Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Early Bird Gets..................A Few Fish, But Nothing Special

Chris with one of two pickerel we pulled from Budd Lake over the course of almost 12 hours.

When: Saturday, January 23rd from 5:30am to 5pm
Where: Budd Lake in Morris County
What: Ice fishing
Weather: Bitter in the morning, then bluebird skies with a high near 40 and a 7mph NE wind

A day in the life..................

3am-Alarm goes off, I get out of bed.
3am to 4:15am-Make coffee, shower, eat breakfast, load truck.
4:30am-Pick up Chris and head west.
5:11am-Arrive at Bait and Boat next to Lake Musconetcong for extra large shiners and mousies.
5:37am-Walk onto Budd Lake with sleds full of gear, wearing headlamps.
5:40-6:10am-Set tip-ups.
6:10am-Start jigging, catch a few panfish.
7:20am-Sunrise, headlamps get put away.
7:20am to 4:30pm-Jigging, catch a few more panfish, a couple pickerel on tip-ups, lunch and coffee breaks.
4:30pm-Start slowly breaking down tip-ups.
5:06pm-Off the lake, pack truck.
5:20pm-Start driving back east.
6:15pm-Drop Chris off.
6:30pm-Back home.

This was a long day, but worth every minute.

It was a bitter cold morning, but our efforts were rewarded with sun and warmth in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the fish don't appreciate the bluebird skies as much as people do, and the action was slow.

We caught a dozen or so panfish each. Chris had 4 or 5 flags go up, but only caught one pickerel. I had one flag and caught one pickerel. His low hooking percentage may or may not have to do with the fact that he uses #4 circle hooks, and my high hooking percentage may or may not have to do with the fact that I use #8 trebles. The jury is still out, but in the meantime, I'm sticking with trebles.

As we were fishing during this long and mostly quiet day, many thoughts crossed my mind. I couldn't help but think about all the times I've heard people getting sick and depressed in the winter, partly due to the fact they spend so much time indoors when it's cold out.

That used to be me.

I got more hours of sunlight this day than some people get in the month of June. When it was over, it felt wonderful to have been outside for so long in the thick of winter. The action was much slower than it had been on other days, however, if we hadn't done so well the first few times we were out, it may have seemed a bit better.

I any event, it was another successful day.

It's not even February, I've been fishing 4 times, and I've yet to get skunked.

I'd say I'm about due.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another Fine Day On The Ice

 Chris with a nice Pompton Lake largemouth caught on a tip-up.

When: Sunday, January 17th, from 6:30am til noon
Where: Pompton Lake in Passaic County
What: Ice Fishing
Weather: High near 40, cloudy, NW wind 10mph, rained like hell when we left.

Either Chris and I are getting good at this, or Pompton Lake is just primed for ice fishing.

Or both.

When our day had ended and we were back in Jersey City, it took just a minute or two for Chris to get his gear out of my truck and back into his house. After a day of efficiently and safely getting on and off the ice and once again catching fish, he mentioned how we have really gotten this whole ice fishing thing down to a science.

And you know what? He's right.

Ice fishing can undoubtedly be more trouble than it's worth. Unlike a spring day, an angler needs more than a rod and a box of lures to be able to catch fish. Drills, tip-ups, scoops, bait buckets, sleds, lunch, coffee (coffee is key), bags of gear and sonar all have to be lugged out onto the ice, and finding a way to do this quickly and easily is part of the sport.

On that note, it is my firm belief that the success of a trip is determined well before I even set foot on the lake. I spend hours at home tying and crimping leaders, checking my gear, buying stuff (buying stuff is key), spooling reels, reading maps and weather reports and calling bait shops. If my gear is well-maintained and functioning properly and I have an idea of where I'm going to be fishing, what I'm going to be fishing for, where I'm going to get bait and what the weather's going to be like, my chances are that much better of catching fish.

So far this year, this has all worked perfectly.

We had another well-prepared-for and rewarding day on Pompton Lake. The action wasn't as fast an furious as it was last week, but we had 3 nice-sized largemouth bass in addition to an assortment of yellow and white perch, crappie and sunfish. Chris had two of the bass (and one we won't count), and I had the biggest. I guess that works out somehow.

Take a look at Chris's handiwork with the camera and the biggest bass that I've ever pulled through the ice.

...............................another fine day on the ice.

Chris with his second "quality" bass of the day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Flag Day

Chris with a 14-inch Pompton Lake Yellow Perch taken in the early morning hours on a tip-up.
When: Saturday, January 9th, from 6:45am until 4:45pm (yes, 10 hours)
Where: Pompton Lake in Passaic County
What: Ice Fishing
Weather: High in the low 20's, a 15mph+ NW wind with gusts, although we didn't get the worst of it as we were fishing against the northern shore.

For those of you who are not familiar with the art of ice fishing (and yes, it is indeed an art), I'm going to provide a no frills, crash course in the hopes that this entry will make a bit more sense. 

There are two common methods of catching fish through the ice, and I generally utilize both.  The first method is the use of a tip-up; a device specifically made for ice fishing.  Tip-ups are designed to sit over a hole and have a spool that hangs in the water. When a fish takes the bait, line is pulled off the spool, causing a trigger to release a flag and alert the angler of good things to come. The spool also allows the fish to swim with the bait without feeling pressure until said angler arrives at the hole, sets the hook and pulls the fish in by hand. The other method of catching fish through the ice is with a jigging rod.  A jigging rod designed for ice fishing is normally 3 feet or less in length, allowing an angler to sit close to the hole while working a small jig below. In the state of New Jersey, anglers are allowed to use 5 devices at once, i.e. 5 tip-ups or 4 tip-ups and a jigging rod.

Now, that being said, our normal modus operandi is to drill our holes and set our tip-ups, then sit down and wait for flags to fly while calmly jigging-up fish. On this particular day, it was quite some time before we got to sit down.

Flags were flying.

It's always nice to see a flag go up before you set your last tip-up in the water, and that is exactly what happened.  After that, it didn't seem like there was ever a time when all tip-ups were baited and set and there wasn't a flag in the air. The action was fast and furious all morning, and we did a lot of running around.

After the morning rush, we were afforded a chance to sit down and were successful jigging-up more perch. We were surprised by the lack of variety, but definitely were not complaining, as we scored well over 50 fish during our long day on the frozen lake. We were the first ones out there and the last ones to leave, and I enjoyed every minute of it. More importantly, we learned some valuable information about where to fish, and I'm hopeful that our next time out on Pompton Lake, we'll be able to add a little quality to our quantity.


To check out our first fish......visit...

......which can also be found under "Ice Perch On Pompton Lake" under "Videos That You Should Watch" on the sidebar of the blog.

Another monster Pompton Lake Perch stretching across more than 13-inches of my Bass Pro Shops tip-up.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!!!!!

When: January 1st, from 11am to 5pm
Where: Budd Lake in Morris County
What: Ice Fishing
Weather: As good as it gets for ice fishing.  High in the mid-30's, mostly cloudly with a light SW wind.

I do a fair amount of fishing and I catch my fair amount of fish.  However, no matter how grateful I am for some of the beautiful creatures that I have been able to photograph and release, sometimes it's really hard not to think about the ones that got away.

At about 3pm on New Year's Day, I was undoubtedly thinking about the one that got away.

A few hours earlier, a fish had taken the bait under one of my tip-ups, and after a short strugge during which I could tell it was a decent fish, it sliced through the line before I had a chance to see it.

This is exaclty what I was thinking about as our day was winding down. It was wonderul to get outside and Chris had caught a pike, but it was really hard not to be a little disappointed at the prospect of going home without catching one of my own after having one get away.

As all of this was playing through my head, I looked up to see a flag flying on one of my tip-ups; the tell-tale sign that something has taken the bait below it.  I walked over to the hole, set my tip-up to the side, took in the slack line, pulled and set the hook. 

Fish on!!!

I tend to be a fast-learner when it comes fishing, so instead of trying to force this one in and have him slice through the line again, I delicately played it until the the fish was tired enough to come out of the water.  The pike came up to the hole three times only to disappear again, but the fourth time that it came up, it came out. 

The 26-inch northern pike was the first that I had pulled from New Jersey waters.  It was also the largest pike that I have ever caught and the largest fish that I have taken through the ice.  Hat trick.

This would have been a great day without this fish, and normally a one fish day is nothing to write home about.  However, after months of preperation for ice fishing and this being my first time out this year, it made the day pretty special.

This fish has immediately been put atop the leaderboard for the 2010 Fish of the Year, and although it would be mildly disappointing to have made my best catch of the year already, I have a hunch that won't be the case.

Chris with his New Year's Day pike from Budd Lake.