Monday, April 18, 2016

Lake Hopatcong Trolling Knee Deep Club Trout Contest

Brian and I trolled for about 8 1/2 hours, hoping to catch trout, water registering 49 degrees before sunup and warming to 53 on the main lake as the day progressed. I spoke to a guy in a bassboat on the way out, having spotted him fishing a very shallow pond-like enclosure with a channel leading in, visible right by the road. He spoke of 62-degree water there, and 56 on the lake from about Brady Bridge eastward. Catching a number of small bass in the pond, and a four, four-and-a-half and six-pounder by docks on a jig, he'd had a good day.

The best news is of the Knee Deep Club turnout. Ninety two registered in the trout contest, if I got the number right, and more than 70 in the pickerel derby. Top payout is more than $700.00. But although some nice pickerel over three pounds got caught--I think the largest weighed three pounds, 11 ounces--for some odd reason or other by 2:00 p.m. only seven trout got weighed in at Dow's Boat Rentals; the largest I think was one pound, 11 ounces.

Abundant sunshine, very little of a breeze, might have driven trout into the depths, but Brian and I made the lake crossing in the dark with portable running lights, hoping to pick some off towards the back of the lake. Before sunup, I did catch my only fish, a crappie of about 10 inches that hit a trolled tiny Rapala Countdown.

And troll, we did. The only way we fished and with great persistence, both of us becoming more familiar with lake structure, involved Brian's first time on Hopatcong. I nevertheless learned of some spots that knocked on the door of my fishy sensibility, which sort of lays back in the depths of my mind to come out when things get real interesting. That's a big lake, and though next year marks 10 years of coming to Dow's and renting boats for me, there's still a lot I haven't seen. And lots of memories all over the lake besides, which felt nice awakening as we passed places where either myself or boat partners have caught fish--or lost nice ones.

Hits happened plenty. Bumps, mostly, but some rod benders, fish that got off. There's a reason to make sure hooks on the Phoebe spoons or small plugs used are sticky sharp. Each of us kept one rod in action by placing it under a leg, and though the boat certainly moves along, you really can't set into a fish that way. Otherwise, the handheld rods gave us no such excuse, but the fish just didn't want to slam the lures. I did manage to hold a fish for a little while considerably than the crappie I caught. Who knows, maybe I blew $700.00, but my guess was another crappie, since Brian had just caught one. But whatever the fish, it hit a Phoebe, a lure known to especially attract trout. I kept one of those in the water all day.

They hit too light, except for Brian's big crappie, or fairly good size. That one slammed a #9 Rapala, and he thought he had a trout. And he caught a largemouth of 10 or 11 inches also on a Rapala Floater, which made me think if a largemouth will strike in this cold water, why not a trout? Go figure.

Conversation about fishing ranged all over our region of New Jersey south to Mercer County, since Brian is very well experienced. I guess what got us talking non-stop for at least an hour-and-a-half was his mention of Princeton Day School Ponds. When I heard him say it, it seemed out of a dream.

"Did you say Princeton Day School Ponds?"

Way back, the 1970's, I knew Doug McClure, who sang in one of the choirs my father directed at Trinity Church Princeton. The Headmaster gave me unlimited permission to come and fish anytime. I sure did. The seven ponds in total served as my favorite place to go for years.

Princeton Day School sold off the land for housing development, but the ponds remain, and to be reminded seemed to be the impetus to talk nonstop about places all over.