Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend Getaway

When: Friday, May 29th, from 5:30am to 10:30am
Where: Scarlet Oak Pond, Ramapo Valley Reservation near Mahwah, Bergen County
What: Bass Fishin'
Weather: High only in the upper 50's, rained all morning, then just cloudy

Liz and Jon were getting married this weekend, and since Lindsay was one of the two Maids of Honor, I knew that that it would be busy.

I figured that if I got out early enough Friday morning, I could get a handful of hours of fishing in, come home and sleep and then start the weekend-long festivities. The plan worked out well.

I needed someone as insane as me to wake up at 3:30, to be on the road by 4:30 and fishing by 5:30.

I immediately thought of Brian.

Brian and I found ourselves in just shy of a downpour on the shores of the small, beautiful and bass-filled Scarlet Oak Pond while the sun was still on it's way up. On my second cast, I hooked and landed a nice little Largemouth and immediately knew it was going to be non-stop action.

The only thing that was non-stop was the rain.

Brian managed two bass over the next few hours, and I had one snap my line after pulling it off of a bed.

That would be all the action that we would see for awhile.

We ended our day right where we started, and I managed to catch the nice fish seen above before we made our way back home to get some sleep.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The "Fish/Hike"

When: Sunday, May 24th, from 7:30am to 4:30pm
Where: Along the D&R Canal and Millstone River, near Kingston, Mercer County
What: "Fish/Hiking"
Weather: The "nicest day of Memorial Day weekend"

Lindsay and I have either stumbled upon or invented an outdoor activity which intertwines a few of our favoritve hobbies.

We call it "fish/hiking."

Fish/hiking involves finding a hiking trail which either runs along a river or has a small pond or lake somewhere along the way. Short distances are hiked at great lenths of time due to excessive fishing, photography and snacking. A digital camera and at least one fishing rod which can fit in a backpack are essentials for this type of activity.

D&R Canal State Park is a perfect setting for fish/hiking. The towpath runs along the entire length of the canal, providing scores of opportunities to immortalize the resident wildlife in photograph or to drown a worm. The stretch we chose, new to both of us, originated in Kingston and parallels the Millstone River for part of the hike as well.

Lindsay took some incredible pictures, and on 3 occasions we took long breaks to try and entice one of the monster catfish that swim in the depths of the Millstone River. We failed at that, but did manage a small bullhead and few sunfish.

All in all it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect and we came home with a ton of pictures.

We intended to hike 10 miles, but only managed 5 or 6.

That took us 9 hours, but such is the nature of fish/hiking.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Local Knowledge

When: Saturday, May 23rd, from 7:30-8:30pm
Where: The Pier next to the Hyatt, Jersey City
What: Fishing for Striped Bass
Weather: 70's, a little breeze
Lindsay and I had a little time to kill before the sun went down, so we drove up to Moe's in the Heights, grabbed a couple of frozen bunker, and soon found ourselves at the end of the pier which the Hyatt calls home.

There was a crew of regulars on the pier, and at least 3 of them had ropes hanging in the water tied to large Stripers that they had caught in the preceding hours. One was over 30-inches, two were over 40...nice fish.

We had no intentions of staying very long, but moments after I gave my leftover bait to the locals as a peace offering, I got bit by what I expect was a Striped Bass. However, the fish was gone by the time I picked up my pole.

I'm still fairly new at city-living, therefore, I am still fairly new at city-fishing. Luckily, I can put my pride away when necessary and ask the locals how they fish.

I was curious to know why my fish had disappeared so fast, so on our way out, I used the best fishing technique I have ever learned........I asked someone how they were catching fish.

Apparently, when fishing off a pier for Stripers, the fish need to be able to run with the bait or else they will drop it as quick as they pick it up. My bail was closed and my drag was tight, so once the fish felt that he wasn't getting away with the meal, he let let it go.

Oh well, I live to learn.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Boat Ride From Hell

When: Sunday, May 17th, from 6:30 am to 10am
Where: From Liberty State Park to Roamer Shoals (Raritan Bay) and back
What: A valiant attempt at Striped Bass fishing turned wet and scary boat ride
Weather: Very windy and not very warm (unfishable)

Once again, I was pretty psyched to catch some Stripers when I met Pat and Rob at the boat launch at Liberty State Park.

We knew that the weather was questionable, but felt confident that it would hold up as we motored underneath the Verranzano and out to Roamer Shoals.

We were wrong.

The wind progressively got stronger. When we finally made it out to the Shoals, we took one look at the much larger boats being tossed around by the rough bay and knew that we needed to head back home. We never baited a hook.

That little task however, was easier said than done. We rode down with a 10mph NW wind to our back, and were now heading straight back into it, at 20+ mph now. It was slow going, and a trip that should normally take 40 mins. took closer to 2 hours, the entire time being tossed around and drenched.

This was probably the most nerve-racking experience that I've ever had on the water. After getting back to Liberty State Park, savoring the hard dock under my feet and putting a warm dry fleece on, my biggest concern was having to wait three weeks to try it again.

The Black River

When: Saturday, May 16th from 11am until 2pm
Where: The Black River Wildlife Management Area, near Chester, Morris County
What: Hiking and taking pictures with Lindsay and Janel
Weather: High around 70, not much wind

Lindsay grew up in Morris County.

As we drew closer to where we were going to be hiking, I could tell that her enthusiasm waned upon realizing that we were going to be hiking not far from where she spent her youth.

But all that changed.

I have been hiking in more than a few places in New Jersey, and this was probably the most surprising in regard to the type of terrain and diversity of the wildlife.

We left the car in a parking lot next to a historic mill on Country Road 513 (Tee-hee). The trail we followed (once again) was from a "Hike of the Week" taken from the NY/NJ Trail Conference website. We quickly found ourselves hiking along the Black River and some smaller tributaries, which led us to an old railroad bed, Kay's pond, and eventually a beautiful gorge.

Along the way we encountered toads, garter snakes, millipedes and a massive snapping turtle. A hike would not be complete for us with at least a few handfuls of pictures, so we took the opportunites that mother nature presented us with.

The above picture, taken by my beautiful girlfriend Lindsay, won the award for the Picture of the Day. It is an early favorite for Picture of the Year.

Look for it on a calendar near you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Waders

When: Saturday, May 2nd, from Noon until 8pm
Where: The South Branch of the Raritan River, near Flemington and near High Bridge
What: Fishing for Trout and Smallmouth Bass with an Ultra-Light and Small Spinners
Weather: High in the 60's. Not much wind on the river, partly cloudy

For the longest time I was convinced that I just didn't have any luck when it came to Trout Fishing. The first half-dozen times I went I did not catch a fish, and was pretty close to giving up. Then, I started picking up bits of useful information here and there, like Trout being line-shy and not readily biting anything on higher than 4-lb. test, and I slowly started to catch some fish.

As a result of my recent success catching Trout, I am starting to fish for them more often, and this past Friday went out and bought waders.

When fishing for Trout and Smallmouth Bass on the South Branch of the Raritan River, it always pays to have someone like Brian, who grew up in Tewksbury, and knows a few places to catch fish. We left Jersey City late by our standards, 10:30am, but fished until the sun went down.

Brian was fly-fishing and I fished with an Ultra-Light rod using various small spinners and trout worms. We were both equally successful, landing 5 trout apiece, a bunch of Mini-Smallmouths and some Sunnies.

This was only my second time wearing waders and my first time wearing ones that fit. It was a wonderful experience. One of my favorite things about fishing has always been the seclusion. Being in the wilderness gives me a sense of peace and tranquility that I cannot find doing many other things, and standing in the middle of the stream, that much further away from the hustle of everyday life, made it that much more enjoyable.