Trish feels apprehensive after I've backed out of the docks and snapped this shot, just before I engaged forward gear. Matt and Sadie sit stolidly.
This outing I've awaited ever since trolling in May with Brian Cronk, when I got the idea of taking my wife out on Lake Hopatcong. I ran it by her when I got home; yeah, she brightened immediately. But as the event drew close these past few weeks, apprehension grew on her. It would be too hot on the boat; well, as you can see by the photo I grabbed, it really had little to do with temperature. I kept telling her, it's not the same. She's used to stepping out of air conditioned buildings and feeling the difference as a kind of shock. Once you get out on the lake, even if temperatures hang in humid mid-90's, it doesn't feel the same at all, but you do need to drink water. Friday, temperatures never hit 90. (Once she said she was too cold, after spray dampened her clothes.)
Cut to the quick--she enjoyed the boat and the lake. She got over the disorientation she felt at first, though she never voiced more than her earlier guess about heat. We rode mid-lake from Dow's Boat Rentals to the old Yacht Club rock pile out there in deep water, and I gave the wide area a thorough search, marking very few small, fish on the sonar. Sometimes big hybrids work the edges during the summer--from what I understand, perhaps mistaken--where herring bunch up. I showed her Sharp's Rock and marked few and small there. Ditto Pickerel Point and out far from the drop, where I marked a solitary fish 33 feet down; so somehow out there, oxygen penetrates a good 10 feet deeper than most of the lake now.
So far, we hadn't fished, besides me trolling a Mann's Little George, one of those half-ounce lead-bodied tailspinners that still don't get down very deep on the troll. I had a hunch as we approached Davis Cove and soon started marking a lot of fish, apparently hybrid striped bass of a pound to perhaps three, unless my new Humminbird portable has smaller icons than my previous. We spent at least an hour offering them live herring on five lines before we motored on, checking Elba, checking where Brian and I found big hybrids stacked in May further down towards Sunrise Point, one or two little fish. (Those fish in May wouldn't bite either.)
We crossed over to our favorite spot to try and hook smallmouths. Matt came up with a pumpkinseed on a herring and I caught a yellow perch. On the way there, I found fish where I expected them, up near the top of a drop-off suspended at 17 feet over 23-foot bottom, but I wasn't ready to fish there yet. Eventually, we abandoned any smallmouths where we've caught so many big before and headed well out in the lake to fish that drop. There we stayed until the sun set, and I caught a smallmouth bass less than a pound as light changed, having first offered the rod with something mouthing the bait to Matt, but he refused. The herring meeting the bass halfway needed no weight on the line to find it's end. A couple of lines I weighted and set directly down over the sides, and I wondered about setting slip bobbers, but never took the pains to rig any up. I had all six out.
I knew this spot offered a chance at a big walleye, smallmouth--who knows, maybe hybrid. Anchored, we fished long and thoroughly, occasionally a school of herring with smaller size fish associated passing under the boat. Guess they were smallmouths and not very eager to eat. As the herring did most of the work, I must have shot 250 photos. Most of these I've yet to delete, but a margin hit the mark, more than I've posted.
On the way back to Dow's, I realized I've never taken a swim in Lake Hopatcong. Mostly, we fish colder water: May, October, November...through the ice. But we've been here summers, my son and I, once me with Landolfi, since 2007. It's not that I want to go to State Park and hit that beach, but sometime get out on some remote rock and take a dive. I put my hand in the lake as the boat cruised at about 13 mph, wet my face with that clean deep, deep blue, and all the while, I couldn't escape a growing sense of guilt.
Albert Camus, the 20th century existentialist, offered the best definition of guilt I've come upon: not being here. That's what I felt, not that I hadn't entered the experience of the afternoon and evening I was leaving with my family, but that the next morning, I would have to get up and prepare to go work at a supermarket. I felt as if I better belong on the lake. More than purely personal gratification, this world we share needs grand affirmations now more than ever, as the effects of the Industrial Revolution threaten us with consequences happening now, but which we have yet to experience the full results. I thought about my feelings Friday on lunch break the next day, and thought: if the world needs grand affirmations more than it needs me on the job, why has the world placed me here, instead of circumstances having worked out to favor me affording more time on the lake? It may seem silly to think that way, but childish thoughts sometimes help to humble the sense of everything in my life seeming to rest on my choices. No one can choose more than what's available to choose.
Hopatcong's more and less a wild place, and that includes a lot of the residents, the society pretty heavy on the partying, not that I judge the lake community in the negative, and I wouldn't mind moving there. But in my life, I went as wild as I possibly could in the bays behind Long Beach Island, trying to understand the secret of nature, another childish idea, but results came in spades...including my need, eventually, to get out of the bay, off Long Beach Island, and back into society. Philosopher Ayn Rand wrote that a man can't remain for long in a state of nature, not that this statement is earth shaking for anyone. We all seem to know. Obviously, I want to go back...enough to feel the depths. But if the wild couldn't support me then, it can't now, either. I go do my job with gourmet meats, vegetable preparations, and seafood as the continued effort to make up for the society I threw off as a young man.
A couple of hours after that late lunch break, the only coworker with me this last evening made the remark seemingly from out of the blue, "Work is a necessity."
"It is," I said, trying to be as even-toned as possible, because I knew this guy means it right on the level. The two of us cleaned our work stations thereafter in silence, minding every detail, and I felt the bond between us not in words, but deeds.
"Fire on the Mountain" T-shirt: a favorite Dead tune of mine. Matt reads In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action, by Ellie Alderman and Caroline Kennedy. One of his rods, baited with live herring, rests against his foot, and if he had a take, he'd have felt it.
Miss Lolita, the 58-foot cruise boat.
Jefferson House restaurant, arrive as you will.
The Jefferson Diner serves the best food of the many diners we know of in New Jersey