Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fishing Tackle: Breaking Through the Surface of Society

Months ago, I jotted down a note pertaining to early memories about fishing. A friend's father had introduced me to this recreation. But what I remember especially from that early age of eight is the Golden Guide to Fishing. The cover picture, painted no less, is of a spinning reel. The genius of its originality impressed me as direct and fresh as life itself, and I knew I wanted one.

The painting suggested the essence of ingenuity. At the time I used a Zebco 202 pushbutton spincast.

I owned a spinning reel and rod by age 10, bought it myself. A Capitol Sporting Goods store existed a mile and a half away, across Route 1, in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, next door to the State Capitol in Trenton. I used to ride my bike and buy tackle.

Sometimes the hard shell of ordinary affairs breaks and bares the sheer magic of tackle, by so simple a process as unwinding line from the fixed spool of my Penn 430SSg, as snazzy to no apparent purpose as that numerical name designation makes me think the caprice of random numbers and lettering goes a long way in America.

After all, I live just yards off U.S. Highway 202, though highways really do have an order-by-number, if random numbering for things otherwise tends to fall into place with intentional patterns. Perhaps mathematician and game theorist John Nash would have positive words for the numbers of the reels we use. Besides, any random series chosen implies that some sort of intention lurked behind the result, which makes you wonder about license plates...

No one can really quite point out the reality underlying the hardcoat surface of society that keeps everything slick and running all too routinely. Don't we all know the disfunction that routine really is. You have to fall into it, taking everything you've heard and learned with you. And then, if you emerge again sane, you might be able to decipher a thing or two better not spoken about too often, and yet it helps guide your own life better than any GPS.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bass Remain on Beds

I used to think that when water temperatures dipped significantly, bass abandoned beds. Although I couldn't make any beds out through the rather stained water, water I am sure took a sharp temperature drop with today's rain in the mid and upper 40s, the bass I caught seemed to be on guarded defense. One of the five I caught struck my favorite 1/8th ounce chartreuse spinnerbait twice before it whalloped the lure a third time and got hooked. I missed three hits from another in exactly the same place. I saw bass guarding nests in Mount Hope Pond in Rockaway yesterday, so surely that's what they're doing in my shallow little local pond. And ditto this the last time I fished it--I caught what looked like the same two pounder from the same spot, only now it's a lot scrawnier and less than two pounds. Three of the other four were about a pound and a half, the other a pound. I just haven't managed to hook a real good bass.

I fished much the same as I had a month ago, when I caught five on the same lure. I judged from the gut. This evening was not a time to try my #9 Rapala floater. Experience gets stored in the stomach. I read somewhere that the stomach has a slight number of neuron-like cells, which may account for the accuracy of gut feelings. Whatever the case, I certainly believe experience stores its responses down there, close to the body's center of gravity. Not to trust it is to ultimately go against reason, although we learn new approaches by going out on a limb, by extending our judgment clearly straight out from the neocortex. This is why, when an approach fails--like the time that would-be fourth bass at the Bedminster Pond followed like a pickerel, but did not hit--I am very quick to try something else. The gut cannot sustain for very long--it needs to be fed. And if it has any neuronal cells, certainly they are far fewer and less developed than those in the brain!

This coming Saturday my son and I plan to try for lunkers at Manasquan Reservoir, one of the best places in the state to give that quest a shot--if that's all it is, an attempt. I'm hoping that with the chilly weather the spawn has been put off, but I would be surprised, even with such a late spring, if by May 7th the females haven't lost weight. Manasquan is a tough place to fish. The fishing pressure is perhaps the tightest in the state, too. The bass see a lot of lures and become conditioned to ignoring them, especially through that clear water. High hopes! But I try to ease myself, and my son, into reality rather than come crashing down.

Monday, May 2, 2011

No Fishing at Merril Creek Reservoir

I forgot to crop close to the sign in the photo before I had uploaded the images, and formatted the card, but it reads "Environmental Refuge No Fishing." --Where, two years ago, among the bass I caught in two visits shore fishing included one over four pounds. Immediately obvious to me was that they had segregated out shore fishermen from the spot of choice, to the right of the launch and through the woods less than a hundred yards, a long, perhaps 200 yard stretch of flooded timber, including fairly shallow flats perfect for this time of year, and good in the summer, too. Anyone can walk along these shores. Just can't fish. (The slight timber to the left, and steep drop-offs, photographed without the sun above trees, is where I had to fish, sure I'd be skunked, and was.) Anyone with a boat can fish the area in question, too. What does that say? It may be evidence of an oligarchic tendency in our government--so long as you pay the taxes implied by a boat purchase, go right ahead. Where is the default switch in a political decision like this to ban shore anglers? No one would consciously think "Well, boaters pay more in taxes, so we'll let them fish here, and punish those with less money." But it's obvious they did not think well of shore anglers, at least they did poorly enough to have denied us. Additionally, many fishermen, me included, are environmentalist. But some environmentalists are anti-fishing. And they really mean it. If they had their way, fishing would be outlawed altogether. (What would this do to Isaak Walton's literary reputation? Would his book be banned or kept on the secret shelf of a benevolent dictator like the character in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?) No, I don't neccessarily believe radical environmentalists will get the American government to pass a law outlawing all fishing. Not any more than I believe that the American government will pass a law making Veganism mandatory for everyone. I think officials behind the scenes of Merrill Creek Reservoir negotiated--certain environmentalists wanted this and that, and got this. Fishermen were designated to the left side of the ramp (and probably still have other shoreline to fish; I wasn't there long to find out). But negotiation means we do have to be aware, get in, and keep in the political process. 

So what happened to Manasquan Reservoir as promised!? My son fell sick with allergies. It's the time and the season. We hope to go next weekend. Certainly, I observed no evidence of spawning at Merrill Creek, and I hope the water remains cool enough at Manasquan so that the big females aren't ready by the time we try to catch a few. A few boats came in here at Merrill Creek. I spoke to one boater who had caught four five-pound trout, surely not from the recent stockings. Two other shore anglers had two small trout. At 210 feet deep and with much more fertility than Round Valley Reservoir, Merrill Creek is perhaps the best trout lake in the state. The bass grow huge here, too.

Wildlife at Merrill Creek, and the entirety of Warren County, flourishes. I had a wonderful drive, observed a lot of deer and light green flora while listening to jazz and news radio. A sandpiper that I have come upon reference to in reading--it dips its rear end up and down--but don't remember the name, came and poked about the stones and pebbles near me. Snow geese, like the one I photographed, are not common on lakes and reservoirs, although I have seen one on Lake Musconetcong. Mostly, look for snow geese at Brigantine, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, during the fall. You may observe thousands there.