figure out we're fishing one of three possibilities, but especially by keeping the name out of the title, but out of the text, too, the article won't come up in searches specific to the place's name. Since I prefer less buzz about the place, I add none.


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