Monday, September 28, 2009

Back On The Big Pond

When: Monday, September 28th, from 7am to noon
Where: Lake Hopatcong
What: Fishing with live herring.
Weather: Mid-50's in the morning, then up to the 70's.  Wind started off 5-10mph from the west, then shifted and picked up.

Seeing as Labor Day and the boat traffic of summmer was long gone, I decided that it was time to take another boat from Laurie at Dow's and try our luck on the big lake again.

The lake was completely different on this Monday in September than the way I had left it on a Saturday in July.  Gone were the jet skis and the power boats, and with their absence came a peace that is magnificent on a lake of this size.  There were a few boats, but for the most part, the lake was ours.

We made a beeline for Pinetree Point, at the mouth of Byram Cove, and quickly landed two fat perch.  That would be all of the action that we would see for a few hours.

After motoring to a few spots, each time dropping anchors and bait and not getting a bite, we came to rest once more on the north side of Pickerel Point, off the main lake and out of the stiffening wind.

As Lindsay decided that it was time to take a nap, I decided that it was time to catch a fish.

Easier said than done.

I made sure that every hook had a lively herring and started chucking some of the hot new lures that have come my way.  Nothing.

As Lindsay awoke from her slumber, the wind shifted and seemed to bring the lake to life a bit.  A few of the slips went down and we could see a fish chasing bait on the surface.  After a couple failed attempts to hook up, I landed a decent pickerel.  By this point, however, we were out of bait and out of time. 

Chores and a now hefty wind beckoned us off the lake, and off the lake we went. 

When I think of fishing, I don't think of the summer.  My desire to be outside, and in particular, to be fishing, was further strengthened by seeing how perfect this lake is in the fall.  Beach chairs and water skis have been packed away, the kids are back in school and their parents are back to work.  The crowds of boats that kept me off Hopatcong for two months are long gone and it is now wide open for the taking.

I sincerely hope that I have another opportunity to get out there before the lake is lowered and Laurie packs up the boats, if not, it will be my first stop for ice fishing.


When: Saturday, September 26th, from 8am to 11:30am
Where: Palisades Interstate Park
What: Hiking with Lindsay and my sister
Weather: Cool but comfortable.

The day finally arrived when we were able to stop talking about hiking the Palisades and actually do it.  Once again, the three of us found ourselves up bright and early with another NYNJ Trail Conference "Hike of the Week" tucked in my back pocket.

We have made a habit of paying no mind to the difficulty of these hikes, as we have found them to be greatly overexaggerated.  On this particular hike, however, the mention of "rock scrambling" actually meant "rock scrambling."

A shiny nickel goes to anyone who can find me in this picture.

The first portion of this hike descends down long
switchbacks until the trail comes to rest along the shore of the mighty Hudson River, providing a spectacular panoramic view.

The next part of this hike is the tricky part, which includes, but is not limited to the Giant Stairs and two talus slopes, one of which you see pictured.

After this one mile stretch where you indeed need to be paying attention to where you put your feet, the rest of the hike was relatively easy.

As we reached the Peanut Leap Cascade it became apparent that it was not cascading due to a lack of heavy rain.  We did, however, take the time to explore the ruins of the Italian Gardens, which were built by someone who I have never heard of at a time that I don't remember.  The ruins included two rope swings which I believe were built more recently.  Janel and Lindsay took a swing while I took some pictures.

After this, it was all uphill back to the State Line Lookout where we had parked the car.

Another great hike had by all.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Musky Fever

When: Sunday, September 20th, from 7am to 10am
Where: Monksville (aka Skunksville) Reservoir
What: Taking my first shot at musky fishing.
Weather: Mid-50's in the morning, warmed up nice with blue bird skies. No wind.

Although Ryan and I didn't even get a bite today, I had a wonderful time and came to two important realizations. The first thing is that at some point I'm going to need a boat, and the second that is that I am now on a mission to catch a musky.

This was exactly my first time fishing with equipment and lures with the sole purpose of catching a musky. I immediately uncovered a powerful mystique that the water seems to possess based solely on the knowledge that they are swimming in it. There was also an indescribable anticipation of knowing that at any moment, there existed the possibility that I could be hooked-up with and battling the mighty muskellunge.

I'm so hooked.

I have missed a few of these fish in my life, all while targeting other species, but I think that I have come to the point where I have caught enough largemouth bass and it is time to shift gears to larger game.

It was, of course, necessary to buy some new gear for this endeavor, and I must say that I took almost as much pleasure out of the performance of my shiny new Calcutta 400B as I did with the sheer magnificence of my surroundings. I undoubtedly think the reel is up to the task and I look forward to the day when I can test every pound of its drag against the brute strength of the true king of freshwater fish.....................the musky.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just One Of Those Days

When: Saturday, September 19th, from 9am to 12pm
Where: The Hoffman Ponds, near Clinton, Hunterdon County
What: Bass Fishin'
Weather: High in the mid-60's, sunny, a little breeze, nice.

After the couple of times that we have gone, I have immediately taken a liking to fishing with Pat. We have a calm, relaxing time, we both appreciate the beauty of our surroundings, we have a lot of fun and laugh and each time I catch a giant bass.

Awhile back I asked someone who I have quickly grown to admire if he knew of any bass filled farm ponds in Hunterdon County, since it is his home turf. Although I didn't make it out there that time, he referred me to the Hoffman Ponds.

The day came that Pat and I were in the market for some shoreline, and I remembered what my new friend had told me. We wet the first line a little after 9am, and on the 3rd cast, in the shadow of a tree growing on what was instantly named "Bass Island," I set the hook on the hog largemouth bass that you see pictured above.

Moments later Pat landed the beautiful rainbow trout that you see pictured as well.

It would have been a perfect day if we had gone home at that point, but being our first time there, we wanted to uncover some of the other watering holes that are scattered about the park. This endeavor turned out to involve a lot more walking than fishing, seeing as we didn't know exactly where to find them. Any and all difficulty that we had could have been easily avoided if we had noticed the trough full of maps on our way in.

Oh well, I needed the exercise.

Probably an hour later, we found ourselves on the shore of the same pond where we started. We fished a little longer, and each added another bass to our tally, but it really didn't matter, our day had already been made.

This was a great day of fishing in a beautiful place with a great friend. The fact that we caught a few fish made it better. The fact that two of them were memorable made it great and the fact that we got a couple pictures and let them live made it perfect.

Thanks for the memory, Chris.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My First Publication

From the Product Profiles column in the September 2009 Issue of The New Jersey Angler Magazine.

A very special thank you to Gabriel Hnat, and everyone else at the magazine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting The Scarlet Skunk Off

When: Sunday, September 13th, from 3pm to 6pm
Where: Scarlet Oak Pond, on the Ramapo Reservation near Mahwah, Bergen County
What: Bass fishing and more importantly, relaxing.
Weather: High probably around 80, light to no wind, party cloudy to blue-bird skies.

I woke up on Saturday morning to the equivalent of what I deem a nightmare. Our month-long process of purging our storage facility had taken its toll on our apartment and left it in complete disarray. We had two more days to finish moving out of it, our place was already completely cluttered with objects waiting to be given a home, and to boot, this was the day that I had chosen to do my writing for the October issue of The New Jersey Angler.

In a moment of complete hopelessness and desperation, I asked Lindsay to phone Liz and regretfully inform her that we were not going to be able to join her for the opening game of the Giants' football season the following day. The forecast for our weekend was bleak.

As I sat down to write, Lindsay set out to get things done. By the end of the day, although far from having completed everything that we needed to do, things were undoubtedly looking up.

By the time the sun came up on Sunday, we were already busy as bees. This day, however, we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, and even suspected that we could steal away for a couple of hours to relax after going non-stop for the majority of the weekend.

At 3pm on Sunday, Lindsay found herself in a chair reading a book on the shore of Scarlet Oak Pond, and I was deciding which lure to tie on for a little fishing before we headed back home to finish our work.

I tried a few things without any luck, but spent the majority of the time fishing a Texas-rigged plastic worm for a very specific reason. Pulling a worm through all kinds of weeds and snags and working it off the bottom requires complete and total concentration. After having my mind racing for almost the entire weekend, the peacefulness of paying attention to nothing but the bait on the end of my line was priceless. I probably fished it for about an hour before I "woke-up." It was actually one the nicest times that I have had fishing that did not involve catching a fish.

Scarlet Oak Pond is a favorite of mine. I am a shore fisherman at heart for no better reason than that I am the most uncoordinated person that I know, and only feel right when my two feet are planted firmly on solid ground. There is not an abundance of freshwater lakes in New Jersey that have ample shore fishing, but this is one of them. The downside is that this park gets crowded, and the lake gets a lot of pressure. It's kind of a shame seeing bobbers stuck in the weeds with no one around to tend to them. The fish feel the pressure, and although I have caught some beautiful bass here, they can be few and far between.

Even with its reputation for being a stingy little puddle, I could not recall a day that I had been "skunked" on it. I was sure that this was going to be my day as I tried bait after bait after bait, but I finally hooked and landed a small bass on none other than my tried and true Yum Forktail Dinger.

The fish was pathetically small and I even went as far as telling Lindsay that it "didn't count," but whatever way you look at it, it was what, my friend, we call "getting the skunk off."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Last Chance

When: Sunday, September 6th, from 9pm to 9:30pm
Where: The Marmet Locks, on the Kanawha River, Marmet, West Virginia
What: Catfishing with nightcrawlers, chicken livers and PetSmart goldfish.
Weather: Wet, like really wet.

After moving from the campsite to the resort on Thursday, we were well rested (and showered) by Friday morning and ready for our trip down to Charleston (Charleston, WV that is).

Aunt Carol and Uncle Wayne went above and beyond making us feel welcome and had planned a wonderful weekend for us. We were on the road by 6am on Saturday morning and super-psyched for the opening game of the 2009 Mountaineer football season. Seeing Shirley, Bob, Shelley and Pam again, as well as a few new faces, added to the excitement of our first WV football game. We also had the pleasure of meeting Eerman.

Sunday evening found us heckling the Greensboro Grasshoppers with the bleacher bums at Power Field before we made our way out to the big river for one last shot at a big catfish.

This time it was Mother Nature who would shut me out.

Nothing beats the help of a local when it comes to fishing foreign territory, and that is why I was so sure, with the company of Lindsay's cousin Jeremy, this was going to be my night.

The stars were aligned, but then the clouds came...............and the rain. I consider myself a die-hard fisherman, but getting dumped on for more than 20 minutes is just not fun. We decided to leave.

So, I would leave West Virginia the next morning without catching a flathead catfish and with an image in my head of a musky's tail before it disappeared on me. I would also come home with some wonderful pictures and some wonderful memories.

It would be easy for me to get upset about a broken fishing rod and a missed musky, but that wouldn't be right given all of the wonderful times that I had.

These days, life is not about dwelling on the bad things that happen, but about counting and truly cherishing my blessings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Redemption? Not Really

When: Wednesday, September 2nd
Where: Stonewall Jackson Lake, Roanoke, West Virginia
What: Fishing and boating.
Weather: Sunny and warm during the day, cool and calm at night.

This day began with a series of unfortunate events, but a few fish later in the day made the pain a little more bearable.

Coming in at number two on the daily list of mishaps was my 7ft. Rogue suddenly going from a one-piece to a two-piece. I put a small mark in it about a year earlier after resting it under a boat cleat on a dock at Round Valley Reservoir. Apparently, the wound was worse than I thought, and after 13 months of use, it died.

The uncontested number one mishap of the day was hooking, and promptly losing what would have yet again been my first musky. This lake is absolutely famous for its population of muskellunge, but I didn't really think that applied to little 'ol me fishing a cove from our campsite.

It did.

It was about 9am, and I was tossing a Booyah Boogie Bait in every direction from the small stretch of land that extended into the water from our site. I felt a ton of weight that started to pull, and when I looked in the water saw the tail of what was probably a 30 to 35 inch muskellunge. I made an error in judgment that gave him some slack line and he quickly disappeared.

To make myself feel better, I am going with the story that the fight on my medium action rod and 8lb. test would have weakened him beyond the point of resuscitation. So, you see, the fact that I lost this fish was due to its fate to survive and not my bush-league fish fighting.

After that, we took a pontoon boat out, where I was once again disappointed that the people at the marina were not going to let me hook one of the 35lb. carp that were eating dog food in front of the dock.

We took a nice long boat ride around this postcard of a lake and ended up trolling a huge Cotton Cordell in the hopes of once again hooking a monster.

Not a chance.

However, the campsite once again produced, and within minutes of returning I had caught two nice bass.

A small channel catfish took a liver during a brutal game of Scrabble.

Bycatch Is Better Than No-Catch

When: Tuesday, September 1st, from 7pm to 11pm
Where: The Little Kanawha River, below the Burnsville Dam, near Burnsville, West Virginia
What: Catfishing with livers, crawlers and bluegills.
Weather: Calm and cool.

I was sure that this was going to be my night for a flathead.

It wasn't.

After spending the day hanging with the ghosts at the West Virginia State Lunatic Aslyum in Weston, we set up to catch my catfish in the same river that has seen the state record mud cat pulled from its depths.

We put in some time, but all the strikes found the rocks instead of the fish. Going weightless didn't work either.

It was mighty pretty here though.

The moon was starting to beef up at this point in the week, and the reflection over the shallow falls made for some spectacular views.

Aside from the surroundings, there was one other thing that made this night a memorable one. It is not every day, or every year for that matter that I catch a species of fish that I have never caught before. Unless someone tells me otherwise after looking at the picture above, to my best knowledge, the fish that I caught was a small sauger, which would be my first. I don't know very much about sauger except that they are a close relative of the walleye and like to reside in the tailwaters of dams, where I caught it.

Lindsay was much more successful in her endeavors this particular evening, trapping more than a dozen crawfish which we held onto in case we needed them for bait.

Mudbugs anyone?

Monongahela National Forest

When: Monday, August 31st
Where: Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods, in Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
What: Sightseeing, exploring and a bit of trout fishing.
Weather: Sunny, high near 70 (and, as advertised, 10 degrees colder in Dolly Sods).

It probably took us two and a half hours to drive out to Blackwater Falls, but it was worth every minute of it.

We drove past Spruce Knob, through Canaan Valley and eventually through the throwback town of Davis on our way. Every second of this drive was beautiful, and fully encompassed what I consider to be the most picturesque country that one can find in the northeastern United States. Whether it be rolling hills, towering mountains, expansive valleys, lush pines, clear streams or rocky riverbeds, this area in eastern West Virginia has a bit of it all.

After soaking in the falls for a few, we took a different and much more treacherous way back to Roanoke so we could make our way into Dolly Sods. The information at the base of the Sods promised us a drop in temperature, difficult terrain and unpredictable weather. The ability to read a topographic map was strongly suggested. Nice. We planned on hiking a small loop which resided atop a steep, rocky hill, but stopped short after we realized just how long it was going to take us to drive up there. We did manage to walk a bit on a trail that was a shorter distance up and Lindsay managed a few pics of some of the diverse vegetation that the region is famous for.

While heading out of the National Forest, we crossed over a stream that I was convinced would provide me with a trout, so we stopped and fished for a bit. I took a Loomis from the truck, exchanged a spool for 4lb. fluorocarbon and put on a small spinner.

As soon as we approached the stream, the native brook trout could be seen scurrying away. It didn't take long before I hooked and landed a nice sized brookie, but it flipped out of my hand before Lindsay could snap a pic.

We spent a little more time on the stream, enjoying the scenery while Lindsay made her first attempt at catching a trout.

We didn't catch any more trout, but the one that I did catch was well worth the little time that we put in.

All good things must come to and end though, and we hopped back in the truck for the long, beautiful ride home.

Our home at Stonewall, that is.

Opening Day At Stonewall

When: Sunday, August 30th, 2pm to 10pm
Where: Our Campsite at Stonewall Jackson Resort in Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, Roanoke, West Virginia
What: Digging in for 4 nights of camping and Eine Kleine Nachtfishin'
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Calm, Low into the 50's at night.

Let me just start off by saying that I have been on my share of campsites and this was absolutely THE COOLEST.

At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I need to mention that this park, marina and resort are stunningly beautiful, meticulously maintained and made for a wonderful time.

There are only a handful of tent sites in the park, but they could not have been any better thought out or more perfectly placed. We had an elevated wooden deck for our tent and plenty of lakefront real estate that enabled me to have a line or two in the water virtually every second that we were on our site.

We landed on the site just after 2pm, and after getting set up left to get a few things for the next several days.

I attempted to do some catfishing starting at dusk and going into the evening. I had a few lines in the water with minnows, nightcrawlers and chicken livers being fished off the bottom. I was cooking dinner while the lines were soaking, and although this night would not produce any of the lake's channel catfish, I landed a nice bass that hit one of the minnows after Lindsay alerted me to a doubled-over rod.

We relaxed down by the water and rods for awhile that night, enjoying the silence and the serenity before ending our night staring into the fire.

I could not have been more pleased with our surroundings. I scoped out a few places to fish before we realized what kind of site we had. I never tried any of them out. It was so nice having all of my rods and my gear 10 ft. from our picnic table, 20 ft. from our fire and 30 ft. from our tent.

As far as fishing on Stonewall Jackson Lake was concerned, there was no place like home.


When: Sunday, August 30th, from 11am to noon
Where: Deegan and Hinkle Lakes, Bridgeport, West Virginia
What: An hour of catfishing with egg sinkers and nightcrawlers.
Weather: Mostly sunny and warm with a beautiful breeze.

We stayed by Shirley and Bob on Saturday night after our long drive down to West Virginia. They are huge Mountaineer fans, wonderful cooks and wonderful hosts.

Thanks Guys!!!!

On Sunday morning, the ladies wanted to do some clothes shopping at Gabe's, and after racking my brain about how I was going to kill an hour or so, I decided that the best thing to do would be to go fishing.

Lindsay and I procured our temporary, non-resident fishing licenses (and some crawlers) from Wal-Mart and then parted ways.

Deegan and Hinkle Lakes were right down the hill, so it was easy for me to steal away for an hour while I waited for Lindsay so we could head down to Stonewall Jackson Lake.

I got a couple bites, no fish, but thoroughly enjoyed the peacefulness, the beautiful weather and mingling with the local children. They had a knack for catching turtles, and were eager to have me photograph them before they let them go.

I really had no intentions of getting any fishing done that morning. It was a nice little surprise and gave me some time to myself to start soaking in West Virginia and to look forward to the coming days on Stonewall Jackson Lake.