Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 126: Trophy Time

It's time.
When: Thursday, September 15th (365 days until I marry the love of my life), from 5:45pm to 6:15pm
Where: The D & R Canal and the Millstone River
What: Fishing with big stickbaits in the hope of enticing a pike or musky
Weather: Overcast, 70 degrees, light rain, breezy, NW winds 15, gusts to 20
Barometric Pressure: 28.86 and rising
Moon: Waning, 3 days after full
Water Conditions: High and stained

I don't need to look at a calendar to know that fall has arrived in New Jersey. The official end of summer may be a week or so away, but one peep at the 5-day forecast will tell you the season has changed. It certainly felt like it today. Fall may mean different things to different people, but for this fisherman it means only one thing.

It's trophy time.

Until about 4 years ago, I had practically given up on fishing by the end of the summer. I would get all amped up for Spring, fish my brains out and then get tired of the slower fishing that is often characteristic of July and August. I used to be packed up by fall.

Not anymore.

In the simplest terms, fall is when big fish bite best. Top predators are all too aware that water temperatures are dropping, and it's their cue to eat as much as humanly possible before the winter arrives. Over the last four years, some of my most memorable catches (and not catches) have come while I was fishing after Labor Day. These include, but are not limited to, a 26-inch Lake Hopatcong walleye (still my personal best), a 35-inch and very fat northern pike (also my personal best) and a 5 1/2-pound largemouth bass. Also worth noting is a musky that I hooked, and promptly unhooked, on Stonewall Jackson Lake in West Virginia. My stomach still turns when, in my mind, I see that fish rolling over and disappearing.

So, I'm really excited for the next 2-plus months. This Saturday, I will be plying Lake Hopatcong for walleye with KDC VP Joe Tekula. After some much-needed hiking with Jan next weekend and an October 1st wedding, I'll be off to PA for a day in search of musky. This will be followed by Passaic River pike outings, surf fishing for stripers and of course, more musky hunts.

Mr. Niles caught a high 30's inch musky on November 9th.....from the shore. That just goes to show that there is still so much time left in the open-water season.

But I still wonder if it will be enough to do everything that I want to do.