Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lake Musconetcong Falls to Weed Killer Again: Largemouth Bass, but no Pickerel

Steve caught two, me four, if you count the one I never gripped, perhaps the largest, which I foolishly attempted to hoist and take by the mouth. Using 15 pound Power Pro and a stout 15 pound fluorocarbon leader, I just did it by impulse and had it up against the gunnel when the hook pulled. Missed some hits on the spinnerbait; I was using black despite the sunshine, the water turbid anyway. With the Pop-R, I had only one hit and caught the bass, feeling bad because it was really Steve's fish; he had missed the hit on his Pop-R, and I just thought, "Cast near shore," and fired off, the plug hitting water just yards from where Steve's got struck, not thinking to let the area be for him. We laughed it off, but I was real glad he caught bass, both on the Pop-R. We had a real good time with lot's of conversation and laughter. Most of the bass were about 16 1/2 inches to about 17 inches.

Pads are emerging, but far from fully up. Mostly, we targeted edges and slots. I feel full of zest after three hours of good fishing, but compared to outings in the past, it was slow. Nevertheless, I fished especially spinnerbaits, investing every cast with consciousness. And this paid off. Keeping retrieves at slow to moderate speed, I caught three, and then another on the surface plug after sunset. We fished pads carefully, but not all the bass were among them. We felt a different vibration--with Power Pro braid and sensitive graphite rod a spinnerbait let's you feel it working--than plastic worm fishing, and I can't wait to do it again next year. Fred and I may topwater fish in August, but with weed killer administered again, the fishing may be very slow. My son Matt and I got skunked at least once in 2010 after weed killer ruined everything.

Lake Musconetcong is normally a very clear water lake; aquatic vegetation acts as a filter to keep the water clean, but the water chestnut problem is deadly serious. Ultimately, water chestnuts create an anoxic condition by covering an entire lake, blocking sunlight, and suffocating all life beneath. The only hope for the lake is for the chestnuts to eventually be eradicated, water clarity returning along with fish populations.

We had no encounters with pickerel.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Musky Hooked on #5 Rapala Lake Hopatcong, Hybrid Stripers Trolled

These are just some of the average stripers Joe Landolfi and his girlfriend Diane have been trolling on Lake Hopatcong. Joe's biggest is six pounds, so far this year. The lake has come alive and Laurie Murphy reports lots of trout being trolled, some walleye as large as seven pounds, and a four-pound, 14-ounce pickerel. Really nice fish. Beginning at 5 a.m., Saturday, May 17th, Knee Deep Club's Walleye Weekend derby begins, ending Sunday at 2 p.m.

The hybrids are great to catch, but the really surface shattering action came when a musky Joe estimates at 50 inches struck Diane's #5 Rapala on six-pound test--tiny little plug--and erupted into view.

"Give me the rod!" Joe said. He swiped it.

"It's my fish!"

"OK, if you want to lose it." He gave the rod back, the musky simply racing away into open lake, the drag sounding off like a katydid on an August night stuck at steady volume.

It didn't take long for the inevitable to happen. The line parted and that's the end of this story.

What may be coming next, who knows. Joe's going after that musky.

Cisco Kid (1960's)

5 Pound Round Valley Reservoir Largemouth

One of those rare afternoons when you get to a spot just on time. I really didn't know heavy rain loomed imminent, the barometer surely falling fast. Some light showers had been around, but nothing to indicate to any certainty heavier, although some of the clouds made me think it could happen.

During the retrieve on my second cast, I just let the Senko fall, saw the line twitch. let it tighten, set the hook and instantly knew I was into a really big bass. It fought like all, and I knew I had--at last--hooked a bass five pounds or better. I even thought, for one moment, it could be a really big smallmouth. I felt happy, appreciating this on six-pound test. And then I quickly measured 20 inches. Thanks to whomever photographed me with the fish before swiftly released.

I took no more than half-a-dozen casts. Rain began to fall pretty heavily. I marched out. Once I got to the car--a deluge.

Now I want to part with the five-pound mark for a heavier bass here. I wonder how long this will take, if I ever beat this fish for size. It will be enough, if I don't. The 17 1/2-incher on my previous outing to the reservoir wasn't bad.

There are secrets. I can tell you the bass hit about 10 feet deep, and that the approaching storm may well have had to do with it. They haven't spawned yet either, although the water is fairly warm, probably low to mid 60's, but not quite spawning temperature. The reservoir warms slower than just about any other New Jersey water body. Perhaps none other warms as slowly. Merrill Creek Reservoir is deeper, but the water filled with many more fertile particles that help warm it.

I had no thermometer. I could be wrong. Maybe this bass has spawned and is fat because of feeding, but I don't think so. Bass now frequent relative shallows and later in the summer move deeper. Casual persistence on any particular body of water clues you into possibilities. Nevertheless, I know the typical dry, sun-drenched day doesn't make hooking a really big one very likely. I've heard of a nine-pound largemouth sighted that wouldn't hit anything, not even live bait presented with four pound test. The largest I've heard of caught in all these years of the reservoir's existence didn't break the eight-pound mark. Of course, the state record smallmouth at seven pounds, two ounces is another story.

They're in the reservoir and today this bass seemed easy to catch. But over the course of time, big bass don't seem to be easy to catch for anyone fishing here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Round Valley Reservoir Bass Hitting at Last

Finally, Round Valley Reservoir is warming. Largemouth's aren't spawning yet, although they have in New Jersey waters that warm faster. I noticed bucks guarding beds at Mt. Hope Pond yesterday. I fished Round Valley Pond twice on previous dates, catching nothing, not even getting a hit, and tried the reservoir once last week when the water was still as cold as sometime during a normal April. Warming slowly progressed last year, too, but not after a winter like this year's. I'm supposed to fish with a friend in his boat, mid-June, and I bet reservoir bucks will still be guarding beds. On June 10th, 1978, they were, and I don't suppose that season fell behind as this one.

I fished just out of the wind today, catching a largemouth of about a pound on the first cast with a Senko-type Strike King worm. The Chompers traditional worm just didn't have enough resistance against the wind, even in the eddy created by the trees where I stood casting. Wind blew hard from the south. This first fish didn't hit on the initial drop into about 14 feet of water. I twitched it three times, imparting that Wacky flutter with the hook in the middle, let drop, and when I lifted the rod tip a few seconds later, felt resistance and set into the bass.

I had about 45 minutes; action wasn't fast, but I got another pick-up in shallower water near the end of a retrieve. The bass looked bigger than actual in the gin-clear, wind ruffled water. Even when it leaped, I slackened under the illusion that it could be four pounds, but it fell half a pound or more shy of that mark. Quickly tape measured it at 17 1/2 inches, this chunky female clearly hasn't spawned yet.

So begins another season at Round Valley. I still have a five-pound bass haunting my mind. I catch them over four pounds elsewhere, but just can't seem to break the mark here. Last year, I spotted from a shore a smallmouth I think weighed about six pounds. That's a very rare fish. But the state record seven-pound, two-ounce smallmouth came from these waters.

As I walked out, I viewed that water and wondered what the lack of the state's trout stocking will do to the cold water season through next winter. I had thought of casting metal for trout this month. Earlier yet than I considered doing this, I had thought of putting a shiner on bottom, while I would fish bass with another rod. Round Valley Trout Association has stocked some in the state's absence, but I just can't get up the enthusiasm to try for trout. Basically, since I've pursued bass in May for three seasons and I'm into my fourth, I seem satisfied to stick with it and try to hook a big one. When winter comes, I will in all likelihood be back for trout, even if I don't catch any.

It's May. And when I stand on the January shore, 15 degree wind howling past my ears, the wind chill who knows how low, I sometimes think of this month. It's not a value to take entirely for granted.