Friday, May 25, 2012

Largemouth Bass on Plastic Worms among Glacial Stone, Mount Hope Pond: Seeking New Fishing Spot

Senko-type worm yeilded a few small bass in the back of Mount Hope Pond along the west side. Sunfish tore the worm up, and when they peck like this on nearly every cast, annoying the hell out of me after a while, bass usually aren't interested. Makes sense. If sunfish are this incautious, the bass probably aren't feeding.

This pond--beautiful place, the glacial stone is an unforgettable reminder of time's lingering rather than passage--is so full of sunfish you would think bass would be all over too. But bass are fairly rare. Last year every one I caught seemed to be three pounds, though. Not quite really, but average size is about that.

Solitary mood again. Cloud cover, dampness on the leaves, a lone breeze keeping steady felt fishy and it flashed on me that at Round Valley I might be doing better.

I did persist and get over a mood that tried to return me to the soil like everything passive. Nonetheless, I resolved to get out the maps this weekend and go elsewhere next week. That could be a bad choice; one never knows. Big bass are in this pond. Who knows, maybe this is why I have never caught a largemouth over five pounds, that I'm too restless and choose to move on when waiting it out would bring the result. I fish by moods. Last year this place was glory. Felt like it would reward me this year too, then sagged out, and I just don't want to come back anytime soon and deal with that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Steady Breeze, Clouds and Sun, Round Valley Reservoir Bass

For an hour and 15 minutes bass fishing Round Valley Reservoir this afternoon, the one constant was a steady 15-mph breeze. Clouds threatening showers alternated with sunlight; the whole situation felt fishy when I walked down the bank to take position. I caught the bass photographed on the second cast, two others, lost a nice bass to a weakened knot, and missed two other hits never moving my feet from where I planted them. All of these but one hit in about eight feet of water. The other hit way out over 15 feet or more; it struck well before worm touched bottom. I felt determined today because I know bass at least close to four pounds frequent the area right where I stood.

The light Chompers worm (seven inch) caught the first and second bass, but I switched to a Senko-type shortly after, rigging it Texas style but without any weight. This of course made the difference both for casting and keeping the bow out of the line in that wind. Interesting to have tried snapping the worm off bottom so it plummets head-down back. One of the hits I missed came when I decided to reel in fast, then abruptly stopped retrieve. When I tightened, the bass was on and I goofed up. Everything new takes practice--that's why a lot of people refuse to do anything different, because that would show them up. This quick retrieve/stop action is a method I have thought would work for a long time, and today it did. Not that I've tried it a whole lot, but the Senko-type has quick action built in and seems best for this.  

Last 10 minutes spent along the rocks, I realized this is not the last of my Round Valley forays this spring after all (I was dying to catch a big bass today). Gates close on Ranger Cove and the west side of the pond on Memorial Day, but not the rocks, and they're worth fishing at least through most of June.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

River Float Fishing Trips for Family Recreation and Awareness of Home

Float tripping the Delaware is a great way to go with family and friends. These photos of my son, Matt, wife, Patricia, and my son's uncle David, my brother from Connecticut, go back about seven years when the river was not so crowded near Barryville, New York. We rented from Cedar Rapids and usually still do. 

We drive up from Bedminster 90 miles, and David would drive down and across about the same mileage from West Hartford. My good friend Steve Slota introduced me and Matt (then five) along with his son, Tom (then three), to the Barryville region. Steve's been enjoying miles of the river between ridges for years before the New York Times discovered it. Never forget how wild this river is, no matter how many people are on it from all over. Even at Lamberville or Trenton, New Jersey, it's a wild river, not quite as clean, but not dirty. Smallmouth bass are plentiful in New York, and plenty are in Trenton above the tidal zone too. Walleyes are caught in both ranges, and tiger muskies in tidal regions as well as largemouth bass and sometimes stripers galore, which travel all the way into New York now too.

Rivers anywhere in the U.S. are a great American tradition because they are really more than traditional, us utilizing them recreationally, I mean. Same as anywhere else in the world, at any time in history, we use rivers because the planet is really home more than where we shack up. Since pre-civilized times--hundreds of thousands of years ago--we've floated rivers because the motion and centrality transports us about this open environment in which we live.

High Water Fertility Mount Hope Pond This Year

Mount Hope Pond's water fertility is richer this year. Clarity is reduced and masses of algae are thick. Last year, none of these masses took hold even by August. I suppose this could be good for the bass, boosting the brood of recent years. Certainly they have more habitat to hide among. But it seems to make fishing tough now; it's as if the nice bass around three pounds I'm used to are not in the sticks like they were last year. Perhaps they get in the algae masses now. 

So I tried placing the Chompers beside the messes to let it drop in possible view. This simple approach really pays off in Lewis Morris County Park's Sunrise Lake. I did hook and lose a bass about three feet between two sickly green clumps.

The two bass I caught took the worm placed well out from shore in deeper water, both near submerged tree trunks.

Such dismay today I got to thinking about going to Hedden Park Friday. Plenty bass in that pond, but small. Finally I realized, no, I'm not selling out on the possibility of a real nice bass like the lunker around 21 inches I spotted two weeks ago. I have another lake in mind I haven't tried, but not yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

19 inch Largemouth Bass Round Valley Reservoir

A largemouth of about 19 inches occupied me for 10 or 15 minutes. Gin clarity allowed me to watch it 10 feet down and about 20 feet out. I tried the seven-inch Chompers and a Strike King Wacky rigged. Demonstrated that you can move a lure right by a bass, further away, initial drop just past its nose (spooked), etc., and if it's not interested and you can't see the fish, the situation is as if no bass are around at all. Obvious thought, but it really made me feel that no matter how carefully I fish a worm, sometimes no difference results with a bass there. 

Caught a 10-inch bass I had spotted in close, tossed the Chompers to several times, no interest. Then I cast the Chompers 20 feet further out, let it sink half way, and slowly worked it back with subtle tip twitches. Sure enough, once the worm came into range, the bass turned and cruised right for it, took, and I set quick. Released it right away.

Caught a nice buck at Mount Hope yesterday I got right back in too. 

This bass measured just under 19 inches, caught the previous year at Round Valley Reservoir

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lewis Morris County Park: Multiple Recreational Attraction, Fishing Included

Lewis Morris County Park in Washington Township, N.J., covers 1154 acres of forest, meadows, streams, and sites developed for recreational purposes from Route 24 south and west to Tempe Wick Road, bordering upon Morristown National Historical Park. Maintained trails wind through forest for mountain bikers and hikers to loop as many as six miles on a single path, many more miles comprise the combined trails. Morris County’s great unifying trail, Patriot’s Path, connects many parks and communities, and links Lewis Morris Park into its eclectic system. Some trails are designated for horseback riding, open spaces serve cross country skiing and snow shoeing, open hills sledding during winter. Athletic fields, fitness stations, horseshoe pits, a playground, dog park, picnic facilities, and a group camping area also make the park attractive for recreation.

I used to take the county park system too much for granted, almost as if "they" had reserved the land and constructed the recreational features. I valued wilder places like the Great Smokies and also the removes of Great Bay and Great Egg Harbor--the whole Barnegat Bay system really, except I didn't venture far north behind Island Beach. For 13 years I clammed mostly behind Long Beach Island, and this is wild space--especially in January and February. But nowadays I appreciate the homier wild spaces.

Discovering who or what the parks signify puts them on your mental map. Lewis Morris was the Colony of New Jersey's first governor.
A three-acre aquatic impoundment also graces Lewis Morris Park near Route 24.
Sunrise Lake is fed by a tiny brook with a small population of native brook trout, which require pure water to survive. (The stream's length is about a mile from the originating spring.) A swimming beach, paddle and row boats, snack bar, locker rooms and showers, and plenty of shore space to fish largemouth bass, sunfish, and bullheads are main attractions. The fishing is good, and has been written about for The Fisherman magazine.

I've caught bass here on Redfin minnow plugs in November. Balsa Rapalas have faster action suited to August, when we have done well in the corner area near the dock around sunset. Since Sunrise gets weedy, spinnerbaits are often effective--especially with falling barometer and initial rain. But Senko- style worms cast long range to floating algae masses. This is shadowline fishing. Get the Senko right next to the mass; it drops in sunlit view for a bass in the shade to shoot out and take.

Not all bass situate under those masses. Three acres isn't a whole lot of water, but fishing a worm can make it seem so. Fish whatever weed edges you can find first, then start guessing. The area near the dock and that corner produce. But so does the dike edge and outwards.

I once caught a four-pounder, and a number from two to two-and-a-half pounds. Most of the bass here measure 10 to 13 inches, but I've heard of five-pounders from a reputable source.

Lake Musconetcong Largemouth and Pickerel Action

Lake Musconetcong Largemouth and Pickerel Action

          I hadn’t decided which to favor: Lake Musconetcong, or Lake Hopatcong even with the recent history. Both are beautiful lakes with unique fishing opportunities. In June, I've preferred Lake Musconetcong; spinnerbait action can be searing. By July 1st the Stanhope/Netcong border of Morris and Sussex Counties used to be wall to wall carpeting of aquatic vegetation. But summer 2010, the Lake Musconetcong Planning Board loaded the lake with weed killer, which has changed the ecology radically at least for now. It seems possible spinnerbaits will be effective through the summer with the Serengeti gone, but last July two bass caught (not a good traditional score) hit topwater plugs and nothing struck spinnerbaits. Other open water lures like floating minnow plugs may have some use, and last May, Steve Slota got away with a shallow running crankbait, nailing a two-foot pickerel.

          Despite the increase in cormorant interest—these shore birds consume pounds of fish each day—with obstructing vegetations' absence having opened the season on young gamefish for birds six months or so a year, two years is not enough time for the really good sized fish to be gone yet. I’m only surmising things anyhow, but it seems to me that with so much habitat simply executed, the fish go with it. 

           This lake used to be crystal clear. Last I saw, it was a muddy hole by comparison with people desiring to water ski. It’s not cormorant excrement that makes the water off color, it’s the lack of filtration vegetation provided and microscopic algae in place of healthy greens. Now that people dunk in the lake, I suppose it’s less safe on the lips. Huge largemouths over seven pounds lived in the thickest of the vegetation through summers; possibly very few by comparison will reach this size in the near future.

          No doubt, topwater plugs will be the best choice around sunrise and sunset through summer unless a stiff wind disturbs the surface. The lake is very shallow. Almost everywhere it’s five feet deep, six at most. I know of no other lake on the planet that afforded its fish—largemouth bass and pickerel—such habitat. Literally, these species could be caught anywhere. Most lakes have fish populations in certain areas, but Lake Musconetcong was total fish habitat. Lily pad clusters remained best last year.

           Last year I fished with Steve Slota, renting a rowboat at Stanhope Bait and Boat in May was best. We had fair action within three hours, Steve catching that pickerel of about 3 ½-pounds on the shallow running crankbait, and losing a largemouth at least as big that blasted a topwater plug at sundown. I caught four pickerel and a bass, one of the pickerel close to 3 ½ pounds, and the others about 19 inches, three of these fish on spinnerbaits, and two on a Senco plastic worm. All six of these and those we missed associated closely with lily pads mixed with Eurasian milfoil and other vegetation.

          Anyone can row a boat (you need no boater’s safety certificate), wind is usually light, and Lake Musconetcong is fairly small at 329 acres making an excellent proposition for beginner’s luck with fish all over and pads easy to target. But rental boats are only 12 feet in length, which makes two people busily casting lures a subtle threat to one another. If you stand in the boat, sit down immediately if  balance gives, and good luck—once and a while it’s too late, and once it almost happened to me.

          A hit can come anytime, and if you cover enough water it’s still likely you will connect. It’s about 50/50 largemouth and pickerel averaging very good size close to two pounds. If you don’t bring a pair of pliers or hook disgorger, you may as well cut the line with the lure lodged in the jaw as often as not, and apply pliers when you get home—you’ve committed to dinner. Often it’s easiest to remove the single hook of a spinnerbait, not always. The structure of the jaw is layered (even a single hook can lost in there), the teeth sharper than razors and sizeable. Even with precautions, bring along a first aid kit. I’ve had over 35 years’ experience with these fish; two years ago I sliced my thumb badly removing a hook.

          Senko style plastic worms are good near and among pads, usually taken on the initial drop, so a quick retrieve for the next cast after that may be sensible. Use a weedless #1 or 2 hook and try “Wacky,” hooked right through the middle, weightless. Experiment with topwater plugs. Different lures and retrieves (as irregular yet natural as you can conjure from your own nature) are worth playing. And with any lure, always tie a 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader to a barrel swivel and check it for tooth nicks after every hit that might have been from a pickerel. Fill your spool with 15-pound test Power Pro braid to steer big ones from heavy weeds.

Crappie Too