Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Late Start on the Morning is Another Time and Fishing Form Altogether

I like to fish brown trout in May well before dawn. When I get to streamside, the scene remains as yet almost darker than light. When I leave, the first of other fishermen arrive.

Approaching browns this way, I don't recall ever getting skunked. I bought another bucket full of fatheads and a dozen medium shiners, hoping to entice a big brown. But as it worked out, my wife would not allow her son to get up so early and compromise his game on the ballfield early in the afternoon, which I agreed made sense.

We got to the Verizon building area of the Raritan River North Branch at about 9:00 a.m. Matt soon had a good fish on well back under the Route 202-206 bridge, but lost it. Could have been a smallmouth. Meanwhile, as the single other angler in sight fishing upstream some 30 yards began to wade back to the bank, he lifted a great brown trout on a stringer, at least 20 inches long. (That was the fish I looked for.)

Next we fished AT&T. Having tried only the larger shiners, I switched to a fathead and immediately had an average brown trout on. I got it to about a foot from the bank when it shook free, underneath the western-most bridge. My son had another fish, also on a fathead and surely a trout, losing it. But the six-foot hole by the sycamore that angles over the water from the bank yielded three smallmouth to more of my fatheads, and another hit from a brown. The way a smallmouth takes is quite different. Bass engulf bait, hold it firmly, and swim off steadily; you can feel a brown nervously work its jaws, as well as swim irregularly with the bait (I'm always less sure about setting the hook with trout).

Clearly evident to me, plenty of browns had a presence here, and if we had stayed longer and fished with meticulous patience, I think we could have caught some. I felt almost willing to do this, as I enjoyed myself once the smallmouths loosened my feelings, but not only did I have a lot to do at home, my son wanted breakfast. 

A Bucket of Fatheads

Blogger, the outfit that supplies this blog format I use, did maintenance the past few days, which is why I've been absent. I fished my favorite North Branch area, AT&T, on Wednesday just before sunset. I found the browns very picky. Several of them would take the minnow, run a few feet, drop it, pick it up again, and so on three times over, so I didn't know when to set the hook. In fact, twice I pulled the fathead from the trout's gullet without hooking the fish, to remove from the hook what appeared partially digested.

Both of those minnows fully measured over two-inches in length, but most of my supply were almost pinhead size. If you can find a bait dealer who will sell you full-size fatheads, you're fortunate. 

Nevertheless, the browns struck these little offerings just as well, it seemed, but casting them isn't easy, even with a split shot. I saw very few trout caught by others, who cast artificials, salted minnows, and worms.

I missed hit after hit, more than 15 altogether, losing three I browns had on, but frustration never got the better of me. I had first fished a little further upstream, getting no hits at all, with plenty of bait and some time left. Pretty soon I had one, and since the hits came steady, I focused on making connection. I began to land trout as the flow of experience began to bring everything together. That's re-creation--allowing the power of nature's unity to make you whole and affirming of life. The only way to it is close attention to details that lead the way.

In fewer than the last ten minutes of my visit, I caught three trout. I had found the knack to setting the hook. The last of these three filled my limit, and I didn't take another cast.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

(Round) Valley of the Sun

For my lunch break, I visited Round Valley Recreation Area, intent upon fishing the pond, 20 or 25 acres of clear water--not nearly so clear as the reservoir--separated by a long dike, and featuring a swimming beach. As I made the long walk, grateful for exercise, I felt compelled to fish the reservoir on my left as well, but didn't have time.

Sun beat down on my forehead and on the water so intensely I knew catching a bass would be a tough nut to crack. But shade protected part of the corner where my sun had caught an 18-inch largemouth a couple years ago. I hoped I'd get a take. But nothing happened. I had fished my 7 1/2- inch Chompers worm, no weight, thoroughly in shallow water and down to 10 or 12 feet. As I moved down the path, casting as I went, at first it seemed hopeless, but within ten minutes or so I was in the flow, fishing with intent, and I knew directly that this is how results always come. Each of my casts served the purpose.

I came upon a pair of small downed tree trunks reaching into the pond from a bush extending over shallows. I got my first cast in close, my second in six to eight feet of water just where perhaps the tips of the small trunks extended. The line jumped and began to move off. I set the hook. For the first moments, I thought I had hooked my first real good one of the year. Then I knew I had a good fish, but nothing so special. I measured it at 15 1/2 inches, about two pounds.

Answering Danial's comment on Manasquan Reservoir, I just use a portable Humminbird graph recorder. They told us at the visitor center bass fishing had been very good all week, but people I spoke to Saturday hadn't done well. Most of the afternoon a lot of sun hit the water. And when clouds finally came, so did ferocious wind. My hope is that next time we fish the reservoir 1. We get a battery that is fully charged 2. The cables hold up. 3. It's not so windy and sunny. I know that during the summer fishing is typically tough. These bass see a lot of lures, so live bait fisherman have an ace up the sleeve. I enjoy using live bait in the winter for bass, but during the warm water season it's just my own preference to get them to hit a lure. It's a game to figure out what they might take, which has something in common with fly fishing. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Denville Park Pond

The Denville, New Jersey, area is dotted with lakes and ponds; I visited more than half-a-dozen this afternoon, and found only one open to the public. This Denville Park Pond has a couple surface acres with clean, tannic acid water beneath. You can see in the photo that the fat 2 1/2-pound largemouth I caught is truly a black bass. Typically called tea water, deeper tannic water looks like coffee.

This particular pond has no depths greater than perhaps six feet. Already aquatic vegetation is taking up a lot of space. I rigged a 7 1/2-inch Chompers plastic worm on an inset hook to keep it weedless. I used a two-foot length of 15-pound test fluorocarbon tied to a small barrel swivel, because pickerel are rumored to inhabit this pond, just like they do for certain in the Pine Barrens' tannic waters. 

The last photo of the series shows the relatively obscure corner where the bass sucked in the worm. Almost all of the acreage on this other side of the bridge is extremely shallow and pad covered. But the corner is perhaps four feet deep, black, with current moving under the bridge just outside it. 

This little pond doesn't get my vote for being a regular spot to fish, but it was interesting today. Over a week ago I saw bass on beds here, and today I saw those beds--without any bass guarding them. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Windy Day on Manasquan Reservoir

On the water by 1:30, the rented electric moved so slow I quickly phoned the visitor center and asked for another battery, and brought the 16 foot aluminum dockside. This time we pressed off towards the far stands of timber at a good pace, trolling Rat-L-Traps, a technique that worked on one pound white perch last summer. We did mark a couple big fish on bait shoals, which may have been hybrid stripers, but got no hits on the way to the hump with flooded timber. About a hundred yards from our destination, gray smoke spurted from the power cable. In no time, the entire cable went up in a great puff of smoke, the postive cable near the battery burning through and separating, as you can vaguely see in the photo. Once again I phoned the visitor center. This time we were towed back to the dock, given a new motor and battery, and an extra half hour.

I spoke to the ranger as he took us in, asked if alewives exist here. He wasn't certain. But he did say that hybrid stripers actually reproduce in Manasquan Reservoir. I may do some research on this subject.  Apparently the hybrids do grow large; how they do this without alewives I'd like to know, if that's the case.

Anyhow, this time we didn't even try to reach the hump. A couple stands of timber relatively close to the rental docks and boat launch are obviously extensive enough, with deep water, to hold bass. And they probably get overlooked by anglers headed where the grass is supposedly greener. My son's first cast yielded a nice bass about a pound and a half. He used his "secret weapon"--a nightcrawler on a plain shank size 6 hook with a large split shot, which got it down on the bottom in 12 feet of water, outside the edge of timber. So I knew in all likelihood more bass were nearby. In fact, large fish showed up in our sonar scan right under the boat, and while I fished a Chatterbait, and Rat-L-Trap, very thoroughly, my son put his nightcrawlers straight down. He pulled up another largemouth, under a pound, a yellow perch, and lost two other fish, apparently bass under a pound.

We fished more than a few other ranges, anchoring in the fairly heavy wind. I fished a 7 1/2 inch Chompers plastic worm for the most part, catching a 14 inch largemouth, and another that wasn't more than 5 inches long--on that 7 1/2 inch worm! All of these fish held in eight to 12 feet of water, and while Manasqauan Reservoir is clear water, it is not nearly so clear as Round Valley Reservoir--where largemouths do spawn in 10 feet of water. Matt's largest fish was fat as a ham, apparently ripe with eggs. I was told in the visitor center that bass are on the beds, but who knows--I didn't see any on beds in the shallows. Surface water temperature rose from 62 to 63, below the typical spawning range of about 68.

At 5:20 a great wind came up, whitecaps immediately leapt forward, and we were blown about, unable to position forward. When I tried to make it into a protected cove (probably too shallow), I almost collided with two moored crew team captain boats, unable to steer effectively in the wind. I managed to swing the boat out of the way, and we went in, carried quickly on the rollers.