Thursday, March 16, 2017

Largemouth Bass Population Survey Round Valley Reservoir

This one weighed about five pounds. Twenty inches and fat.

The recent Round Valley Reservoir gamefish survey by the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife found largemouth bass abundant, though mostly growing at a sub-average rate, compared to statewide statistics. One hundred fifty four bass surveyed measured equal to or more than 200 millimeters long or 7.87 inches, and only 63 were greater than or equal to 300 millimeters or almost 12 inches. I think of so many 18-inchers we catch on other lakes, but here at Round Valley, the state surveyed only seven bass greater than or equal to 380 centimeters long, not quite 15 inches, but they did measure three greater than or equal to 510 millimeters or 20.07 inches. The population is unbalanced with respect to size, a relative few of the bass apparently growing better than most, and the study points out the possibility of a state-record largemouth lurking under the reservoir's surface, as evidenced by a monstrous largemouth surveyed,  23.11 inches long, weighing 8.85 pounds. Those other two big largemouths documented were over five pounds. The current New Jersey state record stands at 10 pounds, 14 ounces from Menantico Sand Wash Pond, Cumberland County.b

Smallmouths did not show nearly so well, and the study indicates the population is not so abundant as in the past. Nor are the bass as large. I further speculate that with the low reservoir level, smallmouth bass spawning habitat is decreased. They need gravely bottom. Not only this. Their habitat in general is lacking now.

Keep in mind that an electroshock and netting survey is just a small sample on 2350 surface acres, even though that acreage is reduced somewhat for the time being with low water level. This recent effort by the DFW resulted in only three lake trout 9.9 pounds to 21.2 pounds surveyed, a behemoth over 20 pounds got caught on Super Bowl Sunday. Big largemouths get caught secretly ever year. I have heard the story of a nighttime surface plugger who experienced a huge strike, terrific battle--and break off. Naturally, he believes he hooked the state record.

In my opinion, it's good culture to agree on releasing big largemouths here. The unusual growth statistics suggest something sort of like the difference between Florida and northern strain largemouths, though this surely can't be whatever it is, in fact. And yet, whatever it is--the survey results show very convincing evidence that largemouths over two pounds pretty are rare here. Those larger may be the better growing fish; I've caught and released a number of them, and will continue to release all of my bass. It's in all of our interest to practice catch and release, because the better bass stand a chance of reaching that record size.

And whoever catches that record in season. That one keep.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Round Valley Reservoir's Eels

Doing my Round Valley Trout Association homework today as a member of the executive board, I thought I would do a short post on eels, since they were a favorite to catch in Little Shabakunk Creek as a boy; I attempted to harvest them commercially from the bays behind Long Beach Island (they're delicious, had eel Sushi on Sunday), and the eel situation at Round Valley Reservoir is compelling, as the information quoted below from the March 2017 Round Valley Reservoir Fisheries Management Plan suggests. The current New Jersey state record eel came from the reservoir.
Fred Matero has spoken to me on a couple of occasions about using a flashlight at night near the main launch ramp to sight huge eels. Some years ago, I happened to relax on one of the main launch docks while fishing trout on bottom, reading Tom Horton's Chesapeake Bay. I posted about that experience in this blog, relating how coming upon an unexpected chapter on eels and reading it most interested me. Horton writes in that chapter about Aristotle's attempt to determine how eels spawn, which Aristotle discloses as a failure. He couldn't. The Sargasso Sea was a long way from Greece. To the best of my knowledge, both American and European eels spawn there.

By Chris Smith, Principal Fisheries Biologist & Shawn Crouse, Principal Fisheries Biologist:
Approximately 12 American Eels were observed during night-time electrofishing.  They were found along the dams, from approximately 5-15 ft. of water, using rip-rap as cover.  The largest individual weighed 3.1 kg (6.8 lbs.) and was approximately 1,000 mm (39.3 in) in length, just one ounce less than the current state record.  It is estimated that most of the eels observed were 5-6 lbs.  It is assumed that American Eels are pumped into the reservoir from the South Branch of the Raritan River as juveniles.  The pump intakes are fitted with 3/8-inch screen, large enough to allow migrating glass eels (elvers) through.  As a result, they are basically trapped, unable to make their outmigration to the Sargasso Sea to spawn, and thus attaining such a large size.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

You're not Living Somewhere Else

My brother Rick's a true Republican and yet idealist. Occurs to me tonight why. Some years ago now, I can't remember if 2011, but fairly certain then at Thanksgiving or Christmas, he remarked that New Jersey freshwater fishing offers really slim hopes. Obviously, he has an ideal in mind, and he has fished out-of-state. The Green River in Utah, for one example.

Bloomin' onion that I am, I countered his opinion, saying something about New Jersey's freshwater offering flourishing fishing now and in the future. Both of our opinions judgments, the attitudes are relative to the facts. It's more about how the quantity gets colored, than just counting, measuring, and weighing the flesh.

Ever since I posted about pike the other day, I've had hopes that post would rank online on the national level. Some of my posts have--very well--such as "Catching Smallmouth Bass in Streams and Small Rivers" and another on salmon eggs and trout. Yes, trout get stocked nationwide. So....I began to compare that little 31-inch pike photographed in the recent post to video and photo accounts of numerous pike five and six times heavier caught on single outings elsewhere in this country and Canada. Besides, any one of us might fish numerous outings for five or six catch one 31-inch pike in our state. I know. Go on NJ and you can see a lot of 36-inchers, some bigger. And my son and I have done a little better than I've exemplified of "anyone." But NJ. suggests that there are guys who really have it knocked. But not like Manitoba.

This is New Jersey. And if you live here, well, that's that. You're not living somewhere else. Maybe you can go on vacation and meet with higher ideals, but here's an example of what once happened in accord with what I said in response to my brother.

We went to Maine. We fished smallmouth bass all week. We did OK. But I've had the dream of a five-pounder for years. Naturally, hopes peaked. Matt did hook one we think was at least four, judging the steady freight of its run, hook pulling free. The biggest--about two-and-a-half. But at least we caught maybe half a dozen nearly that.

We came home. Had another day off work. We ride up north and fish a crick. In one afternoon, we caught and released about a dozen-and-a-half smallmouths, some of these over a pound, but two of them--way over that weight. One of mine, nearly 20 inches long, weighed over four pounds. Next spot down the road, Matt caught one that weighed at least three-and-a-half.

We laughed like dogs. Hours before, we're up in Maine for the ideal fishing. We come back to Jersey, fish a crick, and beat Maine by a long shot.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trying to Make Good

Always planning makes possible. My father called his workplace his study. That's what I call mine, though besides books (philosophy, literature, science, naturalism, religion, history, mathematics, fishing...), hundreds of handwritten journals, a fishing log, and loads of unbound papers all over my desk and in various unkempt piles--there's fishing equipment sort of scattered all over. Also old coins, select beer bottles I've kept as souvenirs, seashells of stunning colors and patterns, printed photographs framed and hung on the walls, etc. I think there's a geode in an obscure corner that weighs at least 50 pounds. Drawings I've created over the years. I've neatly taped to a wall a printout of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," which appears there in a clean appealing way, as if anyone would read the lines, recognize the tune, and say, "Aha, I understand a little about this man's ironic obscurity." The coins I've mostly bought in neat little cardboard frames with cellophane to view through; some I've ripped open so I can have the coin itself here or there, just as if I might pocket to spend it. I just picked one up from in front of me...1856. Half dollar.

If I'm eccentric, I don't feel that way. So as far as I'm concerned, I'm not.

But about the planning, that's what so many of the unbound papers have to do. Plans constantly shifting, but since they're updated day to day, I manage to survive and even thrive. I'm hoping a healthy percentage of my plans--though this is hard to account for as a percentage, because as I say, the plans are almost as fluid as water....well, let's just say they get wet--I'm hoping that over the course of the year ahead, my fishing outings mesh well. That involves me as just an ordinary guy passionate about being fully there as I fish and catching the fish I's about time I start catching again...and as someone really trying to make good on this activity.

Here it is about an hour later, and since I'm tempted to add more, I skipped an extra line to emphasize the transition. Jesus Christ purportedly said, "I will make you fishers of men," and I consider this ancillary to my reported observation of fishing equipment spread all about this intellectual's Wolf Den. (That's more or less what the proper name of Aristotle's Lyceum means.) What catches me about Jesus's statement is omission of--what for? Catch men. To what purpose? To die? Just go to heaven? Or do I omit "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light," as if this is sufficient to imply purpose here on earth? Is it?