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.