Saturday, August 4, 2018

In the Rain

I must be getting a little confused as I age. Got to Mount Hope Pond in heavy rain at 5:00 a.m., 15 minutes ahead, I thought, of plans made with a friend, wondering if he would show up. When I phoned him at 5:17, I thought it a little odd his phone wasn't on, and then I ventured out in the lingering dark and rain soon thereafter, sure he wasn't coming. After a few casts, I remembered we planned on Sunday.

Just as well I made the trip, because the pond is pretty badly stained, definitely not water I want to worm. I fished in the rain for more than an hour, finding more accessibility for topwater fishing than I had expected, catching a 13-inch largemouth and missing a hit from a smaller bass or a pickerel.

In rain like that, I would have expected more and bigger, but I was just left wondering what the bass do for food in such off-color water. I could have thrown a spinnerbait, but for the most part, Mount Hope's tight quarters make that sort of fishing frustrating.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Big Fish Caught from Lake Hopatcong Shore

Laurie Murphy:

Several nice fish were weighed in the past week. A walleye, weighing 4 pounds was weighed in by Jerry Freeman .  Matt Wood, while casting bombers from shore, had himself several nice fish, including a walleye weighing 7 lb 7 oz and a Hybrid at 7 lbs 12 oz.  Junior Knee Deep member Max H. caught his 4 lb 3 oz Largemouth on a shiner  and while downrigging , Drew and Phil Togno had several nice hybrid stripers, the largest weighing 6 lb 8 oz and 4 lb 12 oz.  Next up is The Knee Deep Club’s Catfish contest, which takes place on Saturday,  August 11th, from 6 PM until noon,  on Sunday August 12th. Mark your calendar and bring some friends…Have a great week !!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Few Smallmouth Bass an Unusual Catch Today on Tilcon Lake

 After popping surface plugs for ten minutes and one hit from a small one for Matt, I caught the 18 3/4-inch smallmouth bass. Not a bass even close to four pounds, it was nevertheless a large surprise.

A mid-week outing like this is such a shift out of my normal routine, I get nervous the day and night before, or even the week before, when I think of what's ahead. I concluded yesterday or sometime recent that what gives me the qualms is the fear that the trip isn't going to go well. I've claimed on this blog, I'm sure, that these outings always go well. And besides the pedestrian sort of side trips we take on occasion, not much effort invested in them--though they're not bad times--the big outings always do seem to elevate life for awhile. Today was no exception, even though I did feel for a couple of hours, under intense sun on calm Tilcon Lake surface, a little lost in my approach to bass that just weren't hitting.

I meant to get home from work about 10:00 last night, do a couple of minor computer chores, load the car, and go straight to bed, but I didn't sleep until going on 1:00 a.m. The alarm woke me at 3:35 a.m. For a couple of weeks I subtly dreaded on occasion this getting up early and hauling the canoe as I detailed in the last post about Tilcon. As events turned out, I really cut sleep short, but last night I just accepted things to do and didn't hurry. When the alarm went off, the pain was minor and short, and within a minute or so I was on my feet, alert, active, completely on point.

As we hauled the canoe to the car at my friend's house, first light emerged. By the time we got to Tilcon, the sun wasn't on the treetops yet, but by the time we had hauled everything and got in the canoe, it was, and I had already realized we were about a half hour behind what I had anticipated would be our start. My calculation last night about when to set the alarm failed to take into account the extra time driving from Mine Hill. (It's a lot of  extra driving, not having the canoes here at home.) I wanted to find a balanced comparison between the evening bite, and the morning bite, which I didn't quite get today, because the evenings have taken us well into dusk, but today we began fishing well after first light.

I was easing the canoe on low speed whenever I wanted to move ahead. We fished less than a hundred yards of shoreline when a pin-point cast landed my Rebel Pop-R aside of a gravelly sort of very shallow shelf. A wake lifted towards my plug, typically of a pickerel, and I plunked the plug once, timing the almost inevitable event of a strike by the judgment of my gut, which worked perfectly without any doubt or hesitation on my part. The strike was savage. When I got the fish near the canoe, I was astonished to see a smallmouth bass, the first we've hooked on Tilcon. The rear treble, I found, grabbed deep down at the gullet, and the forward treble had cut a gill. The bass had all but swallowed the plug, bled badly, and I smelled this thick blood in the motionless, close air. My wife likes smallmouth bass cooked with Old Bay seasoning, so its life is not a total loss.

We tried the eastern shoreline under shadow for almost an hour with topwaters, never getting another hit, besides a little largemouth leaping for my plug as it hung near surface from a tree branch. That bass got off the hook it dangled from a moment. I did set the hook of a weightless Chompers worm on a bass that never got the hook in its mouth. An unusual example of a bass having some of the worm in its tightly closed mouth, resulting in reeling back a hook without a worm.

I soon used a quarter-ounce bullet sinker to get a worm deep, intense sunlight penetrating straight through calm surface. Matt persisted at weightless, catching a pickerel as he retrieved the worm back for his next cast. Stubborn about the worms, which usually work well, as the morning would unfold, that persistence seems to have got the better of me today. I was marking some big fish on the graph. They were 14 to 23 feet deep, suspended, but I didn't want to attempt them yet, although soon I tied on Phoebe spoons, since I once hooked a big salmon at the surface this way in early July. I did see today a few of what must have been salmon slurping herring at the surface energetically, but not sending spray in all directions as sometimes happens. 

We persisted with worms, me getting no hits deep, Matt catching another smallmouth bass, about 15 inches, among weeds 16 feet down. I want to buy an electronic temperature device to try and figure out more of what's going on deep. We were marking fish, and large, on herring mid-lake, figuring they're salmon, but is 14 feet of water cool enough to hold them? I understand they temporarily rise to eat herring at the surface, but do they hold that shallow during summer? (Surface was 79.) And what do temperature differences mean for bass and pickerel deep? Last time here, I caught a pickerel from about 25 feet down, unless I misjudged depth and it was more like 15 where it struck a weighted worm.

Finally, I gave up on worming. I don't know why nothing hit deep, but I do know--seems peculiar now--that I never felt much confidence in trying the worm weight, which has worked well here in the past under brilliant sunlight. Nor did I feel confident about weightless, except for at least 20 minutes after Matt's smallmouth.

We snapped on deep-diving crankbaits and went after those suspended fish I kept marking. Within five minutes I took a terrific hit over 26 feet of water, the plug traveling maybe 15 feet down near a weedline. I felt nonplussed at failure to hook up, and figured it probably wasn't a salmon that close to weeds. Awhile later, I caught the pickerel photographed below. Not too long after that, the smallmouth struck as I trolled that deep-diver over water anywhere from 25 to 35 feet deep. Near where this bass struck, we ran over 50-foot depths where salmon stacked by the many dozens, most of them 37 feet down, two Augusts ago. We marked not one fish there today, which further substantiates the notion that we marked salmon today elsewhere mid-lake. 

We had to get home after going on six hours of mostly slow fishing, just as clouds began to roll in, and just as we had figured out trolling crankbaits is productive. In the moments before we turned to haul the canoe up those 30 vertical feet of bank, I felt sadness as I surveyed Tilcon Lake for the last time this year, unless, perhaps, we get thick ice in December. A good summer up there, and we look forward to more. Matt talked about building a cart so we can enter again at the front of the lake with lot more ease, but he has no time for that, especially not when he would have to do an expensive, fool-proof job. On the subject of spending a couple hundred dollars or more on such a device, I concluded, "It will all be a lot easier when we move the canoes back home."

No largemouth bass caught today!

 My pickerel struck a moment before the trolled Storm Hot 'n Tot would have fouled in weeds.