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.


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