Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snow Day

Where: Watergate Pond, Millbrook, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Warren County
When: Sunday, February 22nd, 2009, 7:30am to 12:30pm
What: Ice Fishing again with Tip-Ups with Shiners and Jigging with Jigs and Wax Worms
Weather: Low to Mid 30's, Consistently Snowing (2-3 inches while we were there), Wind was calm on the lake

The area of New Jersey that lies within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Worthington State Forest is some of the most scenic in the state. This area is home to Mount Tammany, the Appalachian Trail, the Delaware River and scores of small ponds and wild trout streams. It is also home to Black Bears and Timber Rattlesnakes.

Brian and I were up at 4am and heading west by 5. We stopped by Bait and Boat in Netcong (because they're one of the few that still religiously opens at 5) and hopped back on 80 towards Watergate Pond in the Gap. We were a little concerned about how the ice conditions would be. Lake Musconetcong was all open water by the boat launch and the dam.

The last exit in New Jersey on Route 80 will take you to Old Mine Rd., which runs north along the Delaware River and eventually brings you to the Van Campens Brook and Watergate Pond. Both parking areas were closed, but we found a spot on the side of the road that we felt reasonably confident was legal to park. The ice was a little skinnier than I am used to (3-1/2 to 4 inches), but after inspecting the ice in the "safety holes" I could see that it was solid black ice and I thus deemed it safe. We didn't get towed or fall through the ice, so it was a successful day on that front.

We got a few flags in the morning, lost one fish. I landed a pickerel and Brian landed a much bigger one. That was it for awhile. Brian jigged up another small pickerel later in the day, but the panfish were nowhere to be found. I would like to blame the lady at Bait and Boat for our lack of success with the panfish because she had no Mousies to sell us, but it probably didn't have much to do with her. We used waxworms instead, but I'm sure if the fish were biting that they would have worked just fine.

It snowed all day and there was no one else on the pond. Every once in awhile a snow plow would pass on the road above us, but other than that it was silent. I was happy to trade in the panfish for the few pickerel and enjoy the peace and quiet. The forest is beautiful covered in snow, and this was one of those rare moments where we had it all to ourselves.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Day Off

Where: The South Branch of the Raritan and Round Valley Reservoir, Hunterdon County
When: Tuesday, February 17th, 2009, 11am-5pm
What: Shiners, Garden Worms, Soft Plastics
Weather: Mid to Upper 30's. Wind 5 to 10 from the NE

It was a pleasure being outside.

Anyone who goes fishing expecting to catch fish is truly setting themself up for disappointment. It is a priveledge and a blessing to be outdoors, and catching a fish is but an added bonus. This being said, I would much rather be catching fish.
A few years back, I used to base the success and enjoyment of a day fishing on whether or not I caught fish. I would run from one spot to another, never really enjoying what was in between. As I was driving from Clinton to Califon to Lebanon yesterday, I took in some of the most beatiful wilderness that I have ever taken the time to notice. Hunterdon County is truly a beautiful place. Most of the farmland and countryside still has yet to fall victim to developers, and it makes for a wonderful, slow drive.
I didn't have the highest hopes of catching any fish. The water temps are still low and there was ice on the edges of the river. Most of the lakes in New Jersey are still covered with ice. I wanted to fish some open water, wanted to get out in the woods, so I decided to head out to a river that I knew wasn't frozen. I fished the South Branch in downtown Clinton in the late morning, the South Branch in Califon in the early afternoon, then headed to Round Valley Reservoir to fish 'til the sun went down.

Near the end of my day, as the sun was dropping below the mountain behind me and I was debating exactly how long I should wait it out and try to catch a fish, I heard a most beautiful sound. About 50 yards behind me, on a bench by the boat launch, a man was playing the flute to the likes of Ian Anderson. I haven't heard anything like it in some time. I turned around to check my lines, took in his music as the sun set and thought "Man, this has been a wonderful day."