Thursday, April 18, 2019

Big Brown Trout Wins Knee Deep Derby

Laurie Murphy:

"The Knee Deep Club held their trout and pickerel contest on April 14th 2019. There were over 50 entrants in each contest. Placing first in the pickerel contest was Justin Ameye with a 3 lb 14 oz fish. Second place went to Mike Rastiello, also with a 3 lb 14 oz pickerel and third place went to Freddie Nitek.  Fourth thru sixth place winners each won a gift certificate. They were Justin Hendriksen, Tyler LaMantia and Jim Salerno. Their fished weighed in at 3 lb 4 oz and 3 lb 3 oz. The trout winners included Jack Dziduch with a 9 lb 6 oz Brown trout, Tyler LaMantia with a 3 lb 15 oz and Frank Schweiger with a 13 oz fish. Hunter Good, John Moran and Gary Bruzaud each won a gift certificate. The next contest, to be held on Sunday May 5th, 2019, will be the Panfish Challenge. You can call the shop at (973)663-3826 for more info, or check out the Knee Deep Club’s website. Some other notable catches the past week or so included John Moran with a 4 lb 2 oz Smallmouth Bass, Jim Welsh with a 1lb 14 oz crappie and Jake Bozik with a Largemouth weighing 5 lb 12 oz.  Bass season is now closed so remember it is catch and release only and the season will reopen again on June 16th. For the month of April, We will be open 7 days a week from 6 AM until 6:30 PM. Hours will change again on May 1st and we will then be open from 5:30 AM until 7 PM. Have a great week!!!"

Musconetcong River, Hakehokake Creek, Lockatong Creek: Salmon Eggs for Trout

Jorge and I first stopped at Raritan River North Branch to check on water clarity. Monday morning, the river was almost up to the banks. Today, fishable. So, as planned, we rode on to Saxton Falls. My first time ever seeing the spot, besides in numerous photos--the place is New Jersey's Opening Day symbol--I felt surprised at how close it is to Tilcon Lake. Jorge had never before visited the area, but had Saxton Falls on his wish list.

It fished slow. We missed a couple of hits, and I caught a 10-incher on a salmon egg using my newly made microlight rod and the one-pound test Suffix I mentioned two posts ago. Jorge used the microlight I bought at former Ray's Sporting Goods in North Plainfield in 2000. No use hanging around when maybe somewhere else would yield more fish; we tried a spot in Hackettstown, not even getting a tap, and then rode 10 miles or so south to Changewater. I once caught a rainbow there in July on one of my fly rods using a beadhead nymph of some sort. The hole is deep with strong current and good seams. I missed a hit, and then a big one got hooked, drag screaming as it got in strong current, one-pound test breaking. I had tested the drag on the little reel and knew it wasn't very good, but I thought maybe acceptable. Line raced off the spool, and maybe the unevenness resulted in the break. Besides, that fish was headed deep south. The current runs heavily on downstream as far as you can see. No stopping that trout.

Jorge got some taps. We both felt trout nibbling uncertainly, but I managed to catch and release a couple about 10 inches long and have Jorge net a nice one at just slightly under 16 inches. I had made a point to myself about releasing trout here, because survivors holdover, but the big one my wife would appreciate. It had taken awhile to get the fish to the net. And thumbing a spool to help control drag when line test is that light--that's tricky. I had never done it before.

Taking lunch felt relaxing. Sunlight felt warm. Traffic didn't bother us much. I felt especially good because of the big one I had just caught. Salmon egg drifting can seem simple when you've done it for years, but you'd be a fool to forget all sorts of factors involved in choosing casts that hit the target space easily, only because of so much prior learning.

The spot fished slow after we clamored back down the bank. I quit after 10 minutes, gathered my camera bag, and worked my way up, slipping on stones, thinking quickly to drop my rod as I fell--I saved it from breaking on a sharp boulder edge--and making sure none of my weight fell on that bag with about half a year's worth of wages invested in it. A big rock rolled down from under my left boot, and I turned to make sure it wouldn't strike Jorge's rod. 

Almost 60, I'm still quick. No injury. But I'm not nearly as steady on my feet as during my teens. I danced on rocks.

Experienced for years in the Hunterdon Hills rising over the Delaware River, I knew we had a chance at finding more trout than we might by fishing more Musconetcong spots. The long ride occasioned lots of stories from me about my son's former passion at finding and photographing reptiles. Amphibians, too. New Jersey offers all sorts of wild opportunities, and even as we traveled, Jorge marveled at rural countryside he had never before seen. Hakehokake Creek--as I feared--had no trout in it. We walked and waded, fishing as we progressed, perhaps about two hundred yards. The state really shouldn't ignore little streams like this. They are the classic microlight fisheries. 

Compared to a river like the one we had just abandoned, a little stream like the Hakehokake, comprising many tributaries adding up to two main stems about 15 feet wide, a stream like this is made up of mostly shallow holding water, trout often visible to cast to, or else hidden under rocks or ledges, materializing suddenly to take an egg knocking along near bottom while carried by current. The little rod is perfect. You don't need to stay in a spot for long--if a trout is there, it will most likely respond to the egg--so the pace quickens expectation. 

I waded one of these two stems for nearly a half mile back in 1978, catching 33 rainbows while fishing microlight with eggs, and the likes are some of the most exciting fishing I've known. There's an intimate quietness about it. Compared to fishing the reef off Big Pine Key in Florida, to cite a wide-open experience, it's close-quartered but challenging in its own right.

I know Hakehokake has wild browns--somewhere--but they're not for salmon eggs anyhow, even though Jorge did catch one two years ago on an egg in Peapack Brook. Water clear in Milford today, I knew some rainbows would be visible, if any there, and if only a very few existed hidden under crevices and so forth, most likely one or two of them would have sprung out for an egg, as they always have. 

We moved on, following CR 519 a long way to Lockatong Creek in Kingwood Township. In recent years, amply stocked.

Water muddied there, I told Jorge about my son and I fishing off-color water there once before, successfully. I got some fire-red eggs from my trunk. I Missed a hit almost immediately, and not too long thereafter, caught one in a shallow riffle. Then I determined where a pod of trout lay under the 519 bridge. I caught a couple and when hits stopped coming, moved downstream. That's where the unavoidable--often--missed-hit syndrome developed. When I returned to Jorge under the bridge, I had two more rainbows, having missed seven hits, having also lost one during the fight, and having suffered a break-off from another. On the whole, though, one-pound test performed excellently. We fished under the bridge a while longer, missed some hits, and caught two more trout.

Some of the best of this outing involved long travel time and talk. I'm especially happy Jorge has plans to take his three boys to Lake Hopatcong again this summer. I'm also impressed with his wish list, and brought up some recommendations of my own, including Swartswood State Park salamanders. Finding them may not be something done as an adult outing, but kids feel amazed, and just as important, you do too.

We traveled 119 miles.

Hakehokake Creek