Friday, August 7, 2015

Where are the River Smallmouths?

Got back out on the North Branch Raritan this evening, since a useless dolly wheel made our inflatable boat trip impossible. This stretch gets nice and deep near the bridge. Why a lot of smallmouth bass are not present concerns me, unless they're far back under the bridge and not hitting. The river is low, not especially clear--sometimes in the fall it's clear as a bell. Right now it seems perfect for summer smallmouths, of which not one took my Chompers. And I worked my way upstream to check shallows near riffles, since at least average stream bass sometimes inhabit as little as a foot of water.

I guess I could take my fly rod further upstream where riffles run pretty deep. Some years back I caught some on stone fly nymphs. Better yet, downstream below the Lamington River confluence. As great as the spot I fished this evening is structurally, we've never done well here for bass, though we've caught some. Matt spotted a 19-incher here recently while walking the dog, so naturally that's why I've taken some interest this summer.

In any event, wow, I remember the old days on Stony Brook during my teens. Double figure smallmouth catches proved the norm. Fishing felt as wild as the Midwest before settlers arrived. Well, how would I know? But the Brook had smallmouths galore. And in recent years, nearly none. Since the 70's legal size is raised to 12 inches. Back then, few fished the bass. Now and in the past decade, about no one does.

Round Valley Reservoir Crappie & other Unusual Catches

Recently caught while fishing with Fred, the first crappie we've seen from Round Valley, on a twister tail jig about 20 feet down among rocks. I posted about it on New Jersey, and others said the same, years fishing there, no crappie, was I sure not a rock bass?

I heard of a big walleye caught in Round Valley Reservoir, years ago. Obviously, if so, someone tossed it in. I've only caught one little pickerel, but I saw a photo of a pickerel over six pounds caught in the reservoir. Mike, who I trout fish with during winter, witnessed a brace of five-pound pickerel caught throw Round Valley Reservoir ice, 2010, I believe it was.

And besides the trout records, the record smallmouth bass--the state record eel got caught here, over six pounds. Now how do eels get in the reservoir? Do they get pumped in from the South Branch? Fred has seen many big eels at night in flashlight beams.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Smallmouth, Largemouth Bass Small on the North Branch Raritan

Four years ago in late September and early October, twice I parked at Stahl Natural Area on River Road, Bedminster, less than a mile from home, to walk trails back to the river and fish smallmouth bass. Very memorable occasions I posted about, I had thought someday I might pick up where I left off, venturing further downstream. This evening, I found an easy trail leading to the river; thereafter I bushwhacked, stepping aside of stinging nettle, avoiding briars, being careful to step over holes and gullies, making sure not to step into mud up to my knees or worse, but walking at strong, steady pace.

I found a couple of stretches with some water as deep as three feet surprisingly unproductive, since undercut banks typically hold bass. I managed to catch one little largemouth on a four-inch Senko-style worm. Having worked my way down further than I later thought I had, later to find the walk back to my car fairly long, I found the dam photographed.

This hole has nice depth. It should have been full of bass, the kind of spot with fresh oxygen where I'd expect at least one 12-incher, if not a good two-pound bass. I caught three, one of them so small the hookup seemed accidental, the other two not even average-sized, one of them another largemouth.

Took some effort to get around brush and barely skirt a sort of gully with stagnant water, and so I got further downstream as dusk set in, missing hits from more small bass, encountering nothing we feel is respectable.

The effort felt good as I struggled to find such a bass at the end. Then the woods accepted me back, alone in gathering darkness, aware of myself as aging, the walk hard, my heavy camera bag and tackle tote causing that all too familiar pain in my upper back. I tried to remember how I know it used to be. Walks like this were easy and full of the bounce of willing energy. I thought of my hiking some 150 miles of the Appalachian Trail during the spring of 1984, and that I can no longer do the likes.

But the sort of effort I enjoyed this evening I will continue to make myself do. It's less pain than an odd feeling of being out of sorts that felt uncomfortable, and yet my last fishing outing at the pond with smallmouth bass didn't feel this way at all. I exerted myself climbing those steep banks, but never felt oddly out of place, energized instead.

So I just chalk it up to a peculiar evening, sure that more outings will return energy rather than take it, well into my 60's and possibly beyond. Besides, I got home and went to my study, and sure enough, I felt the usual replenishment of spiritedness, rather than any loss.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lake Hopatcong Report & Knee Deep Catfish Contest Soon

Laurie Murphy reports from Dows Boat Rentals that a lot of smallmouths 1 1/2-two pounds recently have been caught from Lake Hopatcong, including a three-pound, four-ounce bronzeback weighed in at the shop.

Here it is August, and this past week walleye and hybrid stripers still got caught on surface plugs after midnight. Maybe this is a new trend. The weather's been plenty hot, so maybe these fish have been vulnerable at night all along, I don't know. An eight-pound, four-ounce walleye got weighed in, though most--in the three to five pound range--get released.

Laurie also reports panfish on small jigs and pickerel with live baitfish or spinners along the weedlines. Don't discount pickerel if you can help it; at least, this is my advice. They're a fierce gamefish worthy of respect and Hopatcong is legendary for them.

Knee Deep Club's Catfish Contest will be held August 15th beginning at 6 a.m., ending Sunday, August 16th at noon. Anyone who wants to fish in the many contests is welcome; membership is not expensive. If you have no boat, you can rent, so long as you procure a boater safety certificate.