Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 175: Skunk Buster

A "rather large" hybrid striped bass.

When: Thursday, November 3rd, from 7am to close to 7pm
Where: Lake Hopatcong
What: Fishing with JRock and Reddy
Weather: Mostly sunny to cloudy, Temps from the high 30's to high 50's, winds from the SW from 3 to 5mph
Barometric Pressure: 30.16in in the morning, fell to 29.97in later in the day
Moon: Waxing, just after the first quarter
Water Conditions: Stained

Well, I wanted to catch a trophy fish this fall......and I got one.

I have been on a bit of a bad luck streak and that made this fantastic catch taste even sweeter.

For those of you who are not familiar with this species of fish, a hybrid striped bass is a cross between a striped bass and a white bass. Hybrids cannot reproduce, but they have been successfully reared in a handful of New Jersey lakes that have an adequate forage base. The state record was over 16 pounds, however, these fish do not commonly break the 10-pound mark in Lake Hopatcong.

This one was pretty close.

On a side note, the current state record was caught in Culvers Lake, a private body of water. I can tell you, I am one of many anglers who feel that state record fish should not be recognized when they are caught from bodies of water that are not open to the public. But that's neither here nor there.

My plans for this vacation day got twisted a bit, but at the last minute, JRock invited me on his boat with his buddy Reddy. I gladly accepted and was happy to find out that they're a pleasure to fish with and have no problem staying on a lake for 12 hours until the darkness chases them off.

Which is exactly what we did.

By 8am we were sitting off Chestnut Point with live bait and jigs. After only 15 minutes or so, something tapped my line. I set the hook and the fish immediately started pulling hard before taking the first of several drag-scorching runs. The impressive battle put to shame the tussles I've had with 20-pound carp and gave the three of us plenty of time to speculate as to what it was. Our predictions about the unseen monster went from musky to huge walleye to finally a hybrid striper in a matter of minutes.

In any event, it was a big fish.

After I landed it, I used my "el cheapo" scale, which told me it was somewhere between 8 and 9 pounds. However, I'm 99-percent sure that my scale is inaccurate, and I would not be surprised if this fish was closer to 10. What I am sure of, is that this fish would have easily earned me another NJ Skillful Angler Award had I weighed it in at Dow's. That really wasn't an option for me. The fight drained a lot of energy out of the fish and it took a bit to revive him. Bringing the fish to Dow's would have been its demise, and the only thing that gives me more pleasure than making a great catch like this is the privilege of being able to set it free.

No award is worth killing such a beautiful creature.

The rest of the day was pretty slow. We picked away at big crappie, Reddy had a small bass and JRock lost a huge pickerel. We tried trolling for a bit, producing a tiny hybrid, a perch and what looked like a small walleye before it got off.

Just after dark, I caught a walleye, the main species we were after that day.

Although the action wasn't fast and furious, I could never complain about being out on my favorite lake for 12 hours with good people and forgetting about work. It was peaceful, relaxing and most of all, fun.

Oh, and that monster fish was kind of nice too.

Thanks guys!!! We gotta do it again.

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