Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nice Crappie, Hybrid Stripers: Lake Hopatcong Cold Front

Walleye weather, no, not with no clouds at all above, from shortly after 9:00 until 4:15. We struggled under as much angling adversity as a cold front ever gives, except that temperatures weren't terribly cold--36 when we began and about 50 for the high. As we raced out of Woodport on Lake Hopatcong, I knew the 45 degree water temperature was due to the shallows--six, eight, about 10 feet at most--of the entire Woodport acreage. I was curious how much warmer the water in the deep points region remained, and relieved to find it at 51. Perhaps a greater relief came in the form of relative calm compared to the weather forecast. We had brisk breezes for short periods of time, but even longer periods of complete calm. So motionless the boat would remain that instead of jigging in place, I casted the Rapala ice jig, and Gotch jigger, to work it back along the bottom through intervals.

My friend Joe Landolfi caught the first fish after two hours or so, a good sized crappie from the Great Cove side of Chestnut Point, 34 feet deep on the bottom, Gotcha jigger. We raced here and there before I caught a yellow perch by one of those casting maneuvers, Rapala ice jig, three inch. No big deal with that, but a dash of interest. I can't remember for certain, but believe Joe's hybrid came off Elba Point. Think I remember noting that I finally witnessed a fish here, having never before, but having tried a number of times. Gotcha jigger, 40 feet deep. I jigged up another crappie on same at Pickerel Point, 38 feet deep, an 11 incher. Both of the crappies came to the surface with their eyes bulging out as if they had the bends, but are these depths sufficient for that? We've never noticed walleyes or hybrids with the same condition. Finally I hooked my hybrid in 40 feet of water at Sharps Rock, Gotcha. These weren't the big beauties which frequently enough make dreams real on Hopatcong. Both were about an ounce or two over two pounds, and a half to an inch over the legal size limit of 16 inches.

A great, long day. It had seemed so tough at first that I feared we'd be skunked. No walleyes seemed to stir, although we'll never know what the few hits we missed were. 40 feet down is dark and remote from open skies. But I always believe barometric pressure has to do with it somehow. Perhaps I am superstitious about this; I have no specific evidence for the belief, but I do know that nature is much more subtle than what we see and what we can reason and compare on such a gross level as the darkness of those depths and the clarity of the sky. I had said to Joe within the first two hours that my bet was we'd catch no walleyes--but that we might catch hybrids.