Thursday, January 26, 2017

Little Ponds Maybe

It's been more than five weeks since I wrote a blurb about the ice situation. Mike and I ice fished on December 21st. Checked the weather and nothing about it looks promising, unless small ponds freeze over three inches thick next week, but I'm not interested in doing that; the likes bring back memories of ice fishing Princeton Day School ponds we had permission to fish in Mercer County, during our teens. The formula was always three nights at 20 degrees. That's give or take, but around that figure, we'd find ice three inches thick. Never really thought of how cold the days had to be.

Here it is almost February.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fortune or Misfortune?

I mediated at length on Aristotle's thought of fortune and misfortune for how many weeks and months, I don't recall. How many years. I read Anthony Kenny's Aristotle on the Perfect Life, a thorough academic account of the Nichomachean Ethics, six or seven years ago, but conscious familiarity with Aristotle goes back to my ninth year. I've read the McKeon Edition from age 21. This thought of fortune and misfortune that seemed to haunt the philosopher, which haunts me, possesses centrality to Aristotle's life and thought.

I don't account for this in a fishing blog as if to pump up the ante in an obviously foolish way. Who cares about philosophy or Aristotle? Isn't this an inappropriate subject to raise? It's not that anyone else should care, and to hope many would take interest would be rather foolish, but people by and large randomly get jogged into taking note by this or that account happening to lean in their direction, no less, unless the habit of their scanning intelligence simply rejects any further process of the information.

A lot of people at least seem to care about the founding of the American nation, but very few seem to ever consider that the philosophical principles involved in the thought of the founders depended not only on the political philosophy of John Locke (17th century England), but Aristotle's this-worldly perspective nearly 2500 years ago in Athens, Greece. A countermand to Plato's otherworldliness, without this affirmation of happiness in this life, thinkers who took up the task of affirming life here on earth from the Renaissance forward wouldn't have had the same leading advantage.

Central to American life--the pursuit of happiness. At least by my reading of Aristotle, happiness is what he's all about. His mentor Plato never talked him out of it. During his teens and young manhood, he led a riotous partying life, selling herbs to get by, so I assume he knew a good time full well, and though Plato clearly straightened him out, the elder philosopher never robbed him of his heart. Aristotle wrote on just about everything. The concept of the university with its academic departments takes the basic blueprint from the range of Aristotle's subjects, just as the modern academic setting seems to take its partying culture from the habits of his youth. But through everything he accounted for in thought and writing, the passion--the happiness--is the motive carrying his enormous intelligence.

I've often thought of him at Round Valley Reservoir. This afternoon I came alone and stayed alone. A week ago, I thought I might drive over and enjoy my solitude. I told Mike Maxwell a few nights ago I want to get him on lake trout, but if I were to go this coming week now half done, this time I would need to be by myself.

And the lakers? I did speak to a fisherman as I packed in. He told me during the coldest weather we've had yet, he caught them consistently. If you've followed this blog recently, you found me wondering if I could garner any evidence to support an assumption. For whatever reason, I believe, lakers come in close during severe cold. So there you go. A piece of evidence anyway. About 50 degrees today, reservoir water is plenty cold despite recent days in the 40's or so, but severe cold does affect the environment differently in total. I have no idea how lake trout respond to whatever measurable differences, but apparently, they do.

I didn't even think of lakers as I departed early this afternoon. I got up and didn't want to go. Went outside expecting 60-degree weather to make refusal even worse, but temperature felt about 48. Nevertheless, something stirred, and though I felt wretched gathering stuff from a disorganized mess from too little time to keep order, I got everything and my black Lab Sadie in the Honda, drove off, realized I forgot to take my BP medicine and resolved to take it later.

I decided I didn't want to spend the day with depression here, no matter the many things I need to get done. Bliss on Interstate 78 in a matter of less than 10 minutes. Last night I read Sven Birkerks' editor's essay for issue 84 of Agni, the literary journal of Boston University, my wife's alma mater, this journal just so happening to be my favorite among many I've read and do read. He wonders about the accessibility of the primary level with the tremendous digital overlay increasingly demanding attention. I considered that I made a choice today. A choice of a kind much easier for me to make in recent years. The sort of job you have to work has a lot to do with your fortune or lack of it, and I am certainly not just referring to monetary amount. I see people worse off than me, and degradation of human life affects me in ways I find difficult to bear, though which would I prefer: to witness and respond, or to scan the reality out of my awareness?

As for the primary level, without it, bless human life on this planet its farewell, because what primacy equates to is nature, without which we can't even breathe. In any case, I don't suffer the same plight as Birkherts. So long as I will continue to make this choice to place my boots on the ground, I will touch the primary level, because my outdoor habits go way back and deep, deep underground. When I get outside, I don't remain in a distracted bubble. Birkherts I find fascinating. No other voice I've found as yet better informs me of the artistic and literary scene today.

These trollers caught a rainbow trout right out in front of me. A sure sign of better fishing to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Open Letter to NJ Boat Regulation Commission Chair about Proposed Lake Hopatcong Rules

January 22, 2017

Dear Mr. Harrison:

This comment pertains to proposed rules under 13:82-3.11(l), the comment period closing on February 3rd, 2017.

First I want to say I understand that the feelings people have about parties in Byram Cove must be very strong to have come this far. My opposition to the measure proposed is not in disrespect. However, as often has happened down the line of what largely amounts to our unfortunate history going back to the ancient Romans, the measure in response to the complaint creates more suffering than the grievances that led to it, and for people completely innocent of the situation in question, because what amounts to governmental power takes a sweeping approach convenient to its own status quo, not a measured approach specifically addressing the real problem.

I speak for Lake Hopatcong anglers like myself. Far and away, most of us respect property owners’ privacy and don’t crowd anyone’s presence by anchoring close, and besides, many acres of Lake Hopatcong shoreline don’t involve openly visible property concerns such as decks, backyards, and boathouses. Our motives are innocent. We come to Lake Hopatcong as on religious pilgrimage, to escape the stresses of a secular world increasingly hostile to human life. Here on Lake Hopatcong we find this world and planet open to free activity that makes us more who we really are, and so we return to everyday stresses better enabled to make positive differences, rather than to further succumb to what increasingly suggests destructive demise. By and large as we fish, we never run into qualms with property owners. On the contrary, curiosity expressed between property owners and fishermen tends to be friendly, as we expect of a community, but perhaps less and less of institutions under duress of other burdens.

So we oppose the measure to limit anchoring 200 feet or further from shore between May 15th and September 15th of a given calendar year.

The best anglers understand that people from all walks of life, including the most burdensome, are human beings like themselves. And to err is human. A wise observation of Shakespeare that goes to the very root of his tragedies. We, however, are Americans. We recognize that we err, but we do not easily buy into tragedy. Why is this? Because unlike earlier ages that suffered errors they did not recognize and correct, we like to think mistakes needn’t incur guilt, so long as corrected.

Bruce Edward Litton 

Write Mr. Harrison:   

New Jersey's Knee Deep Club Plans Ice Fishing Contests

Joe Landolfi, long time Knee Deep member and holder of the club's record for rainbow trout, at six pounds. (Photo of the trout below.)

New Jersey's Lake Hopatcong Knee Deep Club, first established in 1947, plans on holding at least a couple of ice fishing contests this winter, and if you feel while reading this as I feel while writing, you might think the story's more about the possibility of ice than any reality. Mild weather is projected for the next two weeks. However, I've seen this situation before. A mild winter persists and people get to feeling that's how it will stay. I never allowed last winter to fool me. When one of my editors told me an article of mine on ice fishing might get withdrawn, I pointed out that very, very few winters--I can't think of any--involve no ice fishing at all in New Jersey north of Interstate 80. I told him the Highlands are not quite the same climate as south of that highway and south of Interstate 78, and that besides, an arctic air mass is a severe weather shift that can last for a week or longer. The middle and latter weeks of February are not immune.

The story ran. And perhaps there'll be an ice fishing contest, even if the dates have to be changed. Knee Deep has slated January 22nd, February 12th, and March 5th. The contests are open to members and non-members alike. $20.00 entry fee for members. $25.00 for non-members. Cash prizes awarded according to categories of heaviest-weighing fish caught reflect the amount of money collected from participants.

In any event, Lake Hopatcong is regarded New Jersey's premier ice fishing lake and is popular for its big pickerel, a gamefish associated with ice fishing like no other, besides perhaps the yellow perch. Walleye, musky, hybrid striped bass first stocked in Lake Hopatcong--thanks to Knee Deep's initial efforts--during the 1980's and '90's never completely eclipse pickerel's popularity, but the ice fishing contests are open to all species in the lake, besides musky, which cannot be weighed in. Whether or not this is really Knee Deep's implicit reason for the ban, musky catch and release is the prevailing ethic among people who fish the lake regularly, whether through the ice or open water. Few muskies get caught compared to other species, but they are present in the lake in numbers, pursued, and caught regularly.