Howdy! If you get a chance, when you`re at a Quick Chek, Krauszer`s or maybe 7-Eleven store, pick up a copy of this month`s June edition of The Fisherman magazine. I believe you will find the story by yours truly, quite compelling and rather challenging on page 28.
I`d like to give a big thank you to Jim Hutchinson NJ/DE Managing Editor for considering and publishing my Pike story. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jim in person in April at the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Outdoor Writer`s Workshop. Just a heckuva nice guy.
Here are a few pictures of the flies, Pike and of course, Piper our Pomeranian. If you do not live in Jersey and can`t pick up the magazine, you can go on-line to read it digitally at the link below;
If there`s one sure-bet as to where you can find me on a rainy, drizzly day, bet the ranch you`ll either find me hunting or on the water somewhere in Jersey. And that`s exactly where I ended up the last two rainy Saturdays for a few hours. Chasin` `ol Esox in my `Yak up on Budd Lake.
Now I have to be honest, it was a torrential downpour when I pulled into the lot. I mean it was raining so hard that I actually sat in the truck contemplating going back home. But after waiting almost an hour, it had let up enough that I decided to have a go at it and dragged my `Yak out.
One of the reasons I enjoy fishing in the rain is simply because of lake traffic. There isn`t any! HaHa! I usually have the entire lake to myself, especially the harder it comes down.
Even brought the `ol Go PRO to try my hand at shooting a little video of the day`s adventure. But I`ll tell you, sometimes I prefer to leave the camera home though, as I have lost countless nice fish fumbling with it. I assure you that on more than one occasion, I have cuss n` swore while attempting to turn the camera on, and keep the fish on my line as well. Nice when it comes together, but doesn`t always work out the way you planned.
So getting back to the story….
I loaded up my gear, rods and reels and quickly paddled out into the “pond” – Ahhhhhhh and the wind was blowing out of the East. Reminded me of an old fisherman`s saying my friend Dave “Gonzo” Dembitsky told me; “Wind from the east, fish bite the least. Wind from the north, don`t go forth. Wind from the west, fishing is the best. Wind from the south, blows the bait in the fishes mouth”
Definitely had a strong, gusty breeze blowing that rainy afternoon. But it would make for decent drift, as I ran parallel to the shore-line. Just had to find a few hungry “fishys” that`s all.
I started throwing a Chartreuse Chatterbait with a white Keitech three inch swimbait for a trailer. I paddled my way into an upcoming patch of lily pads and started working the area. On the fourth cast I had a strike, only to reel up my half-bitten off Keitech. I just smiled as I knew `ol Esox was nearby.
I should also mention my set-up a bit. Everyone has their preference/style and this is mine whenever I`m fishing Toothy Critter Waters. I use a Extra-Fast-Action seven foot rod, paired with a Shimano spinning reel. Nothing fancy(as I tend to be a little “rough” with my equipment and break alot!) spooled with 30lb Power PRO Braid. Now I have used straight 30lb Braid and have also had Northern Pike bite through it like butter. So that being said, I always use a six or nine inch 30lb steel leader…..always. Also the leader gives just the right amount of weight I when I`m throwing a Zoom Fluke.
As I maneuvered about the submerged young lily pads, there was an abrupt, huge splash literally three or four feet in front of the `Yak. Apparently I was invading the resident Beaver`s territory, as this was his way of warning his friends of my presence. And when they smash their tail on the water that unexpectedly close, you`ll jump a bit!
Working the Chatterbait around the pads,….. suddenly a good strike……. Fish on! As the Bucket-Mouth acrobatically took to the air and eventually met my net.
Snapped a few pics and quickly released the Greenback back in the “pond” – Paddled further down along the tree-line and decided to switch to my other rod and throw another one of my “go-to” lures, a White Zoom Fluke.
My very basic “arsenal” of lures usually consists mainly of these two lures. The top is the Zoom Fluke which I use from everything from Bass, Northern Pike, Snakeheads, Bowfins and even Muskies.
The Chatterbait (with the bitten off Keitech swimbait!) usually always gets me plenty of action wherever I`m fishing as well.
The very first cast I made with the Zoom Fluke, was right into the edge of this submergered brush………BAM!!! WOW! It was like a freight train smashed the Zoom when the mighty Northern struck! As I reeled back to set the hook, the heavy Esox dove down deep and the drag began to peel off line! After battling the Toothy Critter for several minutes, I went for the net and scooped up the fat Pike. A very good fish indeed!
Without further ado, here`s the little clip I shot of the day`s adventure up on Budd Lake;
Hope you enjoyed my adventure up on Budd Lake. Get out there and catch `em up Gang!
Just about every time Turkey Hunting rolls around, I start scouring around trying to find some new, “catchy” turkey call. And every season, I try to figure out how to use a turkey mouth or diaphragm call to no avail as well. I typically start gagging on it, get pissed off and give up, which is pretty much par for the course, till the following season.
But this pre-Turkey season, I found a Wingbone Turkey Call on eBay and thought, “What the heck? Why not?” Wasn`t sure how it would sound or even if I could make a sound with it, as the “level of use” pretty much the same whatever I read……. “Difficult”. Whether I could make a sound with it or not, either way, sure did look pretty cool. So I bought it for $20 bucks.
The Wingbone call arrived a few day later and I had been studying various YouTube clips and was eager to have a go at it. I have to admit, I didn`t sound all that good or very “polished” but after a couple nights fooling around with it, I decided to give it a shot in the field. Well lo and behold, that very next morning I called up a Gobbler with that `ol Wingbone call and bagged him…… and now I was hooked!
Now the Wingbone call was used by Indians thousands of years ago to actually call wild turkey within bow and arrow range. The more I read about it, the more intrigued I became. Got me rationalizing “Hell if it worked for Cochise, don`t see why it wouldn`t work for me. being part Comanche and all” (Well… at least I might be! Haha!) –
Then it got me thinking…… how cool would it be to actually make my own Wingbone Turkey Call! And that`s exactly what I planned on doing with the Gobbler I had just shot.
The very next evening after supper, I went down to my truck, flipped down the tailgate and started pulling the wings apart. I`ll show you a sequence of pictures I took that night as I “worked the wings” –
Here I started pulling the feathers from the wing, exposing the meat on the wingbones.
Next, I began fleshing the meat and separating the feathers from the cartilage.
Then I kept “fleshing” the bones removing as much meat as possible, before I started boiling them
Sharon said, “No dice….. not boiling your bones on my stove!” – So I fired up the grill and boiled `em for about an hour and a half.
Cooked off most of the meat, then scraped any remaining with my knife. By this time it was getting late, so I put the bones in a cooler that I partially filled with vinegar, as I figured this would help to de-grease the bones a bit more until I could work on them the next night.
The following night, I cut the bones using my Dremel Tool as this has quite a few various attachments and I thought it would be ideal for my Wingbone Turkey Call project. I should mention that I planned on making two calls, one from each wing.
After cutting the bones into sections, I used a clothes hanger to work out the marrow in the bones. Then simply blew out any remaining particles. Using the Dremel, I honed the edges and widened the openings a tad to get a nice fit. While my original plan was to make a three-bone call, that didn`t pan out as I learned that while it did indeed look really cool, it didn`t create the “sound” because the bones were not really aligned properly. Having two bones going one way and the other facing the opposite, didn`t work, as I found out through trial and error.
But that gave me another idea. To make two 2-bone calls. One with a higher pitch that would imitate a younger hen turkey and one with a slightly deeper, raspy tone imitating a more mature hen.
So #1 was the main and #2, the thinner bone gave me the higher “young hen” pitch. And obviously #3 attached to #1 did also give me that “rasp-ier”, deeper sound I was looking for. Again, it took a few hours of honing with the Dremel to get everything to fit, but once I did, I then epoxied everything together and let them dry out and set for a night.
The other morning I was out with one of our pups in the backyard and had the Wingbones in my pocket. So I decided to see if any Gobblers would answer up on the hill behind our house. Sharon was getting ready for work, heard me calling, opened the window and said jokingly “Oh my god! I hear turkeys everywhere! HaHa!”……… I took Piper back inside and went back out to call again.
Then it happened! Three Gobblers started answering back and coming down the hill! I quickly went to the window and signaled her to open it. I put my index finger to my lips then pointed to my ears as she stuck her head out the window. Then I called again……. and her eyes got wide and her mouth dropped open in disbelief….. “Oh my god, you really are calling them in! They`re close!
All of the sudden another Gobbler was coming in from another direction fast as hell, gobblin` his brains out along with the other three! Turned out to be pretty exciting as they came within 60-70 yards before it started pouring rain.
Check out the short clip below to hear my Wingbone Turkey Call –
Springtime…….ahhhhhh……. yes. After a long,cold winter, the change of season is most definitely welcomed. The days are longer, the air is finally warmer and silence of the morning forest is beginning to burst alive with the gobbling of male turkeys. And if there`s one thing that I truly enjoy this time of year, it`s Springtime turkey hunting.
Turkey season in New Jersey runs for five consecutive weeks as follows; A,B,C,D(D runs for two weeks) and E is a permit to hunt on Saturdays during the season. Last week was the beginning of the season(“A” week) and I have to admit, I don`t recall the first week of Turkey Season ever being as cold as it was.Several mornings it hovered right around the thirty degree mark…… and that`s a tad chilly for this time of year. For that matter, I literally only heard two turkeys gobble on the roost, the entire week. In the previous years, I pretty much hear gobbling consistently each day throughout that first week.
The most excitement actually happened Thursday morning as I ventured into some new territory with the hopes of crossing paths with `ol Tom Turkey. It was a beautiful, chilly morning as I hiked into the darkness of the woods at 4:30am. Going by only the shimmering light of the April moon, I trekked down an old logging trail and eventually set up on a flat that had a slight crest of a hill to my right. Looked like a decent set-up from what I could make of it at that hour.
At about 7:15, I heard a gobble way off in the distance and even though it was pretty far off, that sound immediately got the `ol blood pumping. I began to lightly “cluck” on my box call in the crisp morning air. After about an hour, it was apparent that the lone gobbler had headed elsewhere. Eventually, I pulled out my slate pot call and began “cutting” and “purring” if hopes of a response. Then at about 9:15, as I looked down to begin striking my call, something literally forty feet to the right of the trees I was facing, got startled and jumped back behind the trees. I thought, “Well I`ll be damn, a red fox” I thought to myself, as I wasn`t 100% positive what I had actually seen.
In a matter of seconds, I was about to find out what had caught my eye……..As a Coyote darted up the hill!! It was the closest I had ever called in a Coyote, let alone with a turkey call. `Ol Wiley E Coyote caught me totally off guard as I never had the gun up figuring it was a fox. So that was my only real excitement that week(And I loved it!) – Onward to “B” week……..
Looking at the extended forecast, it looked like the weather was going to break open with a warm snap about the middle of the week, as I was banking on this for my morning hunt later in the week. Hopefully the warm streak would get the birds “talking” – The week before, I was sitting at the computer browsing turkey calls on eBay one night and found a rather interesting one. The Wingbone Turkey Call. Native Americans crafted these calls thousands of years ago to lure wild turkeys within range and the calls are actually made of three different bones from the turkey`s wing. So I ordered one and figured I`d give it go.
After watching several YouTube videos like the one below, I have to be honest, I didn`t sound as “perfect” as the guys in the clips, but I figured, “What the hell, not all turkeys probably sound perfect every time either so let`s have at it” –
Loaded up my truck that morning at 4:10am and off I went into the darkness of the early Springtime air. I planned on setting up my pop-up blind which I usually only use when it rains. Just wanted to try something a little different this time.
Daybreak came and I heard the first gobble of the morning off in the distance. At 6:30 I let out my first attempts of lightly yelping on the Wingbone. About an hour later, I did it again. Like I said gang, it sure didn`t sound perfect by any means. Another hour and a half goes by, no gobbling at all so I let out a few more yelps on the Wingbone……..Then it happened! Right over the crest a Gobbler answered back as he was heading up the ridge in my direction. `Ol Tom Turkey was close now…..really close. I gave one light yelp on the Wingbone and he answered back quicker! I slowly raised the Browning in his direction waiting for him to come over the ridge. As his blue head showed, I slowly squeezed the trigger……….. Gobble gobble….. BANG! Thunder-Chicken down.
Hope you all enjoyed my Springtime Turkey Hunting Adventure.
I just picked up my Turkeys from Wildlife Artistry by Mario, and I am ecstatic! What a phenomenal job! Just scroll down take a look at the detail in these pictures. High Quality Taxidermy indeed!
Sharon and Mario are the most gracious, down-to-earth people you`ll ever meet as they always welcome you
warmly when you come to their home. For that matter, they invited me in to have a cup of coffee and some pie the morning I stopped by and I really enjoyed our conversation. We talked for hours about everything from hunting to fishing to a radio show that Mario does to my writing and just about everything under the sun. But one thing that I really wanted to share is what Mario said when discussing customers because it really struck a chord with me……..
He said, “You know Ken….. I don`t have awards and ribbons hanging all over because I`m not that type of guy. I`m not into doing the whole taxidermy show/contest gig…… it`s just not my style. While some guys in the business nowadays, turn down some work because they don`t want to mount this or mount that, I rarely turn anything away. I`m a taxidermist…… that`s what I do. We truly develop a real personal relationship with our customers and that`s why we have a very high percentage of repeat customers and referrals every year. It`s about doing business with the highest level of integrity.
And while accolades are nice, our true reward is seeing the smiling faces of our customer`s when they pick up their mounts. That`s our “Ribbons” at Wildlife Artistry. Because when the day ends, making the customer happy is all that really matters” –
This past Saturday I was out and about with my good buddy Will “Cat_Daddy” Rowe up on Lake Hopatcong having a go at some crappie and perch in the `Yaks. While our original plans were to head back up to the Delaware to take some extra shots for the FUR-FISH-GAME magazine article coming out this December, I called Will early Saturday morning and said, “The hell with the “photo-shoot” `cause there was a half a foot of snow on the ground that day we fished the river and now there`s nothing. I`ll pack up the `Yak and head up your way. Let`s go fishin` instead” – And that`s exactly what we did.
Upon arriving, I knocked on the door, then I meandered about in his garage while waiting. Admiring his arsenal of fishing rod/reel set-ups, I grinned and thought to myself, this is one hardcore fisherman indeed. Then that mouthy Cat_Daddy came out of the door bustin` my balls as we usually do with each other and gave me a big hug. “Good to see ya old man, glad to see ya gettin` around without your walker today!” he said and I replied, “Yea? I`ll old man ya!” as I wrapped my “paws” around his neck – haha! –
The plan was to hit the `Cong and get after some of those tasty perch and crappie that abound up in that big `ol “pond” – Will drove us to his friend Don`s house and that`s where we launched.
Wasn`t long before the sun started warming that early springtime air, that we started getting into some panfish.
A couple highlights of the day was seeing a bald eagle fly over-head and then later watching a beautiful red fox actually stalk some sort of prey then missing it`s intended target. Ran into couple of Cat_Daddy`s friends out on the water, that said they knew of me and one commented how he follows my Adventures as well. Always kind of a nice surprise when I`m out and about.
Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the cove where we had started in the morning, and the crappie were on fire! Just about every cast we landed a decent size “Slab” – We fished the “frenzy” for a good hour before the action cooled off and we decided to call it a day, as it was getting late. As we started paddling out of the cove, a voice yelled out from another boat, “Hey did you ever take that Kayak Safety Course yet? I started laughing like hell, as he was bustin` on `ol Cat_Daddy about the joke I had played on him a week earlier!
**Click the link below to read the joke I played on him;
Will yelled back, “Yea yea that`s real funny!” – I couldn`t stop laughing!
Heading back in Will asked me “Hey did you ever eat perch eggs?” Me; Nope…. never” Then he said, “Tell ya what, let`s go back to the house and I`ll fillet all of the fish and while I`m doing that I`ll cook up the “Caviar of the `Cong” for ya!” –
Fresh perch eggs in the pan!
“Cookin` with Cat_Daddy!”
“The Caviar of the `Cong is served!”
And I have to say, the fresh perch eggs were excellent! Will graciously sent all of the day`s catch home with me and the next night Sharon prepped and baked the delicious fillets of fresh perch and crappie for my supper! Quite the meal!
And that`s what it`s all about…….. Good Friends, Good Fishin` and Good Eatin`!
Winter Bow Hunting is something that I have always loved to do as a youngster growing up in Califon. The excitement and challenge of hunting for deer in the snow and cold has always had a tremendous allure to me.
However, now at 55 years old and being on blood thinners since the heart attack, I`ve come to the realization that the cold air is not all that easy for me to deal with anymore. Now I`m not complaining, because being cold certainly beats the alternative……. a “dirt nap!” – So for that I am very thankful.
But I had been watching the weather forecast for this past weekend, and it was predicted to be a rather balmy 50 degrees….all weekend. “Perfect”, I thought as I made plans to set up my ground blind on the Land Preserve that I had obtained permission to bow hunt on in Califon. Let me tell you a little bit about that. I contacted the gentleman that oversees all of the Land Trusts throughout New Jersey and left a message on his voicemail asking for permission. To be perfectly honest, I really never thought I`d hear back from him, because they don`t allow hunting up there.
But I was wrong and he called back.
We had a nice conversation and he mentioned something about being in the service and said he had done a little research (I guess with Fish and Wildlife…. not really sure) and that he found out I was retired from the Air Force by the type of hunting license I had. Then I was pleasantly shocked. He said, “Although hunting is not allowed there, I have the authority to make exceptions Ken….and I will send you a letter of authorization to Bow Hunt there for the season today”….”just you alone” – I couldn`t thank him enough and he emailed me the letter that day. I was so thankful for his graciousness.
So getting back to the story, like I said, the sound of fifty degrees in January sounded perfect to me and I needed to get some delicious venison in our freezer. Saturday night I loaded my gear into the truck, so I`d be ready to roll before daybreak on Sunday.
Got up on the hill at 5:45am and set up the blind to hunt out of. It was dead calm, not a breeze and warm. Once I got all set up and comfortable in the dark, like everybody else, I had to grab my phone and announce to the world what I was up too on Facebook. I have to admit something here though…….. see I`m not suppose to drag a deer at all anymore, so I was a little concerned how I could pull this off if I got lucky and actually got a deer. “Well…..let me throw something out there to my Facebook Friends”, I said to myself. So I posted what I was doing and where I was and that I`d appreciate a hand dragging if I got lucky. Well let me tell ya, I can`t tell you how many fellas offered to help me! I got numerous messages saying, “I`m around call me” or “Don`t do it yourself Ken, just tell me where you are and I`ll come”………. I just sat there in the dark, smiled to myself, shook my head and thought, “If a person`s real wealth was measured by his true Friends, then I`m certainly a well-off kinda guy” – and for all of those nice offers, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone that messaged me. Really appreciated it.
At about 8am I had a few deer come into the area and I actually got the opportunity to take one. And I swear sometimes I must have an “Angel” that watches over me…… `cause after I shot, the deer ran dead on over the hill and down towards my truck! I couldn`t believe it…….. and after fifteen minutes, I climbed out of the blind and hiked over the hill to where the deer had ran. Lo and behold, she ended up about sixty yards from the truck. Even though it was a short distance, I should`ve called for help as I really need to start being more cognizant of what I do, otherwise I just might end up takin` that “dirt nap” someday.
See the deer on the left and my red truck by the road?
Here`s a little Go PRO video i shot of the day`s adventure up on that hill in Califon;
An usually warm January morning, an excellent place to hunt by myself, plenty of good Friends willing to give a hand and on top of it all, the opportunity to harvest some heart-healthy, delicious venison.
A good morning indeed…… and one to be very Thankful for.
Sucker Gigging! You`ve probably never ever even heard of it right? Well allow me to enlighten you a bit about this Winter-time tradition that takes place in Califon New Jersey. Unlike gigging suckers in Missouri, which is done from a boat, the sucker gigging that we do only takes place on the ice. Compared to the Ozark tradition, whereas they actually use a type of spear to “gig” the suckers out west, we use actual home-made hooks to gig our suckers here in Califon. While the spearing of fish is illegal in the state of New Jersey, hooking or gigging through the ice is not.
Sucker gigging has been done for decades in Califon. Heck I recall as a little boy, my Dad picking me up from Sunday school and telling me that “They`re gigging up at Wise`s right now” ……”So when we get home, change your clothes and we`ll go back down to the river” – And I`ll tell you, I was so excited, I couldn`t get out of my Sunday School clothes fast enough because I would at least get to “drive” the suckers(at this age I was too young to gig!) and that was a big deal for me to do.
So last Sunday was New Year`s Eve and I had been getting a few text messages throughout the week from my buddies saying that the ice ought to be safe enough by the weekend and some asking if we were going gigging this coming Saturday or Sunday. See what was interesting was the fact that we had ice this early in season. As a matter of fact, I don`t recall in recent years ever having started in December. Generally, we would get a cold snap in January or February that would lock up the river for at least a few days. But everything looked like a “go” so we decided to meet Sunday at 9am at Wise`s Pond.
We had a couple of “New-be” Giggers join up with us for their first time. My old Air Force buddy Bob Meyer whom I reconnected with, thanks to Facebook, after not seeing since basic training…..31 years ago! Jeff Van Nest another good friend whom I reconnected with after not seeing him since the late eighties. I was really happy that these two guys could join us for some fun on the ice.
And speaking of ice, Jeff`s Brother Jon, broke the first ice of the morning with a spud bar…………. as he literally dropped the bar on the ice and we all stepped back………The ice was barely an inch thick!! I joked and said, “Well…. somebody might be takin` a dip today boys!” As cold as it had been, this didn`t even seem possible……..
This first spot and the next several proved to be absolutely fruitless……….. and none of us could believe that we weren`t finding fish. Actually what was very peculiar, was the fact that we weren`t seeing anything. Not even a sunny or rockbass. As we discussed this, we came up with a plethora of possible reasons for the lack of fish. Was it because of the sewage treatment plant in Long Valley? Or maybe all of the salt/brine used on the roads had some kind of adverse effect on the fish over the years. Perhaps the fish-eating birds i.e. Bald Eagles, merganzers and blue herons were steadily depleting the fish population. Heck someone even mentioned Northern Pike, or maybe it was a combination of all of these factors. Whatever is was, it certainly made the entire river seem dead.
After a couple hours, it was time to move. The destination was “Duckville” in Middle-Valley, right outside of Califon. This spot had almost always produced some or a lot of fish for us over the years.
We quickly cut our holes, set up and sent the drivers down-river. The moral was getting a little low at this point because of the lack of suckers. It was time to shake things up and get some fish!
Finally! A nice sucker glided slowly across my hole in the ice………….
We had finally gotten into a few fish! Jon nailed three on the next drive and Shane got a random one before the drivers even started.
The young “viking” in front of me and Jeff is Shane! Haha!
Then Bob gigged his first sucker!
So without any further ado, here`s the little Go PRO Video I shot of the day`s adventure on the ice;
Here I`m trying to get these hoodlums in line for our group picture! Haha!
“Alright……ya ready? On three say cheeeeeeese…….one, two three cheeeeeeeeeeeeese!
A good day raisin` hell on the river with a bunch of great guys….. and that`s what it`s all about.
Woodcock hunting is something my best Friend Curt & I always enjoy in the Fall. Nothing quite like a nice Fall morning, hiking with `ol Jake up around the Delaware Water Gap, hoping to kick up a few of the migratory game-birds as they begin their trek south.
After chatting on the phone the past week, we both agreed, although it hadn`t been all that cold the last few days, the two recent cold fronts, ought get the Woodcock moving. So plans were made to head up north…… into Sussex County on Saturday morning. I never even set my alarm as I knew Curt would call very early to confirm that we were still on. At 7am my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “What are you still in bed?” —- Haha! I said, “Yea, I figured you`d be my alarm, calling a little late aren`t ya?” — Curt, “My damn clock thinks daylight savings time ends today instead of tomorrow and set-back an hour this morning!! –
We both laughed like hell and agreed to meet at our usual spot, the Quick Chek at 8:30.
Now most Woodcock also known as the “Timberdoodle”, start to migrate from the north(Canada) in October, with the major push from mid-October to early November. After migrating south in Autumn, most Woodcock spend the Winter in the Gulf Coast and southeastern Atlantic Coast states. The core of the wintering range centers on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Then the birds head north again in February. Most have returned to the northern breeding range by mid-March to mid-April.
After about a forty-five minute drive north, we were entering the Delaware Water Gap area. As we made our way through Peter`s Valley, a black creature darted across the road in front of Curt`s truck. A Black squirrel…… but with a white tipped-tail! Never in my life had I seen a Black squirrel with that unique white-tip!
Awesome way to start our morning.
For our first spot of the day, Curt pulled into an old logging road that was barely accessible. He knew the area very well and had actually missed a grouse up here the week before. After hooking up the GPS collar to Jake we were on our way up the hill. It was only a matter of minutes, that Jake had the first Woodcock of the day pointed! Curt was much closer to the dog and tried closing in quickly. Unfortunately, it`s rather thick cover up there and you don`t always have much of a shot, as was in this case. The bird flushed and actually flew behind Curt and didn`t offer a shot. We continued to work our way up the hillside, through the thick cover. Really looked like ideal Woodcock habitat and even for that elusive New Jersey Grouse. We used to see quite a few Grouse up in this area years ago. As a matter of fact, the last Grouse I ever shot in Jersey was up in this general area, on Thanksgiving morning about ten or twelve years ago.
After hunting for about two hours we hadn`t had another “point” from Jake nor did we bump any Woodcock. Curt figured that it just hadn`t been really cold enough to get them moving yet.
We worked our way around what appeared to be a really grown up field from years gone by. Lots a wild roses and young sapling trees everywhere. Shortly I heard “Bird!” as Curt flushed a Grouse! Never came my way nor did he even have a shot. “Damn it…. a Grouse” I said as we kept walking.
Hiking into another section, Curt said, “Long before I brought you up here, this spot that we`re walking into, was loaded with Woodcock years ago” – “Well maybe we`ll find a bird or two” I replied. Shortly after getting into the thick brush, the GPS beeped…… Jake was on point, but a good ways away. Now one thing about `ol Jake, while he doesn`t always hunt close to us, he certainly holds point on a bird forever! Once again, Curt was closer to him, as I circled for an opening on some higher ground. In a matter of moments, the bird flushed and Curt`s over-and-under 20Gauge Berretta cracked, but he missed the fast, darting Woodcock.
After a quick follow-up, Jake went on point quickly and shortly thereafter, we bagged our first of the season Jersey Woodcock. While there isn`t a lot of meat on these small game-birds, I do find them to be quite tasty!
As the mid-morning sun turned into the afternoon, we decided to take a break, pull a lot of ticks off of us and go grab some lunch. We usually stop in the Layton General store but Curt went another route and we ended up on 206 a few miles north at the Hainesville General Store. A really neat old store filled with amazing antiques and kinds of wonderful, homemade goodies.
After lunch we headed back out to the woods….(hell after those delicious cheesesteak sandwiches and homemade fries, I was ready for a nap!) –
Needless to say we didn`t find anymore “Timberdoodles” as we hunted `till about 4pm and decided to call it a day. Ohhhhhhh…… I almost forgot. Even though I didn`t have a lot of opportunity to shoot much cool hunting footage, I did manage to put together this short clip and you can see that `ol 1959 20gauge Browning A5 that I use in action. I also used some new editing software for this clip…….Seems a lot clearer than some I`ve shot in the past. Hope you like like it!
And while we only managed to bring home one woodcock, it was just a fine Fall day to be up north in the Great Outdoors of New Jersey with Curt and Jake.
On our way out of the Gap, we had an added treat…….. a Bobcat bounded across the road in front of Curt`s truck! Another awesome site to see as this was the second Bobcat that we had seen in the last two years up there.
The last few weekends, I`ve been running 295 way, way down into South Jersey chasing one of my favorite predator fish…… The invasive Snakehead! In my book, this is one of the most intriguing freshwater “Toothy Critters” that you can encounter and also one that can be quite a challenge depending on where you go after them, especially in a `Yak.
My Snakehead excursions began a few weeks ago when I was on vacation. Other than it was really great to be off for the week, the fishing was absolutely horrendous. Between several cold-fronts blowing in, coupled with a few really strong storms, the fishing for the most part was a wash-out. So the last Sunday of my vacation, I decided to try my hand at some Snakeheads, since I hadn`t caught as much as a cold all week!
I mapped out a spot where I had caught `Snakes a few months back, loaded up the `Yak and made my way south on 295. Once I got to the spot, I realized that launching the `Yak in the duckweed covered mucky swamp, was going to be a bit tougher than I had anticipated. So with my machete and knocked down a good amount of cattails and brush finally clearing a path to drag the `Yak to the swampy waterway.
In the first fifteen minutes, I had my first solid Snakehead “Blow-up”……. and miss. During the next forty minutes or so, I had two more “blow-ups”…… both missed. Now I was a bit puzzled because it actually seemed like the `Snakes were totally missing the top-water frog I was throwing. “Time to change my strategy” I thought to myself as I reeled up and switched the KVD frog with a smaller Jawbone top-water mouse.
Moving along quietly through the swamp, I set up on the next opening in the thick lily pads. Immediately on my second cast, I had a giant “swirl” in the soup-like duckweed as my mouse hit the water…….. A snakehead was lurking close by. I quickly tossed the mouse back in the same area, just giving it a twitch every now and then, rather than retrieve it. just trying to taunt the `Snake into a strike…….. Then it happened….. BAM!
Snakehead on! These fish are so aggressive when they hit and can be quite acrobatic once that hook is set!
Shortly thereafter, the snakeahead was in my `Yak.
I landed two more `Snakes that afternoon and felt the week of poor fishing had somewhat been partially redeemed by those few fish I caught that day.
The following weekend I was invited by two of my South Jersey friends to head down into their neck of the woods to chase those Snakeheads again. Heck just mention Snakehead fishing and you won`t have to ask me twice! HaHa! So the first trip was planned with Carmen Fanelli who I fished with back in June when he caught his very first snakehead ever and I landed that 7.25lb beast. Carmen wanted to try for them in a `Yak as he had never caught a snakehead or let alone any kind of fish in a kayak ever. So I burned a vacation day, loaded up both `yaks on Thursday night and was on the road by 4:30am on Friday. I met up with him at his parent`s house as they lived close to where we planned on fishing. We got to the creek and were fishing by 7:30.
And it didn`t take long. As a matter of fact, we were only fishing about fifteen or twenty minutes tops when Carmen yelled, “Yo…Yo Ken!”…. I paddled out of the pads and could see he had a nice Snakehead thrashing about by the `Yak!
I quickly netted his first fish ever in a kayak….a Snakehead! I couldn`t have been happier!
Now before I tell you all about my next couple days down in the swamps with my friend Andrew Dopkin, I shot a little video that I hope will give you a taste of what Snakehead fishing in the swamps of Jersey is really like;
Trekked Back down to the swamps on Saturday…
My friend Andrew invited me to head down his way the very next day to chase some more Snakeheads. So after a two hour journey back down south, I arrived at his home that afternoon. We jumped in his truck and were on our way to his secret Snakehead Honey-hole about thirty miles away in the middle of no where.
Boy…. and I mean in the middle of no where.
As we hiked down the steep drop-off, he explained that the interesting thing about this place, is that it wasn`t connected to any sort of tributary off of the Delaware River. Apparently the `Snakeheads got in here when it flooded and remained trapped and had easily adapted.
Andrew being a very gracious host, allowed me to take the first few casts into the swampy waters. On the fourth cast I had a “blow-up” which I missed. I told him, “C`mon… start fishing!” – And on one of his casts, as he steadily retrieved the frog, literally right before the shoreline……WHAM!!! Huge blow-up and fish on!
Andrew easily landed the beautiful `Snake! I don`t think I ever saw a snakehead strike that hard nor swallow the entire frog the way that one did! The entire frog was gone!
Needless to say, the spot was red-hot and he managed to nail three more nice ones. As for me……. well…… hey sometimes you`re on and sometimes you`re not. In other words, I would`ve had a better chance of gettin` hit by lightnin` on that bright, sunny afternoon rather than catch a Snakehead! HaHa!
I had a good number of blow-ups and just couldn`t seem to connect and set the hook. So we were discussing poles, lines etc. and I mentioned that I had stepped on and broke the rod I had used back in June when I caught the nice 7 pounder. He said, “hey let me see that rod you`re using” – and said, “I think this might be part of your problem Ken, the rod is bit too light” and proceeded to show me his “Fast Action” rod.
“This(my rod) definitely doesn`t have a lot of back-bone when you set the hook like mine” he explained.
Which when I thought about it, made a lot of sense. After a few more hours, we called it a day and headed back to his house. On the way back, I said, “I`m going to see if I can find one of those rods up my way” as he said the local Walmart had them down there at a really good price. Well the next day, I searched three Walmarts up here and none had this fishing rod….. not even close.
One more time back to the swamps the following Saturday….
During the week Andrew and I shot several texts back and forth and he asked if I wanted to take a crack at those Snakeheads one more time on the upcoming Saturday. I said, “Sure….. and I want to try something” I explained that I couldn`t come down until the afternoon and that I might only have enough time to fish a couple hours. My plan was to fish at dusk till dark, with the intentions of possibly even getting into a Bowfin or two. I also said, “Go to Walmart and pick me up one of those Fast-Action poles too” – So the gamble was a four hour round-trip drive to fish about two and a half hours. But I had a hunch and wanted to see if it would pay off.
I arrived about 4:15 and we had a good twenty mile drive to reach this other hot-spot Andrew explained. Half an hour later we arrived at our destnation, as the afternoon sun was beginning to slowly fade into western horizon. We quickly hiked into the new territory.
I started casting into the first pond and within minutes landed my first Snakehead of the day with that new “fast action” rod!
Moments later, Andrew had a nice “blow-up” but missed – Then another shortly thereafter. He thought they might`ve been Bowfin as they as usually harder to set the hook with top-water lures. Then he had an idea.
He asked me if I had ever used “Trailer Hooks” and I said “Yep…. on Spinnerbaits for Pike” — He said, “No no… I mean on a top-water frog?” – I said, “Never knew they made Trailers for top-water” –
That`s a Trailer Hook…… the single hook that`s connected to the two main hooks. The idea is that you will have fewer misses because the fish gets caught on the Trailer.
Shortly thereafter, he did catch a Snakehead using this set-up……and that was about it for him. Seemed like the “curse” that I had the week before, had shifted to him! HaHa! But that`s why they call it fishing!
Yep….. the Fast Action rod was the ticket that evening and my hunch was right. The action was awesome from dusk till dark.
Couldn`t ask for better weather or better company. You know I don`t have a lot of South Jersey Fishin` Friends but the few that I do have, are the most passionate fishermen(Ladies) you`ll ever meet. And even though we all come from different walks of life and are pretty different age-wise, the “common denominator” is of course our passion for fishing. And when you`re enjoying that with a good friend or two,….. All of your troubles and worries seem to go away for that short period of time.