Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Jigging and Stand-Up Rods

Preparing to spool line on reels for Florida. Stripping monofilament to put on heavier. Had a blast in 2012 catching small fish on six-pound test, but besides a back-up reel, going to use no lighter than 10.

Conversation with Matt, realized something. When I bought the Trevala jigging rods, I felt taken aback by the light construction, but these rods are rated 50- to 100-pound test. However, watching videos, I learned they do explode if you lift the tip and muscle into a big fish.

In 2007, Matt and I went far out to sea in a 19-foot boat powered by 90 horsepower. There I hooked something tremendous. My 11-foot surf rod felt like a noodle, its heavy power totally decimated. The run seemed to last three seconds, yet the fish took more than a hundred yards of line. Sixty feet of that line came back frayed. The fish dove into coral and across it. One of the video guys spoke of amberjacks doing just that.

On the boat with the severed line, I swore from the bottom of my being that we would be back with tackle sufficient to hold such a fish.

So this is terrible. We're compromised. An amberjack as big would do the same. Except that I did discover stand-up rods, after a pier veteran told me our jigging rods with the light tips were useless for trolley rigging, because we need the pool cue heaviness to hold a fish from the pier pilings. I already phoned United Airlines once, because by linear inches, my rod tube is over the limit. I will call again on Thursday and ask if four more inches--I can extend it--won't affect the $50.00 fine we already have to pay. If not, we might be able to fit our stand-up rods. We have heavy-duty Penn Squall 60 reels loaded with 80-pound test to muscle really big and powerful fish.

(Anyone with any info on airline nonsense, please comment. Oliver, how did you do? Email if easier.)

Stand-up rods won't jig. No problem. My big one hit a rigged ballyhoo anyhow. Most of the fish we see on video, the fish that hit the butterfly jigs, are less than 10 pounds. Some of them maybe 30. Balls of fun for sure, and the jigging is methodical, but I don't shun bait by much of a margin, and if jigs won't hook a 50-pound fish, why not?

Or that is, if on jigging rods we can't lift its head out of coral anyway.

Bahia Honda Channel

Saturday, December 28, 2019

It was a Cocktail, Lenny

Happy New Year!

Fairy Tale New York

Low Water Try for Lake Trout

Matt and I arrived at The Sporting Life 8:34 a.m., and I bought a dozen shiners. On the way over to the reservoir we checked on Zach Merchant's bait shop, which I had heard closed. It has closed. A minute after we parked in Lot 2, Fred Matero drove in.

Fred had told me he wanted to talk to Matt about the Higgs boson, the so-called God Particle. Matt, a junior at Boston University, is funded by that school to create algorithms to interpret experimental data about that particle. They did most of their talking when I disappeared from Ranger Cove towards the main launch, to an area of the reservoir I knew would be exposed, although even with the water level as low as it is, I felt surprised at how extensively exposed. I returned to them after 45 minutes of walking and shooting photographs.

I also felt pleasantly surprised at how well I met nature on its own terms. I get jaded, not only by my job, but by writing every night and keeping up with chores. If an author tells you it's easy to write a book, I suggest you question the quality of the work. But I do find it very enjoyable. To the degree that I often feel like I want to do nothing else. 

But out there at Round Valley today, I was reminded that being in nature is a very different experience. I was reminded of the same, to lesser degree, when I fished with Jesse Sullivan recently, but I had forgotten about it. 

I got the news a couple of weeks ago that lake trout were getting caught, so that's why I came with the shiners, along with high hopes that Matt would catch his first. I phoned Fred and asked if he wanted any, when Matt and I arrived at The Sporting Life, but he preferred his mealworms, marshmallows, and Power Bait.

Nine lines out, none took a hit in fives hours of fishing. But we did see a small trout caught across from us.

Fred and Matt 


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Red Darts and Surveyers for Trout on a Chilly Day

The South Branch Raritan had come down enough from yesterday's rain for me to meet Jesse Sullivan at about 10:00 a.m. for some fly fishing. He told me Shannon's Fly Shop had recently stocked trout, from Hoffman's Crossing Road to further upstream than where we met at the park in Califon. The added possibility raised my hopes. Jesse had never before fished the stretches behind the park. I told him the water is slow.

"That's what I like to fish in the winter," he said.

"Then let's try it," I said.

He later made the point that slow metabolism and slow water go together. He does catch some trout, but it's tough this time of year. He uses an especially long four-weight rod designed for Euro-nymphing. It casts easily. It reminds me of a spey rod, though it doesn't have the power, and he doesn't need it on the little rivers of New Jersey. The rod is 10 feet, six inches long, and Jesse has a couple of pieces to lengthen the rod, to either 11 feet, or 11 feet, six inches, by attaching them to the butt section.

We fished Red Dart and Surveyer nymphs, which he had tied, under strike indictors. Neither of us got any strikes, but days ago Jesse caught a wild brown trout of about 10 inches in Ken Lockwood Gorge. By size, that fish is little compared to "Bubba" released by Shannon's, but a wild fish in the heavily stocked Gorge stands out. I don't know how big this year's "Bubba" brown is, but if I remember correctly, last winter's was about 12 pounds.

I stayed until after 1:00 p.m., leaving Jesse at a slow water hole in the Gorge. The temperature never rose above 32, but the cold bothered neither of us. It's a matter of dressing warmly. I wore a quality base layer, wool pants, and socks, so I never felt the chill of the water through my waders. On past occasions, I've felt that chill very distinctly.


Monday, December 16, 2019

More on Florida Coming Up

Viewed videos about butterfly jigging tonight, while enjoying a bourbon Fairy Tale New York my wife made. It was potent. Definitely allayed the anxiety I've felt for about two weeks now, feeling as if I'll blow our opportunity out to sea from Big Pine Key in mid-January. I wondered why I didn't spend more time with videos sooner, but I sort out all sorts of pressures on my time.

Can't promise you big posts after we get back, but I do know big fish are out there beyond the reef. I think it was an amberjack I hooked in 2007. A big one. One of the guys on one of the videos said they dive down into the coral and break off, unless you can hold them up from it, and that's exactly what my fish did, in very few seconds. I have never before felt a fish run so fast and with such power. It made my 11-foot, heavy-power surf rod feel like a noodle. As I reeled in the line, I measured about 60 feet of it frayed by coral.

Not taking my lap top. And since I shoot RAW images, it's all but useless to transfer them by wifi from my camera to my mobile device. I wouldn't do it anyhow...the jpg representation of the RAW file...because I prefer to develop images in Lightroom before I post them in this blog. An undeveloped jpg is not a truer image. I will be blogging about the trip after we get back.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Maybe I'm a sucker. Maybe I'm wise to try and preserve what I own.

Sorting through grinding stones online, I ended up phoning Sharpening Supplies and getting sold on a coarse/fine oil stone combo at $31.00 including tax and shipping. This demonstration on how to do it is so convincing, that once I had spent the time looking into the possibility, I didn't want to go back.

But when I checked Amazon for a blade protection bungee, I found blades for only $26.00 Prime. That made me think maybe I'm a sucker. After all, my original blades lasted five years. Just buy new blades whenever they wear out.

But really, I'm pissed I bought a pair not even two years ago and they're not working. Again, I fear the real reason isn't the blades, but the auger's transmission. Any case, I like the idea of maintaining what I own. Enough that I'm willing to give sharpening a try. And try and try. The post I linked to is authentically convincing that it can be done. I'm just not so sure I have the skill.

Which gives me an itch to try.  

Auger Blades

Blades for my Eskimo Stingray failed after five year's use. Naively, I went to a lawn mower repair shop to have them sharpened. When that didn't work, I told Mike Maxwell. He said, "How much did you pay?"


"About what new ones will cost you."

He was right. $23.00 on the button.

I used them once or twice, can't quite remember which, and then had trouble again early this year. By what Noel Sell told me, it's because I dragged the auger across the ice on the blades.


So now the blades cost $39.00. Not even two years later. I told my wife. She says it's because of the Trump tariffs against China steel. Makes sense. Though the tariffs don't.

The entire auger did not even cost $300.00 late in 2011.

I'm telling myself I will pay for the blades, but I will not drag the auger on them. I will take care and they should last another five years.

And then I Googled for blade sharpeners, found a blog post about how to sharpen auger blades with sharpening stones, and decided to give this a try. Even if the blades I have now are shot, it's a good idea to have a set of three stones to keep the new blades sharp.

Bad blades can damage the motor. Undue stress. I wonder if the problem isn't the blades, but the motor, anyhow, because it seemed to me as if the auger wasn't rotating up to speed early this year.

(Now I remember I used the bad blades once early in 2018. The new ones worked well during only one outing.)

Oh, well. In any event, for a man my age, a power auger is a valuable tool. When I was 18 I cut 18 inches of ice with a splitting bar. Easy. In 2015 or 2016, I cut 26 inches of Lake Hopatcong ice with my power auger, and there's no way we would have fished that day without it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Preparing for the Reef and Beyond

I research gear online and in shops, but I never forget Pat McDermott, back when I worked for Affinity Federal Credit Union. He led the Business Development Department, and on occasion, we talked fishing. Those years happened to coincide with Chris Lido's role as Managing Editor for The Fisherman. While I submitted articles to him, his good friend, Pat, was in earshot of me almost on a daily basis. They grew up together near Califon.

Before my family's 2012 trip to the Florida Keys, I told Pat that I was going to look into buying jigging rods. He told me immediately, "Shimano Trevela." I did my homework online and bought two: one for me, one for Matt. I felt amazed when they arrived. The tips are light. The butt diameter not much. And yet they're rated for 50- to 100-pound test Power Pro. I recently bought Penn Fathom high speed conventional reels. They have a 7.1:1 gear ratio so we can butterfly jig at top speed. (And slow, too. I'll get worn out!)

In 2012, we mounted Penn Squall reels on the rods, but the 4.3:1 gear ratio is too slow. I stupidly denied that, or rather, I believe I was thinking $159.00 each is doable, but twice that, no. In either case, a refusal on my part to think further. Money never matters as much. Turns out the Fathom reels normally cost about $275.00 each, but I found a couple for $182.00. Wind forbade us passage to the reef and beyond in 2012 anyhow.

Tonight I checked United Airlines baggage restrictions. I can carry on my camera bag. And the Trevala rods have butt ferrules. Without that, the 62-inch linear restriction for the rod tube would be a problem. Since the oversize penalty is about $200.00, I don't plan on us taking our six-foot stand up rods. I haven't felt they're very important. Besides using light tackle on the reef itself--snappers & such--we plan on jigging. True, it would be interesting to rig ballyhoo. We might go ahead and do that with the jigging rods, just for variety's sake, and while a stand up rod would be better for bait, for $200.00, it's better to just mess around, if we use bait on big fish at all. Another use for the stand up rods is tarpon inshore. For tarpon, we do plan on bait, but again, while our pool cues would lend more power behind the 80-pound braid on our Penn Squall conventional reels, we can go ahead and shake up our nerves, instead.

It could be my stubborn stupidity again. The boat will cost about $1200.00; why not pitch in another $200.00? Well, I might have to buy an additional rod tube, haven't tried to fit all four rods plus others in the one. And it might be wise to phone United before showing up with something that doesn't meet restrictions.

We'll save the stand up rods for trolley rigging off the end of Avon Pier in the future sometime.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Trout Try

Happy Thanksigiving!

It wouldn't be the first time I've harvested fish on this day for the dinner. Matt and I fly casted the North Branch Raritan at 202/206, catching up on things and having fun at getting good casts far back under the bridge, where there's got to be some trout. 

I told him about the trout that darted out from the dark and took a worm I drifted in during November, a 16-inch rainbow I lost at the bank, when a big trout broke water furiously to our right.

Why? Who knows. It's cold out. And very windy. So it surely was a trout, rather than any other species. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

RV Update

Ramp up the share numbers, guys. Here's an update anyone can find on the web:

Project Update

Friday, November 22, 2019

Missing My Buddy Mike

Went down memory lane tonight, beginning with my handwritten fishing log, then this blog, reading posts from 2011 and 2012. My son was a boy, now a man. No problem there, we'll fish, but now that I've re-emerged in our present time, noticing that I blew most of my chance to continue working on my book tonight, I miss my buddy Mike.

His porch was a fish-hub for a couple of years. Now it's all mechanic's tools. Praiseworthy. He makes money.

Once, he spoke about a couple of the guys prominent on the local fishing scene, and I had the opportunity to say something about my own abilities not matching there's. I've got some savvy at getting published, which I began to figure out successfully when I was 16 years old, and I did fish almost every day then, besides, but any of you who read my blog know I don't fish every day now, and I don't catch as many and as big as some around here do, either. When Mike contradicted my self-effacement, it did feel good.

But two years later, I realize the status I enjoyed in that moment really belonged to Mike's porch. 

Winter Trout Stocking This Coming Monday & Tuesday

I was telling Fred I've heard of some ice fishing for them on Mount Hope Pond, and I wondered if any goes on at Amwell Lake. But Fred doesn't ice fish, anyway.

I think the December issue of The Fisherman is available at places like Quick Check now. My article on ice fishing safety might interest you.

Winter Trout Fishing in New Jersey

Monday, November 18, 2019


If you want a relay, this one's from the album:

Sound Chaser

Link to that Article on Fishing Slowing Time

Judging recent share numbers, a lot of you might like it better if the blog was just a link relay. Won't give you the pleasure. I like to write. Even if I just imagine a reader. Lol.

Here: Bassmaster

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Upstream of the obstructions in the photo, there's a hole five or six feet deep with strong current, where trout can hug bottom where water is slack. I swung a black bead-head Woolly Bugger through repeatedly, fly casting it into different positions to get different drifts for 15 minutes or so. Then my wife and I left for dinner at Walpack Inn.

You'd see a shot of trout, had I caught any, but even a stint as short as this one, and as absent of action, can be a highlight. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

An Avid Sense for Where Fish Await

It was a treat to fish from Mark Licht's 18-foot center console yesterday. We put in at Lee's Cove, having met at 5:45 before first light, and then rode over to Dow's Boat Rentals, where I bought three dozen herring and a dozen nightcrawlers, feeling pleased Mark had told me he likes fishing the crawlers for the panfish. As expected, the herring Joe Welsh is netting remain small, but he told me plenty of walleye are getting caught, and that his brother, Jimmy Welsh, caught an 11-pound catfish on one of them the day before.

No fish in the boat before sun-up, resolve before the prospect of a slow day came early for me, and rather than give in to the desire to call it a short one, I kept busy on Mark's boat, going back and forth between checking on and tending set lines, and jigging a Binsky. I am a far cry from what I was five years ago, when I marked about four times as many dates over the course of a year in my handwritten fishing log than I do now. I'm too busy supporting my son's university studies, writing my book, and never flagging on my freelance writing and photography output, which increases in volume rather than subsides. 

Like most outings, in the middle of it, I came alive. That's not to say I didn't appreciate the early light, and Mark said he did, too, but it's to say it takes me awhile to fully get into the flow of experience, especially as I grow older, having forgotten where I came from and what I'm doing elsewhere, to fully accept the fishing. I credit myself for getting through some tough stuff and always ending up in a good mood. Even if I feel physical stress, I place my spirit ahead of that, and to my pleasure I find it truly in the lead.

I didn't inquire much into Mark's sonar system, though I am impressed. Even so, I confess an aversion to so much information, because I like to keep active with the rods, immersing my senses in the water, rather than referring to representations. I do use a simple portable graph and it's essential to positioning on the drops at a remove from the shoreline, though for what it's worth, my wife criticizes me on this as inauthentic. Mark's unit is basically a computer with full menu options, and if I'm not incorrect, it scans the bottom to a radial distance of 60 feet, when that option is chosen, which I did select by pushing menu buttons to check it out, although I didn't actively get interested in so many other details and regret not doing so. 

I can't remember a single Lake Hopatcong October or November outing--besides a November 17 and possibly an October 5, if that wasn't actually late September, when my son and I, or a friend and I, didn't catch at least one walleye. We've done this since 2007. I thought Mark's fish from at least 20 feet of water on a drop out in the main lake--I can't be fully certain the cast didn't go shallower--was a walleye, though maybe a bullhead, but it turned out to be a pickerel on a herring. Just about where I jigged a pickerel on a Binsky with Rick last week. Mark had also caught another pickerel on a crankbait from about 18 feet of water, that depth I'm sure of, though his crankbait would have run no deeper than seven feet or so. He also hooked a sunfish on a nightcrawler there, attacked by a musky! In awe, he saw the gill plates flush, and the full body. At the end of the outing, I suggested we try a section of Lee's Cove--a boathouse and a decaying dock--where myself and others have caught largemouths and a smallmouth on occasion in the past. Mark caught a largemouth on a Senko weighted by a slip sinker.

My catch amounted to two yellow perch and an 18 3/4-inch hybrid striped bass, the first hybrid Mark has witnessed. Unlike the other occasions when hybrids have been caught during the fall--those much fewer than walleye catches--this one was the only taker. It always seems when one hits, more follow, as the bass travel in pods and schools, but though I kept busy with the set lines on the same drop for another hour or so, nothing more happened.  

Sorry I didn't find a way to set this upright. After we docked at 1 p.m., Mark tried Brady Bridge from shore and caught this largemouth. This man seeks out fish with a keenly avid sense for where they await.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dam Situation

I regret not pumping a little more "water" into my recent post on the Burnt Mills Dam removal, because I've been interested in this eventuality for years now, as the post linked to below shows. Then, in 2016, I ended the post on a mysterious note, but after 10 years of intense river fishing and photography, blogging a great deal about it, I make the point now about the danger of overdoing it with so many other demands on my time, largely amounting to my son in college. I really do feel, though, as if I "let the river down" by not having anything to say in this recent post on the Lamington I mention, but a report.

Such overconfidence in the 2016 post that I would not let the river down. And I was nervous about Election Day right around the corner. Unlike the liberals I knew, all of whom denied that Trump could get elected, I felt certain, as I wrote that post, that he would. "The Broken Dam about to Go."

Read the post I've linked you to, if you will. If you have already, I've given it a little context as a refresher. It's redeeming to follow up this way on the 10-13-19 post about the dam removal.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

State's Algae Agenda a Bad Blow

Rick told me his hat is good for keeping rain off him. My camera proves to be weather-resistant, too.

My brother Rick and I looked forward to this trip for a long while. My brother-in-law Jim planned on coming, but changed plans.

Early on, our set lines yielded only a bullhead for Rick, as I let him have the first take. Line moved off slowly, and so I thought it could be a walleye. As always, we marked plenty of fish on the sonar graph, but like most times--every fall since 2007--these fish we see electronically don't hit. We put live bait and jigs right in among them and they don't hit. Rick watched his jig on the sonar screen, right next to fish. I've been party to few exceptions, but one of them, in 2012, resulted in a catch of about 75 hybrid striped bass for Marty Roberts, all of them released. I don't know why walleye are predictable and the stripers are not. We invariably catch at least one walleye, but never more than four. Also, we catch the walleye relatively blindly. It's not fish on the screen we target. We either set lines along drop-offs by casting away from an anchored boat, or catch them by methodically casting jigs or otherwise drifting the boat with the breeze while jigging along the drop regardless of fish showing up on the graph, the sonar used to keep in line with the drop-off, some of these deep-water spots well out away from shore. (Most of the stripers I've caught have come this way, too.)

The sun having come up just barely over the horizon, we moved to a reliable spot behind an island. Often, a walleye is in the boat before sunrise, but today I hoped I would see line slowly curl off the spool where trees blocked sunlight. It happened, but the fish amounted to three white perch about eight or nine inches long, and a yellow perch. Unfortunately, Dow's Boat Rentals has only small two- or two-and-a-half-inch herring right now. That's all Joe's getting in his nets. I like big four- or five-inch herring, and I think the larger gamefish do, too. We decided to put all the set rods out of the way in the front of the boat and jig instead, so I pulled anchor and began a process of using the electric motor to position, keeping pretty much to the drop-off, venturing back out into the main lake. We missed a few hits. They could have been perch or crappie, but walleye hit subtly, too.

We felt more intensity fishing this way, the method relying on mental concentration, but I grew tired of it and decided to set lines again in the main lake. By then, the sky was completely overcast. I will be honest in spite of myself, because I can seem as silly as a psychic with my ability to home in on fish by hunches, but I felt it was high time to hook up, and setting lines was the ticket. I guess it took 15 minutes. I saw line peeling from the spool quickly, and excitedly said, "Hybrid!" I grabbed the rod and set the hook. That little walleye took line faster than any other we've caught. Later, while driving home, I felt I should have handed the rod to Rick, but I hadn't reflected. In a peculiar sense, it was as if the fish was mine for finding it, but more to the point, it was a little walleye, and I still have hopes that Rick will catch larger.

It's so hard to find time.

Soon thereafter, the anchor came loose, the breeze carrying the boat, set lines dragging, and though we repositioned along the drop, at the top of it, I never felt right about the spot. Why's that? I didn't know. We cast jigs and a Binsky while waiting endlessly on the set lines, rain falling steadily, our rain jackets and rain pants on, and I caught a pickerel on a Binsky. A pickerel from deep water, odd for this species always associated with weeds. Mostly, my bad feeling for this spot involved an uncertainty of just how deep where, but that's usually the case, if maybe a little better informed. Two p.m. neared, when we would leave, and I decided we would give a spot further along the drop 15 minutes, but nothing happened.

I introduced Rick to Laurie on our way out. I told her I hope they don't shut down. Earlier, I had introduced Rick to Joe, who told us algae blooms like this past summer's happen every summer when rain washes too much nitrate into the lakes. He's known them since he was a boy, and I find as particularly pointed evidence that they're no big deal Joe's having worked all summer on the lake through the advisory, pulling nets bare-handed, getting his arms soaked every night, never developing a rash. The state has authority. Everyone certainly knows that. But that's not to say the state is always right. Authority is often, if not usually, wrong. We the people have a voice in the state, and in this case of Lake Hopatcong's demise, I think that voice by and large went very wrong. To this day, Dow's business is down--because people are afraid of the lake. Pathetic.

Joe told us Dow's may shut down next year. That's up to us. (Will we be patrons?) I reminded him that during the last ice season, business was great. He enthusiastically agreed that was true when I was there in February, then said, "But we can't count on it anymore. If we could, that alone would carry the business. Four or five weeks won't do." It's a double whammy. The overblown reaction to algae, and the very real threat of climate change already here and getting much worse quickly. At least for the time being, ice fishing still exists on Lake Hopatcong, but not as it used to.

If Dow's goes, that's it for herring bait in New Jersey. Joe is--far and away--the lead supplier. Who else in today's age will step in and fill the market demand? I've said it before, without word, we anglers have no political voice, and our endeavors on the water would swiftly be outlawed, the voice of animal "rights" theorists at universities like Princeton, for one example, motivating activists to move in directly and take over. Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer, is an intellectual founder of the animal rights movement. The movement doesn't win because we have verbal defenses. But deeds are important, too, and to see herring disappear from bait shops would be a sad farewell. A vital nerve lost.

The dock was dry when we left it for the open lake.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Hopatcong Report

Laurie Murphy:

We are still open with bait & boat rentals and are happy to report that the advisory for the algae bloom has been lifted for pretty much the whole lake. We still have herring, but only smaller ones & will continue to net until the end of the month. We are fully stocked for the fall jigging season and will start to get ready for hopefully, what will be a great ice fishing season. For the few fisherman still out there, reports have come in for lots of yellow & white perch, pickerel, hybrid striped bass on chicken livers & some walleye and nice crappies, along with several carp caught on jigs in deeper water. Pete Rathjens made his way to the scale with a Largemouth, weighed in at 5 lb 2 oz. Our hours for the fall are 6:30 AM - 6 PM. We are also set up with Fish & Wildlife’s new licensing system & it is up and running. Have a great week !

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Lamington River Dam Removal Begins

Trout Scapes River Restoration, led by Brian Cowden, began removal of the defunct dam on the Lamington River near the bridge over Cowperthwait Road, Bedminster/North Branch, on Saturday morning, October 12. More is on the agenda than removal of the dam. Cowden intends to create better habital for smallmouth bass and stocked trout.

The effort is part of a movement in New Jersey to remove river dams, allowing the passage of migratory fish species like shad, river herrring, and striped bass. Freer flow also creates better ecologies for resident species. Here on the Lamington, the improvement will suit resident and stocked fish, although, if all Raritan River dams were removed, it might not be completely out of the realm of possibility for striped bass to move into the river during periods of high water. It seems extremely unlikely, but stripers do easily move up to the Island Farm Weir in May.

They swim well upstream in the Musconetcong River, now that many dams are removed there.


Monday, October 7, 2019

It Can All Go Slower

The trolling didn't work. (Could you have guessed.) The sonar in front of me as we progressed almost all the way to the back of Split Rock Reservoir, I marked plenty of fish. Our Storm Hot 'n Tots, diving at least 12 feet deep, went past dozens. My only regret now is that I didn't think of trying plugs that dive 18 to 23 feet, but plenty of fish marked at about 11 to 14 feet. 

We often stopped along the way back, thoroughly fishing rocky drops, rocky points, a rocky islet, deadfalls whether tree trunks or brush, little coves, weedbeds. We used Senkos Wacky and Texas, traditional worms weighted, jigs drressed with tubes and twisters, spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps. I don't understand why we didn't catch more under cloudy skies with surface water temperatures from 65 down to 63 in the back, but I predicted that I might not understand in the previous post. Ever since I first came to this reservoir and fished from shore, I've felt it somehow odd. (But Oliver Shapiro did catch a 19-inch largemouth from shore here a month ago.) I caught a 14-inch smallmouth all the way back as close as we came to reservoir's end. No more action anywhere besides a definite hit for Oliver. My bass took a Senko fished Wacky style where a massive weedbed ends. I liked that edge especially, before we even tried it, besides a cove at the reservoir's bottleneck where the sonar marked plenty of fish, though we got no takers.

Beautiful surroundings up there above Interstate 80, they did come alive after I finally caught the smallmouth as sunset neared, the reservoir and trees changing color suddenly seeming there for me instead of lonely, isolating the two of us in wilds that would not yield. 

Earlier, Oliver had spoken of an article on fishing I would like to read, about time and memory, about how, as we grow older, time seems to accelerate, and yet poignant memories--fishing produces these--have the effect of slowing it down. The writer postulates that when we're young, we're much more engrossed in events, and so time seems to pass slowly. As an aside, any of us who have a child or children who have grown up know how fast their childhood(s) seem to have passed. And yet we might reflect on our own childhoods and how long the time between our first memories and, say, age 18 had seemed. Like a full life. Incidentally, this state of affairs reminds me that during Paleolithic times, the average age of death wasn't all that much beyond age 18.

Oliver and I both have parents yet alive, and he mentioned the auspices for our living long. I didn't get into the issue, though I didn't take another pull from my vape stick until after we docked, a gesture of good faith rather than bad, and I hope this vapor device is not so bad for my health as were cigarettes. I really should give up this nicotine delivery device, too.

I like to think I've come to terms with my life as enough as it is. If I were die in my sleep tonight, what a pity I didn't finish my book, that for sure, but always the main reason to live long is to be there for family. I, at least, didn't know this in my youth. I thought life was all about actualizing my potential as a creative human being. Well, now that my life has this quality of seeming enough as it is, very well, I've done that to some degree, but that never was all life asked of me. My son Matt has made all the difference. With him in the world, my wife and I are part of our own family.

And with friends to fish with, it all goes a little slower.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Annual Wine Tasting Event on the Musconetcong


Event Name: Wine Tasting on the Musky

Date: October 12, 2019 (Rain Date: October 12, 2019)

Time: 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Contact: Alan Hunt, Executive Director, Musconetcong Watershed Association, (908) 537-7060 or info@musconetcong.org

Musconetcong Watershed Association to host 17th Annual Wine Tasting on the Musky

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) will host a wine tasting on Saturday, October 12 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Warren County Rod & Gun Club Pavilion, 279 Asbury-Bloomsbury Road, Asbury, NJ 08802.  The rain date is Sunday, October 13 at the same time.

Guests will enjoy dozens of fine wines as well as a curated selection of craft beer and ciders thanks to sponsor Perryville Wine & Spirits.  The tasting will include selections from local producers as well as an interesting assortment from around the world.

There will be live music by the Caren Kennedy Duo, and the first 100 attendees will receive a commemorative stemless wine glass.  Guests won’t want to miss the annual rubber ducky regatta on the Musconetcong River where sponsoring a duck provides the opportunity to win bragging rights for fastest waterfowl.

Tickets are $30 pre-paid or $35 at the door.  Call 908-537-7060 or visit https://www.musconetcong.org/wine-tasting to buy online.  Proceeds benefit the MWA, and a portion of the ticket price is tax-deductible.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Anticipating Sunday Ahead

The plan was to fish Merrill Creek Reservoir. Getting skunked at Split Rock changed my mind, particularly because I see such potential for trolling crankbaits there. At least, I see the rocky shorelines dropping off quickly. (I really only assume this potential.) There may be reasons I don't know about which prevent Oliver Shapiro and I from connecting.

Another problem with Merrill Creek Reservoir is the heavy timber we would fish. I have felt my tackle isn't up to it. I have a medium-heavy Lew's Speed Stick, the Ardent spinning reel loaded with 20-pound braid. Just the other day, a coworker at Shop Rite and I discussed the use of braid up to 65-pound-test for fishing largemouths. And then, last night, I came upon a great article in The Fisherman by Mark Modoski. An issue from two or three years ago, Modoski had interviewed professional bass fisherman Denny Bauer on flipping and pitching bass with heavy tackle and the careful use of a bow-mount electric motor. I read it in my car while on break today.

Both instances spoke to my fears about Merrill Creek, after the fact. I caught a largemouth of nearly eight pounds there a year ago, fortunately from deep water away from cover...

Many anglers feel 20-pound braid is heavy stuff. It's not very. Nor is a medium-heavy spinning rod, but while I could afford a seven-and-a-half-foot heavy-power baitcasting outfit, I won't, because I can't afford a bassboat with a bow-mount electric apparently needed to methodically ply heavy cover. But anyone who has followed this blog all along since 2011 knows I have fished cover since 2011, and that I promote the habit. Until last year, I kept to a mere medium-power spinning rod and 15-pound test braid, until, early last summer, a bass seemed to nearly bring that rod to its breaking point at Tilcon Lake, owing to this fish stuffing its head into thick weeds.

Many years ago now, before I began blogging, my son and I fished Lake Musconetcong constantly, but never caught a largemouth much over three pounds, which left us wondering. Well, the apparent reason wasn't hard to figure out, once I attended a Knee Deep Club meeting featuring a seminar by a Lake Musconetcong regular. He had caught four largemouths in the lake over seven pounds during that summer, and his secret was really very simple. He penetrated the thickest weeds with tungsten jigs and horsed big bass out of it.

Biggest bass=thickest cover.

I don't have equipment for it. Or this is my starting point to test, though I'll skip Merrill Creek and stick to my little lakes next summer. Furnace Lake is one of them, and on Furnace with Fred Matero in July this year, I was afflicted by a mixture of stupidity and curiosity, sticking to my medium-power rod and that 15-pound braid while fishing thick weeds, when I had the Speed Stick I had bought for exactly this purpose right in the canoe next to me. So after catching a two-and-a-half-pounder, the significantly larger bass I hooked--I could tell it was no five-pounder--put me in an acutely observant state of mind. I took in every nuance of the contest I felt, because it was all about testing that light rod and light line test. I noticed that it seemed to have more power than I had thought it had on Tilcon last year. I was horsing a bass of about three pounds, three-and-a-half at most, along with a load of weeds, and it seemed as if I would get the fish into the canoe. Apparently, the hook pulled because it never set quite well enough, but I couldn't be sure. You never want a bass to bog down in weeds, because the line can loosen between the hook and where weeds catch on the line. (Bass throws hook.) For all I know, the additional power I certainly could have exerted on the bass with my medium-heavy rod would have resulted in bass caught.

Anyhow, when all is said and done, I believe in anglers who can't afford bassboats, more than I believe in those who can. For me, angling is first and foremost about the big picture, secondarily about how it is done. If you can afford a bassboat, good for you; I certainly would never deny money matters, and that fishing practices matter, too. But above and beyond it all. That alone is where possibilities reside.

(There's more you can do with what you own than advertisers will tell you.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Culver Lake Dock Fishing

 This shot was taken yesterday by John's mother. Kittatinny Ridge shadows glacial Culver Lake, the gap in between an interesting feature.

A coworker friend, John Lusk, invited me to fish Culver Lake from his mother's and stepfather's dock. We had a great day fishing a private lake off limits to any public access. I felt elated with gratitude for the opportunity, didn't have to hold back much, and in addition to two members of John's wonderful family, met his next door neighbor and a man named Eddie from the next house towards the back of the lake's 660 acres, a man reputed to be the lake's best angler for good reason. He's a former rodeo competitor who took up professional bass tournament fishing, winning some tournaments, too.

Upon meeting Eddie, I said, "For the past 20 years, I've wondered if I would ever get a chance to fish Culver. Now here I am standing beside the best angler on the lake."

He told me I might hook a pickerel, and before he finished telling me to use what he would get, he began making his way to a gear box at home. Two minutes later,  he handed me a white twister jig, saying, "Just drag that on the bottom."

I cast. Let sink. Began dragging bottom. Seconds later, I hooked a largemouth that jumped, showing itself to be about 11 inches as it shook the hook. "I told you so," Eddie said.

Until then, John and I had caught only a few sunfish and yellow perch. I began by hitting all the spots in range with a Senko, including a sunken rock pile in 10 to 15 feet of water. Bob, John's stepfather, told me the algae bloom hampering any visibility of things beneath the surface happened during the past week. John had bought three dozen nightcrawlers, and I didn't deny my own pleasure in using them. As John put it, "It's better than getting skunked."

Things would take an ironic turn later. But not by a big margin.

In the meantime, Bob fixed burgers and hotdogs on a grill; John's mother, Mary Grace, made an excellent salad and corn on the cob. We dined before a huge window on the lake, with the view of the gap in the distance that sold Bob on this particular house. Mary Grace told me it was originally built about 1830. That blew me away. I wasn't aware the lake had such history, besides the 12,000 years since the Wisconsin Glacier began to recede. She showed me a book on the lake's history, which I leafed through, and so now I know its attraction has served homeowners for a long while. She also showed me an article from Offshore about boating while the writer grew up on the lake, by a woman she knows who now freelance writes on boating.

After the meal and conversation, the sun angled light low. John said it was time. "This is when I always begin fishing here." Culver Lake boasts the state record hybrid striped bass at over 16 pounds. Hybrid stripers come right in close to the dock, the drop-off drawing herring in against this edge. We saw some herring dimpling before we quit tonight. Bob told me smallmouth bass sometimes push herring right in against the shallows of this slope. On one occasion, John fished a nightcrawler at sunset, right off the dock, and caught a 10-pound hybrid. I said, "Fishing is like photography. It's about light."

Fish took the nightcrawlers. I set the hook into something that felt big. We caught bluegills, yellow perch, a pumpkinseed, and white perch. John lost something really nice off the dock of a neighbor on the other side of the house.

Besides the nightcrawlers, we had killies. Those killies from Murphy's Hook House in Tom's River, when my wife and I went to Island Beach for the last time this year. (How long ago is that now?) I've kept them alive in my study. That is some study; the word is a synonym for office which artists and intellectuals use, my having learned the word as a very young boy from my dad, mine loaded to the hilt with both books and fishing gear.

I replaced the white twister on my jig with a killie, missing a sudden strike from something that stripped the fish from that hook, and catching what might have been a white catfish a foot long at sunset. Not too much later, I caught another catfish of the same description on a nightcrawler, enjoying the fight especially because--just maybe--it was a bass, but I felt sure it was a catfish. It would have measured maybe an inch longer than the one photographed.

All this ado about live bait. John never succumbed to killies. Instead, he rigged a Berkeley Power Bait worm with an inset hook and a little weight. Then he proceeded to catch two largemouths by working the worm up the slope, neither of the bass a foot long, but they were bass and they weren't caught on bait.

Saturday, September 21, 2019


Got word from Noel Sell about the current situation. He read the previous post and wrote, "Totally agree! Fishing is very tough lately. We need rain and cooler temperatures badly."

Forecast mid-80's tomorrow, last I heard. Feels that warm this afternoon.

I'm concerned because I got an invitation to fish Culver Lake on Wednesday, and don't want to exit this outing having caught nothing. We will just have to see how it goes, and in any event, it should be a good time.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Tough Transition Time

Forty three degrees upon our daybreak arrival at Split Rock Reservoir this morning, Fred and I didn't see a cloud in the sky. I didn't think about how tough the fishing could be until 10 or `15 minutes into it, while fishing a shaded cove with plenty of depth and rocks, a very bassy-looking spot with nothing happening. I sat in one of Fred's kayaks.

Fred did catch a little smallmouth on his four-inch Senko, just to the side of that cove in water brightly lit. Four rocks penetrated the surface some 50 yards beyond, and I worked them thoroughly with a Chompers worm, getting no more than the pecking interest of a sunfish. We pulled out two hours later.

Skunked again on Split Rock, I changed my mind about fishing Merrill Creek Reservoir with Oliver Shapiro in about two weeks. Now I want to put my squareback on Split Rock to settle the score. We can troll. I really like the structure I see here for that purpose.

From the reservoir, we rode over to Saffin, me feeling mixed confidence. In any event, my best fishing at the pond has been early and late; although I have caught some nice mid-day bass there, today was no typical late morning and early afternoon. It certainly was not summertime, but it wasn't an October day after bass have adjusted to the new season and slam spinnerbaits, either.

I began along my favorite steep shoreline with its heavy cover, and soon realized it wasn't going to happen, and it never did. I switched from the Chompers, after fishing deeper water out from the bank thoroughly, too, and snapped on a spinnerbait, feeling that most of the bass had slipped into any deep water out away from shore, although, judging the terrain, the more likely case is that they had dispersed in water about eight feet deep almost anywhere out there, not feeding at all. By this scenario, true or not, the bass are like blues and striped bass as they slip into the surf to feed, then abandon it. Not many bass would be near enough the shorelines to perhaps take a reaction swipe at one of the lures Fred and I threw. 

I did get one definite hit. By the feel of that, I knew it was a bass about 10 inches long. A good hard smack. It didn't get the bait fully in its mouth. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Reluctant South Branch Smallmouths

Went to my favorite spot at sundown, missing a hit on the first cast and catching an average stream smallmouth on the third. Clear water flowed moderately, but it was chilly after this morning's temperatures in the 40's. I saw nothing but some killiefish in the shallows, and with a cloudless sky overhead, it became quickly evident to me that the cold front had put the bass off.

I came with killies I bought when my wife and I last visited Island Beach. I did bring my fly rod, but not only was I pinched for time, I don't think I could have caught any with it. Definitely a fall feeling on the river this evening. I do hope next summer I get a chance to fly fish the river at length. A whole morning and early afternoon. I have plenty of flies to try.

I worked my way down the stretch, and having waded about halfway to the back, got a big bass on, but the hook pulled. That's what I came for, a big one. A bass of nearly four pounds, and I really want to hit that mark fair and square, judged by my tested Rapala scale. I trudged back to the bucket, half hoping to hook another, half convinced I missed my only shot at one, baited my hook, and put another killie in the left breast pocket of my Woolrich, a heavy flannel shirt I needed. And it was getting progressively chilly while I wet waded.

Way down at the bottom of the stretch, my big killie flew off the hook on a cast, so I baited that hook with the other, soon getting another bass on, catching it--12-inches.

Gave myself a pat on the back for putting that killie in my pocket. (They live forever out of water.)

So I lost yet another big bass here where I expect them, but it's better by far to have had one on today, than to have never encountered such a fish.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Knee Deep Hybrid Striper Derby this Weekend

Laurie Murphy:

The Knee Deep Club will be holding their Fall Hybrid Striped Bass contest this weekend from 5 AM. Sat. Sept 21 to Noon on Sun Sept 22. There will be cash prizes for the top three heaviest fish, with gift certificates for 4th, 5th & 6th places. We will be open at 5 AM for the contest weekend. We will be fully stocked with herring ( although they may be on the smaller side, depending on this week’s haul ), chicken liver, and ice  jigging  rapalas.  There were some noteworthy catches with Mike Kaszas with several walleye, the largest weighing in at 5 lb. There were also some pickerel brought in weighing in at 3 - 4 pounds along with some nice smallmouth and lots of white perch & catfish.  Several Hybrids were being caught on liver up to 7 pounds. Next up is Knee Deep’s walleye contest on Oct 5th & 6th. Mark your calendar now. Have a great week !

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Week Too Late

Excellent article on party boat fluke by Fred Golofaro in this week's The Fisherman. I just wish I had read it last week!

I had the idea halfway right. Yes, the use of light tackle is preferred. Jigs as light as a half ounce, let alone the ounce of tungsten I selected. And instead of 20-pound braid on the seven-foot rod, 10 or 15 would be better. (Lighter test=less water resistance as the jig sinks.)

We fished near the stern. Wrong spot. Golofaro recommends the bow. You cast the jig upstream of the drift, and let it swing on down. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve.

So now I get it. While Oliver and I fished, I kept looking at all the lines out, and it bugged me...as if all this was too damn simple. Golofaro says much the same when he points out that taking position along with a dozen or so other lines closely lined together is a losing bet.

Too bad the thought never occurred to me....so go up to the bow and cast. This is why it's a good idea to read fishing magazines. I can't always count on my original thought.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Headboat Fluke Trip out of Point Pleasant

The anticipation of hooking a really nice fluke has me looking forward to going out on a headboat for them. When I fish the surf, I might catch a keeper. Once, when fishing a beach of Sandy Hook, I caught two over 18 inches long, but not by much. It;s not surprising that my biggest so far--22 inches--hit when I leaned against a rail like the one in the photograph. I've fished behind Beach Haven plenty for fluke, and in Manasaquan and Barnegat inlets, catching them as large as 20 inches, but they're just as rarely keeper size there as in the surf. It seems every time out on a headboat, a few over four pounds get caught. If you go, you just might get one over seven pounds. That happens.

Not today.  If you pay attention to reports, you've heard it's a bad year for fluke. Just the same, Oliver Round and I had our hopes. He quickly pulled four shorts over the rail, one of them 17 inches long, while I had to make do with a couple of small sea robins. If they were big enough, I would have taken them home. I hear they're very good eating and might as well taste for myself. Finally, I caught a fluke of about 16 inches, and as always, I had enjoyed that head-shaking dance on the end of my line. The pool winner was the only keeper caught today. About 19 inches.

I began by seeing if I could get a one-ounce tungsten jig with a squid strip and squid strip teaser to bottom and keep it there. Oliver had just told me he heard the water was 80 feet deep, so I knew this trick wasn't likely to work. I did catch a sea robin on my first or second drop, but I gave up on my seven-foot rod and the jig for the obvious reason, finally settling on a four-ounce bank sinker and my eight-foot Tica. Even that much weight didn't hold bottom very tightly, but it did keep direct contact, and by keeping the bail open and a finger on the line, it was easy to release a few yards every now and then, letting the rig distance from the rail. Oliver did the same and caught as many fluke as some using 12 ounces. 

I brought along my Penn Squall 60 reel and a pool cue stand-up rod, just in case I wanted to rig two four-ounce bank sinkers together and drag those on bottom. If the water was deeper and I felt my control compromised, as it was with that tungsten jig, I would have, but I never felt the situation called for the heavy rod.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fluke on Bunker

Kept bunker in the surf all afternoon. Finally, something small tapped repeatedly at it near sundown, and then after sundown, it happened again and got more involved. I set the hook into this Island Beach keeper, 16 1/2 inches. 

The bait intended for a bluefish, reports have plenty of them around, but nothing seemed to be in the surf at all there today, until things got a little interesting during the Magic Hour. Very calm, most waves about a foot high, using my five-and-a-half-foot medium power St. Croix with six-pound test monofilament and a couple of split shots for weight was an effective way to fish live killies, but I got only two hits, after catching the fluke.

Now I have bait for smallmouth bass. The leftover killies. So much for fly fishing them until next summer, I guess. I think I'll try to catch a nice big one on the killies. No, I can't promise, but I certainly haven't forgotten the one that snapped my line two Octobers ago.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Jersey Gets Morney for Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Projects

U.S. Department of the Interior News Release

Date: September 5, 2019

Secretary Bernhardt Announces $170.6 Million to Support State Parks and Outdoor Recreation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced $170,623,713 million in grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to all 50 States, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia for state-identified outdoor recreation and conservation projects. LWCF funds are non-taxpayer dollars derived from Outer Continental Shelf lease revenues and are awarded through federal matching grants administered by the National Park Service.
“Using zero taxpayer dollars, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help rehabilitate and improve infrastructure at state and local parks and other recreation areas,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Funds will also be used to maximize access by opening up landlocked public lands. A small investment in a little strip of land can open up thousands of acres to outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
“We are pleased with the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which came as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act earlier this year,” said National Park Service acting Deputy Director for Operations David Vela during remarks today at the National Association of State Park Directors conference. “Investing in high quality outdoor recreation space has proven to increase the public’s physical, cultural, and spiritual well-being. We look forward to continuing our work with state and local partners in the implementation of this important program.”
The LWCF was established by Congress in 1964 to ensure public access to outdoor recreation resources for present and future generations, and to provide money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans.
Funds are also used to permanently conserve outdoor recreation areas for public use and enjoyment. The funds enable state and local governments to improve parks and other recreation areas in their communities by rehabilitating and upgrading existing parks, creating brand new parks in places that have none, and developing and expanding trail systems to link communities together and create recreation opportunities.
Since the inception of the LWCF, more than $4.4 billion has been made available to state and local governments to fund more than 43,000 projects throughout the nation.
The allocation for the State and Local Assistance grant (stateside) program is determined based on a formula set in the LWCF Act, and includes funds appropriated from the LWCF by Congress as well as revenue derived from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. For more information, please visit.
Fiscal Year 2019 Total Apportionments by State
American Samoa
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Northern Marianas
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Virgin Islands
West Virginia