Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Happy Place (The National Aquarium in Baltimore)

All pictures taken by my beautiful wife Lindsay. I've been to this aquarium many times, and it was great to go there for the first time with her. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Enjoying The View

A beautiful view on the Potomac.

When: Saturday, April 26th, from 9:30am to 2pm
Where: The Potomac River near Ashburn, VA
What: Catfishing
Weather: Warm with a slight breeze. Sunny skies turned partly cloudy. 63 degrees warmed to 70. Wind calm to South at 14mph and gusting to 20mph.
Barometric Pressure: 29.88in fell to 29.83in
Relative Humidity: 46%
Sunrise: 6:18am
Sunset: 7:58pm
Moon: Waning, 3 days before new. Underfoot 10:59am.
Water Conditions: A little high and a little muddy.

Before I started chasing muskies, my favorite thing to do was to fish for catfish South of the Mason Dixon line. Whenever I was down there, of course. In fact, that's where this blog gets it's name from.

Many years ago, I spent some some time in Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky, and I would often do my best to fish for blue and flathead catfish. These are two species of catfish that, aside from an invasive population in the Delaware River, are not found in New Jersey.

More recently, I would do the same on trips to West Virginia.

My success was often limited, and I only ever wound up with a bunch of big channel cats and some small flatheads.

Still, the thought of big catfish still gets me going.

So when I learned that we would not be far from the Potomac while at a wedding this past weekend, I thought I'd take a shot at catfishing there.

One of the reasons I never had great success at river fishing for catfish in the past was that it was often difficult to find a good spot to fish.

That was not the case on this day.

With a little help from Google Maps, I found the rocky outcropping in Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park in Leesburg, Virginia.

I had stopped at the supermarket to pick up bait, and although I would have liked some smelt or herring, I settled for shrimp and chicken livers. I also tried to catch some bluegills, but didn't have any luck.

I spent over 5 hours on this rock, and although I got a couple light bites, I caught no fish. Still, it was great to be catfishing again and the view from the rock was beautiful.

I'd really like to do a little more of that this year. Let's see if I can find a reason to go down South again.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quick Carp Trip

Another day with no fish, but here's a bag of carp bait.

When: Tuesday, April 22nd (Earth Day), from 10:30am to 1:30pm
What: Carp fishing
Weather: Clear skies, 63 degrees, S wind at 9mph.
Barometric Pressure: 29.99in
Relative Humidity: 56%
Sunrise: 6:08am
Sunset: 7:44am
Moon: Last Quarter.
Water Conditions: Shallow and murky.

I was on a special mission on Tuesday, and that brought me right by a carp pond I had been meaning to check-out.

I had the place pretty much to myself when I arrived, and immediately saw signs of life with a couple of carp close to the shore and lots of bubbles and surface disturbances. I proceeded to throw some chum (creamed corn) in the water and get my lines ready.

I've started using pack bait, which you can see in the Zip-Loc bag above. The pack bait is blended white bread with a little corn and some Kosher salt. I mold it around my egg sinker and also around the corn on the hook that I'm using for bait.

When the rig settles to the bottom, the pack bait falls off and leaves a couple piles of chum to bring in the carp.

This is what I was hoping to happen on Tuesday. But after lots of promising signs, including seeing carp make wakes right next to my lines, I never hooked up. Well, I did hook-up once, but snapping turtles don't count. The are formidable adversaries, however.

Fishing has been a little slow for me of late.  Unfortunately, when you're swinging for the fences, a lot times you wind-up striking out. There is no doubt that I could be bailing stocked trout right now or hammering bass, but that just isn't my style. My goal is to catch fish that are over 10 pounds, preferably over 20 or 30. I'll probably do some striper fishing sometime soon, but hopefully I catch my first 2014 musky or a big carp before then.

We shall see.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Clear Skies, Slow Fishing

I put pictures like this up when I don't catch any fish.

When: Monday, April 21st, from 10:30am to 6:30pm.
What: Musky fishing with Charlie
Weather: Warm and sunny (bluebird skies). Calm winds to variable to S, W and SW at 9mph. High of 73.
Barometric Pressure: 30.17in, fell to 29.91in.
Relative Humidity: 15% at mid-day.
Sunrise: 6:09am
Sunset: 7:44pm
Moon: Waning, day before the last quarter. Moonset 11:32am. Underfoot 6:49pm.
Water Conditions: Main lake temp 53-54 degrees, 56-58 in the shallows, 60 way up north.

I've said it countless times. Sunny days are great for being out on the water, but they often are not the best days for catching fish.

Charlie narrowly avoided the dreaded skunk by scoring a small largemouth late in the day. I never got a bite, but I did move a couple of muskies.

We started out with high hopes, like always, and launched at DeFeo's Marina around 10:30am. We hit all the usual spots, but nothing seemed to be stirring. We found some warmer water in the South End, still nothing. We saw a bald eagle and an osprey, and like the superstitious, optimistic musky fisherman that I am, I was certain they were omens bringing tidings of big fish.

They weren't.

After about 6 hours of hucking big baits, Charlie had the boat in about 5 feet of water and I was twitching a crankbait to keep it above the weeds. Even after the long stretch of fruitless hours, it was impossible to not be instantly alert when I saw a 40+ inch musky following my lure with it's nose right on it. As I moved into the Figure 8, the fish turned 3 or 4 times, keot its snout on my lure the whole time, but not striking before heading back off away from the boat.

I didn't catch it, but it felt great to see some signs of life after a long day.

Charlie and I revisited that fish a couple of times, but it never came back out to play.

As we worked our way back to DeFeo's, I had a much smaller fish come out and take a few looks at the same crankbait, but that one did not bite either.

Like always, it was great to be out there. If I didn't love being outside and musky fishing, I probably wouldn't fish for muskies until May. April is a tough month to catch them because water temps are not quite up to where the fish are very active and they are going through the motions trying to spawn. But I'm certain there has to be one or two out there that are willing to bite.

One day I'm gonna catch my April musky, but for now I'll just keep enjoying being on the water and fishing with Charlie.

Monday, April 21, 2014

LH With Charlie

A nice pickerel that smacked a musky lure.

When: Monday, April 14th, from 10am to 6pm
What: Musky fishing with Charlie
Weather: Warm, overcast and very windy. High of 74 degrees and winds SW to S up to 17mph and gusting to 30mph.
Barometric Pressure: 29.96in fell to 29.83in.
Relative Humidity: 44% at mid-day.
Sunrise: 6:20am
Sunset: 7:37pm
Moon: Full. Moonset 5:52am. Underfoot 12:29pm. Rise 7:12pm.
Water Conditions: Partly to moderately stained. Main lake 52 degrees, as high as 63 in the "shellers"

Monday it was Charlie's turn to get his boat in the water.

We hit Lake Hopatcong in hopes of taking advantage of the warm weather. There was a cold front coming in later in the week, so we took our chances with the 70 degree weather on Monday even though we knew it was going to be windy.

It was pretty windy.

After we launched, we headed directly to a small cove where we found 63 degree water. Charlie caught his first bass of the year in short order and we left the cove after he landed 3 of them.

When we got back onto the main lake and the breeze was really whipping.

Despite the conditions, we picked away at different parts of the lake, trying to find the warm water and the fish. But that proved to be somewhat difficult.

A little later in the day, we were fishing the spot where I caught my biggest musky a few years ago, so I decided to try the same lure I caught it on. After taking a few casts to the weed line, I tossed it on the inside towards a shoreline that was getting hammered with the stiff wind.

And BAM!

I was sure I was gonna see the long flash of a muskellunge, but it turned out to just be a hungry pickerel.

Still, it got the skunk off.

Charlie and I gave it hell for a few more hours, and put in a full day on the water despite the tough conditions.

Once again, it felt great to be out, and the fishing will only get better from here.

So were doing it again today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Union County Oddties


When: Sunday, April 13th, from 3pm to 4pm
What: Fishing for fish for my fish tank
Weather: Mostly cloudy, breezy, warm. 82 degrees, SW wind at 18mph and gusting to 25mph.
Barometric Pressure: 29.98in (was 30.02in at 2pm, slowly falling)
Relative Humidity: 31%
Sunrise: 6:21am
Sunset: 7:34pm
Moon: Waxing, day before full
Water Conditions: Stained and rotten.

I wasn't planning on doing any fishing on Sunday.

We had dinner reservations at 5:30pm for Berto's birthday (Happy Birthday Berto!!!), and since we had breakfast plans with Uncle Stanley and a bunch of errands, fishing was not on the radar.

However, seeing as my lovely wife was off doing female things like shopping and getting her nails done, and seeing that we had a fish tank that was still waiting for fish, I decided to go out  to my favorite mud pit for an hour to see if I could score a pet.

It turned out to be one of the most interesting hours of fishing in my life.

Now, I can't give away my location, but said mud pit is filled with fish. It's fairly shallow, very small and you would never think to actually go fishing there. I go here for a "sure thing" when I can't catch fish anywhere else. I was actually there a few days prior, and although I could see hundreds of carp, bass, goldfish, suckers and sunfish in the water, none of them would eat.

Sunday was a different story.

I got bit early and often, landing 5 carp, a bullhead and a mutant goldfish in less than an hour. I missed many more bites too.

Then I caught something that I would NEVER have expected to see in my favorite little mud hole.

A frickin' brown trout.

This spot is obviously not stocked with trout, but since I believe it gets overflow when the Rahway River gets flooded, it has that "you never know" kind of quality to it.

I had no idea what this was I reeled it in and saw it splashing on the surface, and was amazed when I took it out of the water.

Totally unexpected.

I took home a tiny carp and the tiny bullhead for my tank and named them Big Ern and Munson respectively. Sadly, Big Ern does not look very comfy and will be returned to said mud pit today.

All this aside, this was one of the most action-packed and bizarre hours of fishing that I have had in Union County. A couple of the carp were good-sized and put up a nice fight on light tackle.

Maybe I'll have to see what other kind of oddities I can pull out of there when I liberate Big Ern.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Back In The Saddle

I love musky fishing.

When: Friday, April 11th, from noon to 7:30pm
What: Musky fishing with Charlie
Weather: Warm, overcast and very breezy at times. Winds variable to SW at 13mph and gusting over 20mph. Light rain in the late afternoon.
Barometric Pressure: 30.01in at noon, fell to 29.95in at 3pm and back up to 29.99in.
Relative Humidity: 49% at noon up to 81%
Sunrise: 6:27am
Sunset: 7:35pm
Moon: Waxing, 4 days before full. Underfoot 10:15am. Moonrise 4:12pm.
Water Conditions: Partly stained, temp n/a, but guessing by other reports, in the high 40's.

For the first time since 2013, my boat hit the water. And for the first time since 2013, it's time to fish for muskies.

Last year my musky season began in January, but with a much longer and colder winter, I made my first trip this year in April. When Lindsay and I left for Costa Rica, most lakes and ponds in Northern NJ still had at least some ice on them.

When we got back it was all gone.

I got to the lake at noon, and got a pleasant phone call that my buddy Charlie was going to come meet me. I had about an hour until he got there, so I launched my boat and started fishing.

Only 20 or 30 minutes in, an angry musky followed my lure back to the boat with his nose right on it. I quickly went into a Figure 8, but the fish disappeared. I continued to move the lure for close to a minute, but it never showed itself again.

Unfortunately, that was all the action for the day.

But it was a much needed day on the water.

Charlie arrived and hopped in my boat. It was good to have him out on my vessel as we've fished off of his a few times. Charlie got to work trying to entice bass while I continued to cast musky lures, but neither wanted to show.

We battled wind, rain and slow fishing and loved every minute of it.

Gonna do it again today.