Sunday, December 27, 2009

Iced Out


Chris sets free a small native brown trout caught by yours truly in the Hollow Brook. Apologies for the bush-league photography.

When: Sunday, December 27th
Where: From Budd Lake, along the South Branch to Spruce Run Reservoir to Tewksbury
What: Enjoying the un-seasonably warm day and catching a couple of trout.
Weather: High near 50, Sunny.

Regardless of what the calendar says, my New Year begins with my first ice fishing trip, and for as long as I have lived by this philosophy, that day has always fallen in January.

As of a few days before Christmas, I was fairly certain this year was going to be different, and that this last Sunday of December would be spent standing on a frozen Delaware Lake with the twins, Brian and Chris.  However, as the holidays passed, rain and high temperatures put our endeavor in question, and we ultimately decided ice fishing was going to have to wait.

Instead of loading the truck with gear only to be diappointed by unsafe conditions, I decided to let my sled, jigs and tip-ups rest for a couple more weeks and come up with another plan.  Fishing days have been hard to come by this month, so I wasn't going to let this beautiful weather get away.

Brian and Chris asked me to come by their folks' place in Hunterdon in the early afternoon, so I decided to slowly head out that way and do some investigating in the process.  My goal was to first find access for ice fishing for a future date on Budd Lake, and to also locate river access on the South Branch, which originates at its southwestern shore.  Budd Lake is one of the handful of New Jersey impoundments that has a healthy population of northern pike, and although I have never fished there, I am looking forward to trying it.

I succeeded in finding parking and access right on Route 46. I marked the spot along with a couple others on my road atlas, then proceeded to take a stunningly beautiful drive along the South Branch and Route 513 through Western Morris County and eventually Hunterdon.  I did a little more scouting around Spruce Run Reservoir, and eventually made it out by the boys in Tewksbury around 11am.

It was an honor to have two long-time locals show me all the pools in the neighborhood brooks and for their determination to get me a Christmas Trout.  We hiked up and down the Cold Brook and the Hollow Brook, managed to entice a couple native browns and barely survived a couple slides down a ravine (if Lindsay's reading this, I'm kidding, but not really).  The weather was top-notch for December, and their mother rewarded our efforts with some fine food.

After a hectic holiday and a busy couple months at two jobs, it was great to have some morning solitude and to take a peaceful ride through some of the most beautiful country in the state.  In most of years that have passed, my connection with the outdoors has ended with the cold weather.  More recently, I have found that hiking, fishing, photography and taking a Sunday drive doesn't have to depend on the seasons, and that a few layers of clothes will allow anyone to be at peace when most others don't want to leave their homes.

This should, for all intent and purpose, end my adventures for Decmember, and for that matter, the year.  By my best calculations, I have caught two fish this month.  That may not seem like a whole lot compared to the other months this year, but it's undoubtedly two more fish than I normally catch in December.

Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year to everyone!!!!!

With Peace and Love,
Mark

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The First Annual Fish Of The Year Award


Shortly after Lindsay pulled this walleye from the back of Byram Cove in Lake Hopatcong, I told her (although half-jokingly at the time) that she was in the lead for "The Fish of the Year Award."  Although I wasn't quite serious when I said this, I soon found myself desperately trying to best her impressive catch, and a competition had been born.  I had a few fish that were close in quality, but in the end, I had to humbly give her the nod for the nicest fish of 2009.

That being said, I am the sole judge of this contest, and all rules and regulations are completely open to my own interpretation.  The two biggest factors that went into my DMP (decision making process) were the type of species and the size of the fish in relation to that species.  I caught several bluefish, a couple striped bass and even 1 largemouth that were bigger than this walleye in the last 365 days, however, there is nothing special about a 12-lb. blue or a 27-inch linesider.  The largemouth was a few ounces north of 5-lbs and is this year's runner-up, but when I considered all the facts, I had to give credit where credit was due.

After months of putting together the pieces of how to fish Hopatcong, a slip bobber went down in the back of Byram Cove, and after a short, but well-handled fight, Lindsay landed the first walleye that either of us had caught from the big lake.  I had pulled walleye in NY state and have since caught one in Hopatcong, but this was a nice 5-lb. fish and a landmark one at that.  Although a 5+ pound largemouth is nothing to snooze at, it is not my biggest bass and barely my biggest one of the year.  The answer was clear...............
Congratulations to Lindsay for The Fish of the Year...........2009.

One last look at the runner-up........................



Friday, December 18, 2009

Ice Fishing 201


Steve Carey of Fish Sense Lures with a beautful Merrill Creek Reservoir Smallmouth he caught in Mid-December, fishing with his creation, The Binsky.


Before last winter, I had only been ice fishing a half-dozen times. I actually thought it was some kind of bizarre punishment from Mother Nature; being forced to stand on frozen water in order to catch a fish.  It was the final insult to the harsh realization that it was winter.

Thankfully, my opinion has changed.....and now I can't wait for ice.

Last year was not only slightly successful, but I actually had a lot of fun. I took what knowledge I had picked up in the previous years and used it to catch a few fish.  This year, with the addition of some new gear, good info from the Knee Deep Club guys and forums like iceshanty.com, I think that I'm officially ready to take my game to the next level.

I have a ton of new toys that I am totally stoked to try out, but 3 of them immediately come to mind, and here there are............


The Binsky



It was my distinct pleasure to sit down with owner of Fish Sense Lures, Steve Carey, and BS about fishing for a couple hours. It took no longer than seeing his collection of Kistlers to know this guy could fish.....then he showed me some pictures.

Our paths crossed a few days later on Lake Hopatcong, and although there were a ton of boats out there, he and his buddy were the only ones catching fish.

Steve is a big believer in blade baits and an even bigger believer in his Binsky. I would have to agree. I've seen his pictures of lake trout, smallmouth, largmouth, a replication of a monster walleye, Chuck's testimony and Steve telling me how he donated a Binsky to a Hopatcong musky after a long, hard fight. The bait's vibration and vertical presentation make it perfect for the jigging that the Knee Deep Club members do in the late-fall and winter, and is probably why it is quickly catching on up there. It's perfectly suited for the ice as well, and I can't wait to try it.

You can check out the Binksy and buy a few at http://www.fishsenselures.com/

The Shimano Symetre 500
                                                


Anyone who has ever gone fishing with me knows that I'm a Shimano guy.  I own a few Penns, a few Daiwas and a couple Okumas, but for the most part, I buy Shimano.

I bought this little beauty last Spring to put on my ultra-light.  In only a half-dozen outings, it has already caught its share of trout and I couldn't be happier with its performance.  It handles 4-lb. test perfectly and I can cast tiny spinners a healthy distance even though my ultra-light is only 5 1/2-feet.

After spending far too much time on The Shanty, I've quickly learned that it is the opinion of quite a few seasoned pros that the Shimano Symetre 500 is THE top-notch ice fishing reel.  I have a small Frabill rod that it is perfectly balanced on, and can't wait to tie on a Swedish Pimple with a mousie and start hauling in panfish.

Korkers


It doesn't take a genius to figure out that ice is slippery, and since I am not the most nimble of creatures, there have been far too many times that I have planted my ass on it.  This can also be dangerous, especially when you get as excited as I do when a flag goes up.

This year I decided to spend a few less times wiping out, and was in the market for some kind of cleat.  There are a handful of options, but when making my decision, all I had to do was remember what I saw on Webguy's feet, 'cause not many people know better than him.

I bumped into him for the first time last year on the River Styx, and during our conversation noticed that he was wearing Korkers.  The Shanty confirmed my already well-founded suspicion that as far as footgear for hard-water fishing is concerned, these little devils are the poo.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Better Than Nothing


When: Sunday, December 6th, from 1pm to 3pm
Where: Pier by the Hyatt, Exchange Place, Jersey Cith
What: Fishing for stripers and tommycod with bloodworms and clams.
Weather: 40 degrees, sunny, 10mph wind from the NW.

I was pretty excited when I heard that small stripers were being caught off the Hudson piers...................until I caught one.

Chris had been out the week before on the pier in Hoboken and caught 4 small hake and 4 small stripers.  I intended to try the same locale, but after 20 minutes of being frazzled by the multitude of primo parking spots and not being able to decide which one was "just right," I decided to go back to Jersey City.

For the record, I hate Hoboken.

In any event, it seemed to be the same deal.  Chris told me he had a lot of hits from what must have been small fish, and I had the same experience.  I was getting bit every time the bait hit bottom, but the small striper that you see above was the only one to come over the rail. 

I also thought that I would be fishing incoming tide, but shortly after I arrived, I realized it was on it's way out.  All of the action came when it must have been full and it seemed as though the fish left with the water.  The faster it started moving, the quieter it got, and so I left.

I never take for granted how wonderful it is to have someplace close by to wet a line if I have a couple hours to kill.  It was cold, windy and I only caught one small fish, but I'll take being outside over sitting in front of a T.V any day.

Well........most any day.