Friday, March 28, 2014

Back To The Beach

Sitting, waiting, wishing.

When: Sunday, March 23rd, from 7am to 10:30am
What: Striper fishing with Pat
Weather: Cold, mostly to partly cloudy, overcast, a little breezy. 40 degrees, NW wind at 9-10.
Barometric Pressure: 30.07in
Relative Humidity: 43%
Sunrise: 6:55am
Sunset: 7:12pm
Moon: Waning, Last Quarter.
Water Conditions: Water temp 38 degrees. Low tide 7:50am.

Pat and I are gonna get this right one day. We've caught stripers in December, but still can't seem to get one in March.

I think it has more to do with the fish than us.

Or rather this year, more than the weather than the fish.

There are definitely better months to catch stripers, but like a lot of other anglers, Pat and I were tired of staring at frozen lakes and it had been awhile since we hung out on the beach.

Too long.

So we planned a day, got up early, stopped at Fred's for some clams and bloodworms and headed to the Raritan Bay via South Amboy.

Everything was right.

Except for the fish.

That being said, it was great to catch-up with Pat. Sometimes fishing is more about the company than the fish. I've had a good run lately, and you certainly can't win them all.

Especially in March.

There won't a blog next week, but stay tuned. Hopefully I'll have some better pictures up here shortly! The Pequest Hatchery is having it's Open House this weekend, the 29th and 30th. I won't make it, but stop by and see my friends at the booth for Chapter 22 of Muskies Inc. Remember that Opening Day for trout in NJ is 8am on Saturday April 5th. Please check the state website for information and changes to the spring stocking program due to an outbreak of furunculosis at the Pequest Hatchery. 

Stay safe, stay warm and tight lines!!

Trout Information

Monday, March 24, 2014

And One For Good Luck

Matt with a huge hard water smallmouth.

When: Tuesday, March 18th, from 9am to 7pm
What: Ice fishing with Matt
Weather: Clears skies, cold (for March) with a breeze at times. Winds E to SE to 8mph and gusting to 18.
Barometric Pressure: 30.28in and steady all day.
Relative Humidity: 62%
Sunrise: 7:03am
Sunset: 7:07pm
Moon: Waning, two days after new. Moonset 7:51am, Underfoot at 2:34pm.
Water Conditions: Frozen on top. 11-12 inches of ice, 5-6 crap ice and 5-6 black ice. Water temp off the bottom was 41 degrees.

In the midst of one of the best winters for ice fishing in the history of New Jersey, I hadn't hit the hardwater for nearly a month. By mid-February I've usually had my fill and am ready to go throw some lures around.

And although I have started open water fishing, caught my first carp and gotten the boat ready, I guess I couldn't very well let my ice fishing season end with the dismal outing on President's Day on Round Valley.

One last "hurrah" was definitely in order.

I hate to say that Matt had to twist my arm a little, but he did. Nonetheless, I met him on Tuesday morning, prepared for a 30 minute hike to our fishing hole.

The hike paid off.

After getting to the lake, the ice was still pretty thick but showing some early signs of deteriorating from the longer days and (slightly) warmer weather. We set our flags and started jigging.

The action was by no means fast and furious, but we had a steady pick of almost 20 flags over the course of the day, landed 12 or so fish and had a couple bite-offs and a couple misses.

And every fish was a quality one.

The pickerel on my left may have been the longest pickerel I've ever caught, and if it wasn't so darn skinny would have been an absolute monster.

The picture at the top does not do justice to the size of the smallmouth bass that Matt caught, and it was every bit of 5 pounds. It was certainly the biggest smallie I have ever witnessed caught through the ice.

It took awhile to find a decent spot to jig, but after drilling several more holes we finally found a pile of bluegills and caught them with some consistency.

They were all nice and thick.

We kept at it as long as we could and were hoping for a late day flurry, but aside from one more flag in the final hour, the trip ended rather quietly.

It had been a fantastic day though. Every fish was a good one and the slammer pickerel and slammer smallie made for a fine finale. We packed our gear up feeling good, and made the hike back to the car savoring the success.

Over the next two days, I put my sled, auger and tip-ups away. I'm sure there will still be ice around in Northern Jersey for a couple more weeks, but I have bigger fish to fry.

I'll have another post up on Friday, then I'm off to Costa Rica for week.

Be safe with the weather coming!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Early season carp. Man did that feel good.

When: Tuesday, March 11th, from noon to 3pm
What: Carp fishing with Charlie
Weather: Warm but a bit breezy. Mostly cloudy, 64 degrees, wind W up to 12mph and gusting to 21mph
Barometric Pressure: 29.63in
Relative Humidity: 33%
Sunrise: 7:15am
Moon: Waxing, 5 days before new. Moonrise 2:32pm.
Water Conditions: Stained and very cold.

I've said it before. When it comes to fishing, sometimes even the best laid plans don't work out like you want. Then again, sometimes they do.

Today was one of those times.

After wetting a line in open water on Friday, I thought it might be nice to pull a carp out of that hole the next week. So I did everything I could to make sure that happened.

And it did.

After looking at the weather that Friday night, I saw that Monday and Tuesday would be fairly warm. I figured I would try a few hours of carp fishing one of those days, so I "pre-baited" the spot every day before. Pre-baiting is very common in Euro-style carp fishing and is legal for those wondering.

So I went to my spot on Saturday, Sunday and after I realized Tuesday was going to be warmer, I went there on Monday too. Each time I went I took a handful of corn and threw it in the spot where I would be fishing. The spot is 5 minutes from my house, so this really wasn't all that big a deal.

I waited until later in the day on Tuesday for the water to warm a bit, blended up some bread and corn to mash around my sinker, and met Charlie for a few hours of fishing.

Charlie and I were just happy to be out, and he cast a few lures for bass while my hooks baited with corn soaked in the river. After an hour or so, I got two chairs from the car and we sat back enjoying the beautiful day.

While we were talking, I heard a beautiful sound. It was my baitrunner zipping as a fish was taking my offering. I went to pick-up the rod and it stopped for a minute, but by the time the rod was in my hand it was taking off again. I engaged the drag, set the hook and........

Fish on.

As I walked down closer to the water, my rod thumping with the shakes from a nice-sized carp, Charlie got the net. It felt wonderful to be fighting a big fish in open water, and I enjoyed every minute of it. After a couple short runs, Charlie scooped it up and I was overcome with a mixture of relief and bliss.

Not only had we just bagged a 10-plus pound fish, but it felt like this long, dreary winter was finally over.

The fish was quickly unhooked, and after Charlie snapped a few quick pics, I released the beast back into the river where it swam off like a champ.

Then we started hootin' and hollerin'.

This was no doubt a victory. After all, the water could not be much warmer than 35 degrees.

After we settled down a bit, Charlie took the soft-plastic off his Carolina rig and swapped it for a carp hook and some corn. We had a few other fish bumping the line, but none took off with the bait.

We stuck it out for a few more, but both had things to do It had been great to spend some time outside on one of the nicest days of the year so far and we had pictures of a beautiful fish.

Plus, I think I may have just turned Charlie into a carp fisherman.

Monday, March 10, 2014

There's No Place Like Home

My first cast into open water since January 1st.

When: Friday, March 7th from 3:30pm to 5:30pm
What: A couple of hours of carp fishing
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 36 degrees, NE wind at 12mph.
Barometric Pressure: 30.13in
Relative Humidity: 62%
Sunrise: 6:21am
Sunset: 5:55pm
Moon: Waxing, a day before the first quarter.
Water Conditions: Stained and very cold.

I had originally intended on going ice fishing on Friday, but life threw a curveball and I've been staying close to home for a bit.

The thought of ice fishing in Union County is not too appealing, and I don't even know if it's legal. So, I tried conjuring up a way of doing some open water fishing that did not entail an all-day affair. I poked around for some info on spots on the Passaic, but nothing let me to believe I was going to find anything but a frozen river.

But I needed to get outside.

So I put on my running shoes and did my first outdoor run since the fall. I ran a total of 8 miles, which was definitely a bit too much since I've only been running 40 minutes on the treadmill at the gym up until now. I'm still a little sore two days later, but that's not the moral of this story.

The point is that along my run, as I blazed past one of my favorite fishing spots like a majestic gazelle, I noticed that it was all open water.

Sweet, liquid, no ice on top, beautiful open water.

As an added bonus, the overgrowth of vegetation that normally makes it difficult to fish there in the spring and summer was noticeably absent.

So I decided to go home, shower and then get my carp on.

After a stop at King's to load-up on corn, I was nestled into my spot. I didn't have high hopes of catching anything, and in fact I didn't, but taking a cast into open and waiting for my baitrunner start singing was worth every cold minute I spent outside.

And it can only get better from here.

My gears are already turning, and with a warm beginning to the week, my chances may improve greatly of scoring and early season "golden boy."

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Difference A Year Makes

I have not gone fishing in almost 2 weeks. This is practically a record for me, even though in the thick of winter. There is still a ton of ice fishing to be had, but I just haven't been able to muster up the energy to lug my gear out onto the ice to fish for anything other than a musky. People do pull muskies through the ice, but catching them on bait, live or dead, just isn't my style.

So instead I've cast myself into a winter prison, hanging on in quiet desperation that one day I'm going to wake-up and my boat won't be in an 8-foot snow bank and all of my favorite musky waters will be void of ice.

In reality, that's not going to happen, so I need to snap out of this.

I tossed around the idea of trying to find a stretch of the Delaware that isn't frozen or to hop on the Dauntless for some cod fishing. But in the end, it looks like I'm going to dust the auger and the sled off and get back to what I should be doing.

Friday looks like a great day to be on the ice, and I think that's where I'll be.

The boat will have to stay put for now, but at least this is my second year with it and not my first. Had I gotten it this past Christmas instead of the prior, I just might be losing my mind right now.

I know that everyone is well aware of the weather, but let's look at some facts from a fisherman's perspective.

In 2013 vs. 2014

In 2013, I had already taken my boat out twice at this point, once in February on a lake in Mercer County and once in March on a lake in Warren County.

Today, in 2014, these same lakes have over 15 inches of ice on them. We rarely see 15 inches of ice in January.

In 2013, I caught my first musky in open water on Greenwood Lake during a brief thaw in January. For the record, the year before, I caught muskies in February by boat on Oxford Furnace Lake and Lake Hopatcong in February.

In 2014, none of these lakes have been accessible by boat since before the New Year began.

On March 4th of 2013, the high temp was 44 degrees and the low was 27 in my hometown of Garwood.

Today, March of 2014, the high temp will not reach 30 and the overnight low will not reach 20.

On March 5th of 2013, the high was 50 degrees, tomorrow it will be 35.

But you get the point. I'm not really complaining, well I guess I am, but I realize there is nothing that can be done. I know people realize that it has been cold, but from a fisherman's perspective this winter has really been something I have never seen.

In the 15 or so years that I have been ice fishing, the most ice have encountered has been 16 inches on Lake Hopatcong, but that was in January.

By March, almost without exception, the edges of most NJ lakes and ponds are thawing and the die hard ice guys are getting onto the ice with wooden planks. This year they are frozen solid.

NJDEP Fish and Game normally starts setting its nets on Budd Lake next week to catch broodstock pike for NJ's stocking program. Budd Lake has over 15 inches of ice.

It will be interesting to see how the state, and I, adjust to this extended winter. The one thing that is certain though, we haven't seen anything like this in quite some time. At least not in my lifetime.

Stay warm and figure out a way to catch some fish.