Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Return To Black Lake......Part IV, "St. Lawrence River Sunday"

A beautiful 35-inch northern pike caught and released on the St. Lawrence River.
When:Sunday, September 19th, from 8am to 3pm
Where:The St. Lawrence River, near Alexandria Bay, border of the United States and Canada
What:Fishing under the expert guidance of Captain Dave Gascon
Weather:Sunny and warm. High into the 70's with a light NW wind.
Moon:Waxing, 4 days before full.

Being that Chris and I were new to Black Lake, I figured we could probably use some local help to show us a few spots and techniques. A quick internet search brought me to Fun2Fish Charters and Captain Dave Gascon.

Although I booked this guide well in advance, a few weeks later I discovered that a tournament that same day was going to have Black Lake a bit crowded.

One door closes and another opens.

Luckily Captain Dave has a roomy boat docked in Alexandria Bay and also takes eager anglers out to fish for a variety of species on the St. Lawrence River. Seeing that his marina is only a short drive from the Log Cabins on Black Lake, this seemed to make a whole lot of sense.

More sense than I could have ever known.

First off, anyone visiting this area for the purpose of catching some fish should undoubtedly book a trip with Captain Dave Gascon. His great company and personality are second only to his vast knowledge of Black Lake and the St. Lawrence River. Although he took us out on the latter, he was more than happy to mark up our map of the former with some hot spots and undoubtedly contributed to our success the rest of the week.

You can find all the info you need at

Our day started off slow, however, seeing the crystal clear water (thanks to the invasive zebra mussels), spectacular castle-like dwellings and crowded Canadian tour boats made it a fascinating experience. We even saw an osprey land in a tree, clutching a freshly caught fish in its talons.

Then, about 2 or 3 hours into our trip, and seeing that the pike weren't taking our shiners, Captain Dave suggested throwing a firetiger spoon that he had tied to one of the many rods he set out for us.

Fate was with me.

I took the rod, started casting the spoon along the weed-edge in 25-feet of water and soon thereafter hooked and landed the amazing fish you see above. After a handful of pictures, I carefully released this pretty lady back into the river to make more northern pike for future generations.

Needless to say, I was pretty happy stoked for the rest of the day.

Seeing as the pike fishing was a bit slow, Captain Dave took us to some deeper shoals for smallmouth. The endeavor produced several perch and a handful of the invasive goby.

Goby pictured above.
Chris with his St. Lawrence River northern pike.
Near the end of the day, we switched back to pike fishing, during which time Chris came through with a just-a-tiny-bit-shy of a 30-inch pike in addition to a beautiful smallmouth.

Chris and his smallmouth.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Time To Kill

Darren Brooks, brother of The NJ Angler's Brian Brooks, with a flathead catfish caught
in the Delaware River. The 18-pound fish hit an Ima Big Stik.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Adventures In Catfishing

When:Saturday, August 14th, from 5pm to 12am
Where:Clinton, then the Delaware and D&R Canal
What:Catching bait and catfishing
Weather:A little cooler, hight in the Upper 70's, minimal wind.
Moon:Waxing, 1/4 full.

It's trips like these that help remind me exactly who is in charge.

We're in the "dog days" of summer. For a freshwater fisherman like myself, that means the water temps are as high as they're going to get all year and that fish are sluggish and don't feel much like biting.

Except for catfish.

No water is too warm for the channel catfish, which thrives in regions further to the South. Since this is what Chris and I were after on this beautiful Saturday evening, we stopped in Clinton to catch some "big cat" bait..........bluegill sunfish.

We left Jersey City just before 4pm and made it Clinton at 5pm. It only took 45 minutes to put a handful of "bite-sized" bluegill in the bucket. We also released a bunch smallmouth, largemouth and yellow perch; another testament to the health of the South Branch of the Raritan River.

Upon setting up shop in Byram, we quickly realized that the current was too swift and there were too many snags. It was not a good prospect for fishing, so we decided to cut bait and make our way down to Bull's Island and fish the D&R Canal.

That's when we met Patrick.

.........or more to the point, "found" Patrick.

While heading south on Rte. 29, we passed a deflated tube on the side of the road. Since this was a common thoroughfare for rafting and tubing trips, it wasn't really a strange site. However, as I looked back, this tube appeared to have a person in it.

We went back to investigate.

Upon approaching the tube, we found 23 year-old Patrick, who had been lying there on the side of the road holding his dog, apparently quite comfortable and quite intoxicated.

From the best that we could piece together from Patrick's story, he had been on a home-spun tubing trip with his friends, his dog and a cooler full of booze. He had then gotten into a fight with his girlfriend, somehow got split up from the pack (who may or may not have still be on the river) and found his way up to the road. I'm not quite sure what his next course of action was, and upon inquiring, he didn't really have one.

As it was getting dark, it was pretty apparent that we couldn't leave Patrick and his dog on the side of the road to be hit or arrested. So, we did the noble thing and put him in the back with the fishing rods to try and find his friends. Patrick did his best to tell us who was parked where and in what car, but it really wasn't panning out.

After two fruitless hours in which Patrick told us a phenomenally intoxicated version of his life-story, we were ready to find a resolution. Patrick did not know his girlfriend's phone number, but he did know his Dad's.

Dad was not happy.

Dad did, however, meet us in Lambertville at the Lambertville Station to take Patrick off of our hands. He thanked us for our efforts.

At this point it was 10pm and needless to say, the fishing wind had been taken out of our sails a bit. We did spend a couple hours fishing the canal during which Chris caught an eel and I got the skunk.

Not the best fishing, but who cares? I already had a great story to tell.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Day At The Beach

Pre-sunset on the beach in Long Branch.
When:Sunday, July 18th, from 11am to 4pm
Where:Long Branch
What:Hanging on the beach with Linds, Mindy and Momma and doing a bit of surfcasting
Weather:Hot, a few clouds and a slight breeze.
Moon:Waxing, half-moon.
Tide:Afternoon high-tide of 1:39pm.

After a Saturday night pinic on the beach with Lindsay, Mindy and Momma, I came back to my cell phone to discover that the Sunday tuna trip had been cancelled due to forecasted high-seas.

I was NOT disappointed.

The fact is, I've done a splendid job of keeping myself way too busy recently, and a day at the beach was going to be much more helpful to my mental well-being than a 4am, 50-mile jaunt off the Jersey Coast. This would have been my first trip offshore for tuna and I was pretty stoked, however, it's going to have to wait.

That being said, it was a truly delightful day. Aside from sleeping, this was probably the most time I've spent sitting still in quite some time. I needed it, really.

We got out there early and staked our claim on the beach. Since we were 100 or so yards away from the lifeguards, fishing was permitted near our plot and I brought my plugging rod down after lunch. I probably only fished an hour or so in which time I tested out a half-dozen new lures. I didn't even get a bite, but that didn't really matter. Standing knee-deep in the suds and giving all my attention to the sea further added to the meditative qualities of this peaceful day.

Next up:Back to Momma's place at the beach on Friday. I'll be breaking out the heavy-artillery for the full moon in hopes of landing my first brown shark as the clock strikes midnight on Saturday.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Catfish And Turtles

One of four channel catfish caught and released during a quick 2 hours at a local pond.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Waywayanda State Park

A swamp within the boundaries of Waywayanda State Park.
When:Saturday, July 3rd, from 8am to 11am
Where:Waywayanda State Park, Sussex County
What:Hiking with Janel, Lindsay and Chris Martalus
Weather:Not too hot in the morning. Clear skies. Afternoon was brutal, holiday heat wave in New Jersey.

Three day weekends are always nice, however, I'm a little apprehensive about straying too far from home on holidays. As I've said so many time before, I hold peace and quiet in the highest regard, and 4th of July is one time that it's hard to come by in New Jersey.

While everyone is flocking to their favorite lake or beach, you'll most likely find me in my air-conditioning watching the Yankee game.

That being said, short morning outings are a way to get outside, get some exercise and dodge the heat that keeps me somewhat grounded in July and August. Chris Martalus and I already had a wicked-early morning catfish trip planned to a local lake on the 5th and he accepted an invitation to hike with Janel, Lindsay and I on the 3rd.

The alarm went off at 5am, Lindsay and I were in the car at 5:45, Chris at 6 and Janel at 6:30. After coffee and gas, we were headed north at 7. The drive would have taken just shy of an hour, but an early morning redirection from the West Milford Fire Department yielded a sceninc drive around Upper Greenwood Lake. No worse for the wear, we pulled into an off-the-beaten-path parking area just after 8am.
A downed tree amongst thick foilage.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rules Made To Be Broken

Swimming may or may not be prohibited at this secluded location on Ramapo Lake.

When:Sunday, May 27th, from 3pm to 6:30pm
Where:Ramapo State Forest, near Oakland in Bergen County
What:A hike followed by a swim
Weather:Hot, humid and partly cloudy

While Lindsay was in Manhattan doing whatever it is women do in Manhattan, I was suddenly struck with an urge to take a swim. I knew she would soon be on her way back to Chilltown and is usually game for whatever ideas I conjure up, so I was pretty confident I could make it happen.

Now, to the average person, finding a quiet location to take a swim on a Sunday afternoon in New Jersey would be no easy task, but I happened to know just the place.

I've probably taken that walk up to Ramapo Lake 200 times. I caught my first pickerel there, been lost in the woods up there, almost sunk in an inflatable raft in 35-degree water up there and have plenty of fond memories of hanging out with old friends up there. It's one place where I don't need a map and know plenty of places that no one could ever find.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wrath Of The Blue Bird Sky

When:Saturday, June 19th, from 9am to 12pm
Where:The Hoffman Ponds, Hunterdon County
What:Bass fishing
Weather:Hot and sunny, blue bird sky with little to no wind
Moon:Waxing, one day past half

In regards to bass fishing, the weather conditions you see above may be the absolute worst, especially at the end of June.

Quick lesson: Largemouth bass become lethargic when water temperatures get too high. Small bodies of water like the Hoffman Ponds warm up quickly. Also, much like Mogwai and vampires, largemouth bass do not like bright light. When anglers refer to blue bird skies, they're talking about a complete absence of cloud cover. In these conditions, bass head deep and are not willing to move very far. Wind can displace surface water and reduce the amount of light that penetrates into the lake, but this day there was none.

So then, one may ask, "how do you catch bass in the summer months?"

Without going into a full-on tutorial, I'm going to offer the simple idea of making the best of low-light conditions. The first few and last few hours of daylight are most often the most productive this time of year. On cloudy days, bass may do more wandering and are thus easier to catch. The shade of boat docks, lily pads and overhanging trees make prime summer bass habitat. If docks, trees, lily pads or clouds are unavailable, fishing slow presentations near deep structure or in weedbeds may be your best best.

Now, despite less than perfect conditions, I really wanted to fish the Hoffman Ponds again and didn't feel much like waking up at 3am. That was fine, since the gate to Hoffman Park doesn't open until 9am. By the time I got there, it was already hot and sunny and my chances of catching fish seemed slim.

I did, however, manage 6 small bass before it got TOO hot and TOO sunny. I guess there was a time in my life when catching 6 bass would have been an incredible success, but not anymore.

Anyhoo, after about 3 hours, I resigned myself to the fact that it just wasn't a great fishing day. Furthermore, I knew my apartment would be well air-conditioned, that I had iced-tea in the fridge and that the Yankees were playing the Mets.

I headed home.

I had gotten to sleep in on a Saturday, caught six bass in 3 hours of fishing and was on my way to my couch to watch some baseball.

I call that a success.

UPDATE: The Yankees won.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hike And No Carp

A Northern Water Snake getting some sun on the bank of a Morris County swamp.

When:Saturday, June 12th
Where:Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Morris County and a mulberry tree on the Hackensack River
What:Hiking with Janel and Lindsay followed by an hour or so of carp fishing
Weather:Cloudy, warm and humid
Moon and Tide:Day after the New Moon, outgoing tide, 3 hours before low

Once again, another great hike with Janel and Lindsay. Once again, foiled by the elusive Hackensack River carp.

When I was probably no more than 10 years-old, a friend showed me how to catch carp under a mulberry tree when the berries were ripe. More importantly, he showed me where.

In season, mulberry trees hanging over rivers and ponds will drop their precious fruit into the water below. It's quite common for scores of sometimes monstrous carp to hang below these trees all day waiting for these sweet, yummy snacks. Now, when an intuitive fisherman such as myself comes along with stout gear, a camera and a small yet super-strong hook loaded with a mulberry, the hope is to drop the berry to a waiting carp and at some point walk away with a Kodak moment.

You'll notice the absence of said picture.

I was at this same tree two weeks ago, however, the berries were not ripe. This time, the berries were ready but the carp were not. Lido, Martalus and I tried this last week under another tree on another river, but those carp proved to be a bit skittish (carp are like that). Maybe the herd of Canadian Geese were scaring the fish away yesterday or maybe the tide was not right, I don't know. The only thing I do know is that there were no carp under the mulberry tree.

Killian, I'll be back.

On a somewhat brighter note, the morning hike was quite splendid.

I didn't realize that I was challenging my sister when I told her we had hiked everywhere in New Jersey and would be hard pressed to find a new one. In any event, she delivered.

A red-spotted newt, or red eft.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marathon Number Two

Captain Chris Lido with an impressive largemouth from his home waters.
When:Saturday, June 5th, from 5am to 9pm (don't try this at home kids)
Where:Warren and Hunterdon County
What:Canoe fishing for crappie, stream walking for trout, shore fishing for bass, stream walkng for anything and jon-boat fishing for everything
Weather:Partly cloudy, high in the 80's, calm wind
Moon:One day after the last quarter

The day finally arrived when I was going to wet a line with Chris Lido, although it was going to have to wait until 5:30 pm. That did, however, give Chris Martalus and I all morning and most of the afternoon to catch some fish.

We did.

Pick-up at my abode was 4am and once again Martalus had his canoe atop his Jeep, which seems to be suffering from a muffler problem. We skipped the live herring for the morning session and dunked the canoe in a small pond in Warren County. There are few things that Martalus loves more than catching crappie and that's why we chose this particular hole. I tied on the bass lures and he tied on the crappie jigs.

He was much more successful.

Chris Martalus with his prized crappie.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Full Moon Fever

A nice largemouth bass taken from a rented canoe.
When:Saturday, May 29th, from 8am to 11am then 3pm to 6pm
Where:Warren and Hunterdon County
What:Shore fishing with Lindsay, Pat and Patrick then canoeing/fishing with Lindsay
Weather:High near 80. Cloudy morning skies parted for a sunny afternoon.
Moon:Day after full.

Some anglers and hunters swear by lunar tables that predict optimal fishing times. Some think they're a bunch of hooey. I've never been able to figure out if there is any truth to fish activity on or around full and new moons and subsequently don't plan my fishing trips around them.

Pat and I made plans to take his son fishing to our favorite water hole a few weeks back and then just last week I noticed we would be fishing on the day after a full moon.
I'm not sure what factors contributed to our success, whether it was the moon, the cloudy skies, our prime fishing locations or the fact that the bass were done spawning. Maybe it was a little of each, but the bottom line is that IT WAS ON!!!!!

Lindsay and I hit Dow's Boat Rentals at around 6am since Musconetcong Bait and Boat didn't give me a warm fuzzy that they were going to still have live herring when we got there. We hopped back on 80 West and met Pat and Patrick near the Water Gap fully intent on getting the little guy some fish.

We did.

Everyone hopped in my truck, we took a short drive and found ourselves fishing by 8am. Lindsay got the day started with a pickerel and Patrick scored some hefty panfish and landed his first largemouth bass.

Pat was on fire as well, landing bass after pickerel after bass on Yamamoto Senkos.

I made my contributions to the fish count as well, and after several fish and some nice pictures, we headed out and the boys headed back East.

Lindsay and I had considered heading to the Marshall's Creek flea market in PA, however, the 6 mile line of traffic heading over the I-80 bridge changed our minds.

So we headed South.

A couple hot dogs, a short drive and some cold espresso later, we found ourselves on a rented canoe in the same place that Chris and I were just a couple weeks ago.

This time Hi-Way Sports had delivered and we had 40 live herring in tow.

It took us only an hour and a half to go through them. The action was as fast and as furious as it's been in awhile. Lindsay and I scored countless largemouth and smallmouth. Two huge perch were added to the total as well as several small panfish on the trip back.

We returned the canoe and celebrated with ice cream in Clinton.

So, getting back to the full moon. This was nothing short of a phenomenal day. We caught a ton of fish, good ones too, and didn't even fish the praised wee hours of the morning or dusk. Was it the location, the weather, the time of year, or was our success rooted in the fact that we were fishing on the day after a full moon?

We may never know.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bull's Island And Big "D" River Guide

Yours truly with a 30-inch Delaware River striped bass.

When:Friday, May 21st through Sunday, May 23rd
Where:Bull's Island Recreation Area, The Delaware River and Tinicum, PA
What:Camping with Lindsay, fishing with Dieter and Lindsay, hiking with Lindsay
Weather:Warm and muggy Friday night, cloudy and cool on Saturday with rain late in the day, cloudy and cool on Sunday.

Lindsay and I both met Big "D" River guide Dieter Scheel at the Oaks outdoors show a few months back. From what Gabriel has told me, pictures I have seen, Youtube videos and a recent cover of the New Jersey Angler, it didn't take much to figure out that as far as fishing on the Delaware River is concerned, Dieter's the man.

He said that we should go fishing some time and I thought that was a great idea.

So here we are at the end of May and I'm looking to get out of town for a weekend. Lindsay and I originally wanted to find a bed and breakfast for a weekend in Lambertville, however, most were already booked and the few that were vacant were absurdly expensive.

So we decided to camp.

Monday, May 17, 2010

River Country

My first "canoe bass."

When:Saturday, May 15th, from 5:30am to 8pm
Where:5:30am to 10:30am-Budd Lake; 11am to 2pm-I'll never tell; 3:30pm to 8pm-South Branch of the Raritan River near Clinton.
What:Fishing from Chris' canoe.
Weather:Warm, high into the 70's. Windy (scary windy on a canoe) on Budd Lake, but calm later in the day on the river.

This was my second time fishing from a canoe and the first time that I was successful at a catching a few fish while doing so.

It was a long day and when all was said and done, Chris walked away with the award for "quantity" and I took home the award for "quality."

That's just the way we like it.

The day started off at 4am, with Chris rolling up to my home in downtown Jersey City with his canoe atop his Jeep. We headed west like we've done so many times before, and once again found ourselves at Musconetcong Bait and Boat in the pitch dark.

With herring in the bucket, we headed further west and pushed off the shore of Budd Lake as the sun was coming up over the horizon. Chris immediately turned his sights to the panfish and I started tossing the biggest baits in my bag in the hopes of enticing one of the resident northern pike.

Chris succeeded, I did not.

After a trip to the further end of the lake put us into the teeth of a 20mph NW wind and made me wonder if I was going to take an early-season swim, we headed off the lake no worse for the wear.

After our less-than-stellar showing on Budd, I decided to show Chris an old haunt that never failed to produce.

It didn't disappoint.
This skinny girl needed a meal after just laying all of her eggs.