Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trolling for those Odd Fish We Call Hybrids

Pain above my left knee, the rest of me isn't hurting from the heat and sun, but we sure got fried on Spruce Run Reservoir today. Our primary intent was to run Mike's used three-and-a-half-horsepower Nissan on my squareback canoe, and it pushed the boat pretty well, but Mike got soaked in the bow, so I cut below half throttle or else accumulated a lot of water inside the shell.

Headed for one of the back coves. I cut the engine to fix tangled lines. It started on the first pull, but died after running 50 feet. It quickly became evident this might be a problem, so I pointed us back towards the ramp, developing a big broken blister on right index finger. We got back after short starts and stops the entire way. And just in case, we had my Minn Kota 55 transom mount. Got that from the car as Mike pulled off the outboard, and then we were back on the water.

Heading for that same back cove, my favorite as well as Mike's, I hooked something on a big Rat-L-Trap trolled probably not even 10 feet deep in 50 feet of water. Looked like a little hybrid bass at first but proved to be a rainbow trout. A recruit from Spruce Run Creek, we imagined, since that stream enters this comparatively huge range of water closer to where I caught this fish than Mulhockaway Creek. No trout get stocked in the reservoir. Mike snapped the photo and I tossed the fish back.

About trout. I never forget the glory days. I never was part--besides winning a B.A.S.S. chapter bass tournament here in 1978--but I gazed on the trout on the wall of Dan's Sport Shop on Route 31 in front of the reservoir with great admiration, never to forget these mounts and the shop that must have gone out-of-business 20 years ago or longer. In The New Jersey Fisherman I read about 15-pound brown trout caught in the area of Spruce Run Creek's entry during the fall, and stories of 10-pound browns--likewise--running up from the reservoir well upstream in little Mulhockaway Creek. The state stocked Spruce Run Reservoir with trout, but already by 1977, northern pike had achieved a mighty presence, as Herb Hepler's state record 30 pound, 2 ounce pike got caught that year. I'll never forget these stories.

Just stories. What good are stories, compared to facts you can squander by use of an Excel spreadsheet? But everyone knows--at heart--why stories are good. It's more important to ask: why facts. Because when you really get down to it, facts are completely meaningless--without stories.

Back in that cove I won't offer directions to, I longed to stop the boat, toss anchor, and bass fish. Eric Evans of iBass360 and I have caught a lot of bass--smallmouth and largemouth--among the shallow rocks I contemplated today. But today was about trolling for these odd fish we call hybrids. A cross between the ocean-going but anadromous striped bass and the freshwater while bass, the two species so closely related they result in hybrid striped bass when crossed in hatcheries. Annually, little ones maybe six or seven inches long get stocked by the state in the reservoir with the expectation that they will grow to legal 16-inch size and larger. A few of them reach 10 pounds or more, though they average about two pounds, yet many over six pounds get caught. My family has eaten both striped bass and hybrids my son and I have caught, and back in March, I purchased a whole white bass from Shop Rite to serve for dinner. This way we would complete the triad. (I know white bass exist in Texas, but not in New Jersey.) It's just that after I began cooking late that night, my wife fell asleep and didn't care to join us, so Matt and I had a feast.

That strip of sand is the popular swimming beach. Sand trucked in.

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