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.
Had a nice invite from one of the RodFather members a few weeks back, to have a go at some Snakeheads on foot way down in the swamps of South Jersey. And I`m certainly not one to pass up a chance when it comes to fishing for one of my all-time favorite Toothy Critters!
So I took a day off work, saddled up at 5am and made my way down 295 to meet up with Carmen at his parent`s house. As I pulled up in front of the house, both he and his Dad were on the porch and all smiles as I jumped out of the Murano and said, “Mornin`…….. You ready to see if we can get ya that Snake?” —- And his Dad said, “Yea and if he gets one, then he can show me how to as well!” as we all had a good laugh.
Carmen said, “Just throw your gear in my car, I`ll drive” as the first spot was literally about five minutes away.
As we approached the wall, he said he had several misses at this spot the last few days.
He said he had always fished it from along the water`s edge below the wall, so we hiked down the path.
We worked this spot for about twenty minutes then hiked to the other side. He said he wasn`t sure if Snakeads were as readily on this side as the water was fast moving. But I had a hunch and went back to the other side where we started. But this time, rather than go down to the edge of the water, I cast my frog from the top of the wall. Figuring this might be a better way to approach the skittish Snakehead.
BAM! My hunch was right! Snakehead On!
I quickly hustled my way off the wall and down the bank, reeling as I walked my way down the embankment.
Nice way to start the day! First Snakehead of the day in the first forty minutes! Carmen was surprised that we were on the board so quickly. “Ahhhhhhh……beginner`s luck” I told him as we both laughed.
After going to several other spots that morning, we decided to move a little further south as he said he had seen a couple rather large Snakes recently in these pools. This time I decided to try throwing a Zoom Fluke rather than everybody`s “Go-To” top-water Frog. Lately I had been having a decent amount of success with this particular Fluke, with the Largemouth and Northern Pike up my way.
The fourth cast with the Zoom Fluke…….. BAM! Fish on! Carmen saw the splashing and came running! I said, “I think it`s a huge Bowfin”…….. as he thrashed on top of the water. The mighty fish peeled line as my drag began to scream! What a fight! Carmen jumped down to the edge of the water trying to grab the beast with the Boga-Grip! Missing several times, the huge fish ran back out to deeper water! “He won`t open his mouth Ken!” as he tried again the lip-lock the monster with the grips! Then abruptly Carmen jumped in and grabbed the beast with both hands and threw the mighty serpent-like fish up on shore! We finally had the Swamp Monster Snakehead on shore! And what a fish!
The dark demon fish weighed in at 7lbs. 2oz. and was 29 inches long. A trophy indeed!
Now after all this excitement, I wanted to focus on getting Carmen his first Snake….. so we rounded up our gear, threw the beast in the cooler and ventured onward into some new territory. After about an hour, it happened!
BAM! Snake on for Carmen! And he finally landed his first Snakehead!
We worked the area for a couple more hours, with a decent amount of “blow-ups” – Then I nailed a nice Bowfin on a “Bubble-Gum” Zoom Fluke.
And without any further ado, here`s the Go PRO Video I shot of the day`s adventure down in South Jersey;
So Carmen caught his first Snakehead and I landed my Swamp Monster…… a great day indeed.
Nothing quite like fishing with someone new……who truly enjoys the sport with the same passion. Carmen was an excellent host……. and I`ll be back…….with the `Yaks!
What a fantastic day out and about on the Saltwater with my friend Walton Cheung this past Sunday! Walton found me several years ago on YouTube and contacted me about fishing in Califon, where I grew up. From that point on, we`d had always stayed in touch over the years, and had only got back together to share our passion for fishing on his boat back in 2011……. that is until a couple weeks ago, when he messaged me on Facebook, asking if I`d be interested in joining him on his boat in Staten Island.
“Absolutely!” I wrote back and we set up a date to meet up at the Great Kills Park in Staten Island, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Funny thing was this was only the second time I had ever driven into Staten Island and I forgot all about the uhhhhh……. nice toll! HaHa! So I pulled up, I looked at the Lady and asked, “How much?” ……She replied, “$15″………… I looked at her and said, “That`s for the year…..right?” —- HaHa!! She laughed, I paid her and asked, “Hey how far away is the Great Kills Park?”…….. She said, “I really don`t know…… I wouldn`t imagine too far away though”…… Me, “Okkkkkkkk…..thanks”…as I pull away shaking my head. I couldn`t find the park in the Navigation(ok….. can you say Ken sucks at using Navigation???!! Can build websites, but can`t use Navigation!! HaHa!)
Eventually I got to the Park and met up with Walton and his friend Ken(another Ken) as they had the boat already launched and ready to go. Grabbed my cooler, jumped on board and off we went.
First stop, we weren`t fishing a minute and Walton latched onto a really nice Dogfish(we were calling them Sharks though! HaHa! `cause the resemble a little Shark) – Moments later, we each caught a few more Dogfish and then Ken was jigging a swim-shad and nailed a really nice 23 inch Fluke! Good solid, fun action right off the bat!
Then my gracious Fishing Host told me to drive the boat……… which I love to do!
Next stop, I wrangled up a “Keeper”(19 inch) Fluke of my own as well!
Gorgeous day…. light, steady breeze….. And I had my Dramamine so the “Chum King” didn`t show up that day on the high seas! Yep…… I do get SeaSick! HaHa!
I think you all will really going to enjoy this Go PRO Video I shot of the day`s Adventure…… Walton had his Drone out there as well and we combined some footage. So without any further ado, grab some popcorn, crank up the speakers and enjoy the show;
It was really good to re-connect with Walton as he is a really nice guy and a great host.
We both agreed to get together more often for some more fishing Adventures in the near future!
Good Friends….. Good Fishing……….Can`t beat that combination in my book.
You know as I was driving home from work last night, I was thinking about all of the really decent guys and gals that I`ve met through Facebook and the various outdoors sites that I belong to on-line. Really nice people……. and while all of us come from different walks of life, we share that one common connection…..Our love for fishing. And even though we may all be strangers to one another, because of our common passion, striking up an initial conversation couldn`t be any easier.
Well last Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing one of these individuals. My on-line fishing Friend, Brian Downs graciously invited down to his neck of the woods to have a go at Snakeheads and Bowfins.
We met at our chosen destination at about 7am that morning and I followed him down 295 for several miles.
He explained how they had done really well at this spot the day before and was hoping for the same action.
Once at the swamp, we quickly set up, grabbed our gear and hiked our way in. As we approached the swampy area, the first thing I noticed were how high the lily pads were. At least waist-high. Definitely now like to low-lying smaller pads back up north.
We started working our top-water frogs across the green, mucky duck-weed covered waters trying to entice a strike from a hungry Snakehead. Nothing really that first hour. We talked about tides and concluded that we were really just at the beginning of the incoming tide. More than likely, the fishing might be a tad slow for the first couple hours.
About a half hour later, Brian suggested moving on and we we walked back out towards the lily pad-infested main lake. He said that there were some nice Snakeheads and Largemouth Bass usually caught in the lake itself. So we decided to toss some frogs and see what happens.
On my third cast, I saw a tremendous wake coming right at my frog! BAM! Fish on!
The mighty Bowfin rolled and thrashed as I set the hook! “Wow! What a heavy fish”, I said aloud. Then within the next twenty seconds my line went limp as the big `Fin threw my frog and cruised back into the murky darkness of the still Pads.
After that excitement, we hiked to a little walk-way bridge that crossed this fairly narrow creek. Brian said “Let`s work this….. I just saw a Snake in the muddy water” – He worked on side and I the other. At one point he said, “Ken…stop! The Snake is right under your frog! He`s stalking it! Twitch it!” – And so I did as my “Guide” requested and BAM! An explosion as the ferocious Snakehead slammed into the top-water frog! I reeled back and set a hard hook! Less than a minute later, Brian was at the water`s edge clamping the Boga Grips on it`s lips.
We continued to fish for the next several hours in the hot muggy swamp. At one point, I came within inches of stepping on a huge watersnake(well….. at least I think it was just a watersnake) which could been a problem as I only wear crocs the majority of the Summer. So more or less, I`m barefoot. Yea….. that could`ve been a problem. Then Brian at another point had the strangest bug I had ever seen land on him!
Turned out this peculiar looking bug was a “Eyed Elater”……. And as I said, neither of us had ever seen this strange bug before ever.
I think some of you will appreciate how tough it can be to fish on foot in a situation like this. So without further ado, here`s the Video I shot of the day`s Adventure;
We definitely decided that we could cover a lot more territory in the `Yaks next time I head down that way.
Heck I even got the chance met a few of his buddies that were fishing out and about down there that day. Bunch of real nice fellas.
Brian told me awhile back, that he`d have me down to chase those Snakes……. And a good man keeps his word and I appreciate that. Look forward to draggin` the `Yaks down that way next trip to fish with my Friend.
My alarm went off at 4am this past Saturday and as I heard to rain coming down hard, I opened the back door to access the weather situation. Trying to convince myself that it was only a shower, I looked at the weather app on my phone and quickly realized that turkey hunting was out of the question. Those `ol “Thunder Chickens” would just never gobble in that hard, pouring rain and according to the app, it was expected to be like this on and off most of the day.
Time for plan B. Take the `Yak out a few hours later. And that`s exactly what I did.
See if there`s one thing that is consistent about me, is the fact that if the weather is bad, I`m always eager to fish. Why? Well number one, because I generally have decent luck during inclement weather conditions and number two, because wherever I choose to go, more than likely, it`s a safe bet that I`ll have that particular body of water pretty much to myself.
So I decided to trek back up to Budd Lake and that`s exactly what it was when I arrived……. desolate.
As I unloaded the `Yak and my gear, I stared at a flag waving in the strong wind blowing out of the east, convincing myself that “It wasn`t that bad”………right. In a matter of minutes, I was paddling out in the wind and started casting a chartreuse and white chatter-bait along the weedy shoreline. Bam! Fish on! A really good size Largemouth Bass flipped off right at the side of the `Yak! “Well that didn`t take too long” I said aloud as I paddled and tried to hold position while casting against the wind and rain. My arms were definitely in for a work out in this weather.
Paddling my way further out onto the lake, I was having a really difficult time as the wind kicked up even more, which caused me to have to continuously paddle in order to hold some sort of point.
I moved into some brush on the edge of the shoreline just so I could regroup and lay out a few different lures in the `Yak. Going through my lure bag would be one less thing that I needed to do between constantly paddling and casting in the strong wind. I really wouldn`t recommend any of you younger kayakers to go out in a situation like this, at least not alone. At one point, there was actually white caps on the lake…… that`s how rough it got.
Working a small cove, I tossed the white spinner-bait into the murky waters and actually had a fish chase it as the lure got closer to the surface. Almost like a top-water strike…….. “Was that a Bass” I asked myself as I quickly threw the lure back over the general area. BAM! My rod doubled over as the strong fish dove under the `Yak! I knew that feeling all to well……… yep…. it was `ol Esox! In a matter of minutes after short but gallant battle, I landed a beautiful 34 inch Northern Pike.
After taking a picture, I quickly released the Toothy Critter back into the depths on Budd Lake. I sort of decided also to stop using my bogus fish grips as well. I figured having that grip clamped on their mouth probably causes even more stress and can definitely literally rip and break their lips if the fish just hangs off the grips by it`s weight alone. Also they do release and swim away much quicker without using the grips. But don`t expect me to not use the grips for Snakeheads! HaHa! No no……. not happening.
I continued to battle the wind which actually started getting stronger at this point. Definitely making it tough to fish! At one point, there were even white caps on the water. A little rough indeed….. but the fish were bitin`!
Shortly there after, hooked into yet another nice Toothy Critter……. Number two was in the `Yak.
As the dark clouds rolled in overhead and the rain came down, the Pike were cooperating nicely!
By now I was getting soaked having left my rain coat back at the truck, but when the action is hot and heavy, I rarely ever call it quits. Ok ok…… strike that……. I never call it quits when the fish are in their feeding frenzy mode!
Mixing it up a little, I decided to use my old “Fave-Pike-Lure” that I always used in northern Ontario Canada for quite a few years………a Gold Mepps #5. There isn`t a species of Esox that won`t hit a Gold Mepps. I`ve caught `em all with it and landed number three of day tossing it near an old beaver lodge. A real nice fat pike that definitely bent my rod as he dove under the `Yak!
And yep…… I did have the Go PRO that rainy day. So without any further ado, here`s the little clip I shot of the day`s adventure up on Budd Lake. Hope ya like it! (`Cause between the wind and paddling, it was extra tough to do!)
Ended up being a really good day out on the water……… hell……. I like just about any day out on any water though! HaHa! Ended up landing five nice Northern Pike, lost a nice Bass and landed a smaller Bass as well. As I paddled back to the launch area, four younger fellas were loadin` up their jon boats and two saw me coming in and stopped. I came into shore and said, “How`d you boys do today out there? They said they only had lost one pike and asked how I did, so I called them all over and showed them my phone pics of the days catch. They seemed pretty impressed, then one of them said, I`ve seen you on Instagram….. I know who you are because of your hat”……… HaHa! So we shook hands, introduced ourselves and then another older fella walk over and says, “This guy always catches fish….. I follow you on YouTube and watch all of your videos”…….. So we shook hands and chatted a bit. Real nice bunch of guys.
One thing that I really enjoy doing in the `Yak, is exploring new territory and this past Saturday I did just that.
The challenge of fishing in a new body of water is very appealing to me. However, I sort of got mixed vibes from the various posts that I read on-line about my latest targeted waterway, Budd Lake. As quite a few had posted about having little or no luck at all on the largest natural lake in New Jersey.
A little tid-bit about Budd Lake:
Budd Lake was named after John Budd, who acquired 1,300 acres of land in 1714. Prior to that, it was called Hattacawanna Lake. A glacial lake at an evaluation of 933 feet, Budd Lake has a surface area of 374 acres. making it the largest natural lake in New Jersey. It is 7-12 feet deep, and can have large algal blooms.
Now, the forecast was a chilly 47 degrees, rainy and with a breezy with a very gusty wind at times. “Hmmmmm… “Perfect! More than likely the lake would be deserted on such a “nice” day!” I thought to myself as I smiled while looking out the window. With that thought i mind, I got dressed, loaded up `Yak, grabbed my hat and headed out to Budd Lake. The beauty of where we live(Well….. there are many other ones….. like my “friends” those Bears on the patio! HaHa!) is the fact that there are so many great fishing waters within a ten mile radius of our house. And Budd Lake is exactly ten miles away.
I pulled in the lot a little after 9am and the wind was howling as the cold rain pelted my face. I actually had second thoughts about draggin` the `Yak off the Murano. “Ahhhhhh….I`ll hang along to shoreline as I paddle out” I said aloud trying to convince myself. With the wind blowing out of the north-west, I was in for some tough paddlin`. Not only was I going to have a long paddle, but paddling directly into the wind. And once I reached my destination on the lake, it would be blowing the `Yak across the lake…..and ideally I wanted to work my way back down the edge. In a nutshell, my arms were in for quite a workout fighting the wind while trying to fish as well!
Probably took me a good hour or more fighting the wind, to paddle across the lake. But I finally got there and was ready to have at it!
There were three reasons that I was rather intrigued with Budd Lake; Bass, Pickerel and Northern Pike…… all in the same waters! So being a veteran Esox-chasin`-son-of-a-gun, I started out with a couple of favorite go-too lures from my arsenal that would simply target any of the three species of fish I was after. I attached a blue and black Chatterbait to one rod and a chartreuse and white 3/8oz. Spinnerbait to the other.
I have my Shimano reels spooled with 30lb Power PRO and I run a 30lb. 6 inch wire-leader because I have had more than a couple of those toothy critters slash the line with their razor-like teeth. Personally I want to land my fish not watch them swim away with a big lure in their mouth.
I worked my way along the shore casting into brushy cover along the treeline. “`Ol Esox had to be here as it just looks too good!” I said to myself. Then BAM! Fish on! Felt like a good one at that as the Northern Pike thrashed the top water with his tail! The drag ran as he dove under my `Yak and crashed and shook his head on top of the water on the opposite side! I quickly walked my rod around the front of the `Yak to get the line on the other side. The drag peeled off more line as he dove down into the murky water of the lake! After about ten minutes of fighting, I finally netted the beautiful 35 inch Esox and had my 1st Northern Pike at Budd Lake.
After a couple pictures, I quickly released the `Gator back into the pond unharmed. “I have a feeling things are going to get “interesting” out here” I thought to myself as I made my way back to where I had left off.
After about thirty minutes, I got into this little shallow sort of cove or cut-out among the trees. Quietly I drifted a little closer so I could pin-point some casting into the cover. On the third cast, as the Chatterbait hit the water, a violent wake came towards it immediately! WHAM! Fish on baby! Here we go! Another nice pike thrashed about that I quickly netted. Another nice, colorful Northern indeed. My second of the morning.
Decided to start throwing the Spinnerbait on my second set-up as I have caught many Northern Pike and Pickerel on this color combo in my outings. And it didn`t take too long, as the drag started reeling off line! Fish on again! As my rod doubled over, I knew I had another really nice New Jersey Northern Pike! After a short battle, I netted the tired, fat toothy critter. And I had my 3rd Budd Lake Pike of the day.
Wasn`t long after that I had another strike……… but it felt a little different than the past three. A tad more sluggish. More of a pull and run. I had a good idea what it was as I set the hook. Yep….. I was right! A decent “Snot-Rocket!”…. Not quite the fight of the Northerns, but all and all a good one. A nice 22” Chainside Pickerel was quickly scooped into my net.
After a few hours, I had made my way almost along the entire edge and it started raining pretty hard. “Ahhhhhh…….. `bout time to call it a day” I said aloud as I was pretty chilled(which I get pretty easily nowadays because of the blood thinners I have to take) – I figured I`d make a couple more casts and get the heck out of there……….. And I went back to throwing the black and blue chatterbait…….
Ohhhhhhhh boy! What an explosion!! As a Monster Largemouth Bass attacked the Chatterbait! Making several sporadic jumps and flips before I could finally net her! A beautiful 5.8lb female full of eggs! I quickly took a picture of and gently released the “Mama Bass” back into the pond unharmed.
So I guess you could say I hit my Budd Lake Trifecta that day…… Pike, Bass and Pickerel!
Definitely enjoyed my 1st time out on Budd Lake. Quite the Adventure indeed. I`ll be back. And if you happen to recognize my `Yak or my hat, pull up and say “Hi” ………always enjoy talkin` to Friends out on the water.
Yesterday was one of the most enlightening learning experiences that I have encountered in quite sometime, so I thought it would be nice share it with all of you.
Craig Lemon, the Hackettstown Hatchery Superintendent for New Jersey Fish and Game kindly invited me to see how they spawn Muskies at the Hatchery, as he said he thought I would find it very interesting.
And boy….. was he ever right. As I had no idea as to what they actually did here.
I arrived to the Hatchery at 10am and as I strolled in the building, I saw Craig and his team had already induced several Muskies and were preparing the tables were they would extract the eggs and semen from the fertile fish.
It was absolutely amazing to see these massive predator fish that close up as they cruised about rather slowly in their suspended groggy state in the large holding tanks. Craig explained that the spawning period is only for a week or two, so between setting traps out(These Muskies were caught at Greenwood Lake which is about an hour & fifteen minutes away from the Hatchery), checking the traps, then bringing the fish back to the Hatchery and deciding which fish are ready to be spawned and which ones need to be induced, timing is everything. The traps that they use to capture the Muskies are like huge, over-sized minnow trap. You know the kind……… with two holes where the minnows simply swim in and are captured. Same exact idea with these large Musky traps. Craig said, “The trapnets capture hundreds of fish daily, but we only bring back the species we are spawning to the hatchery. Nets are checked daily when spawning is at its peak, so we don’t stress the fish were they might spawn in the net. When water temps are colder we can let the nets fish for 48 hours before checking” –
Trapnet markers set up on Greenwood Lake to catch the Muskies.
Trapnet full of Muskies ready to be spawned!
Craig told me, “The Muskellenge Broodstock Collection over the past 20 years has taken place every year between March 27th and April 27th. The Muskies generally follow the Walleye collection and also when Lake temperatures reach the Magic 50 degree mark. The females typically “ripen” at 50 degrees” –
I observed that the majority of the muskies had been tagged previously and those that weren`t got tagged at the spawning that day.
The Spawning procedure;
Craig explained “Common Carp Pituitary is injected into the females to induce spawning. We use it under the Federal INAD Program. Walleyes and Northern Pike will spawn on their own back at the Hatchery. Muskies won`t.” Craig said they aren`t positive what causes this in the Muskies, but he said they speculate that it may be possibly the stress of transporting them, causes them to be unable to do this naturally at the Hatchery. Possibly.
Working in pairs, Craig and his team started the spawning procedure. Craig extracted the semen from the males through a sort of suction apparatus while the other two massaged the eggs from a large female. One held the large Musky towards to back of the fish while the other held her front and gently worked the eggs from her belly. It was an amazing process to witness as the eggs streamed into a small silver type of bowl, Craig would then disperse the extracted Musky semen into the bowl with the eggs. Now this was really interesting; they actually have their own “pond of Muskies” at the Hatchery. More or less for back-up if they can`t/don`t capture enough males in the wild, they have their own “stable” in order to spawn the fertile eggs.
Then I had the opportunity to lightly stir and mix the Musky “batter” with a goose feather. After stirring for several minutes, one of the guys took over for the next step. He added a cup or so of plain ordinary corn starch to the Musky “baby-batter” and continued stirring. The corn starch keeps the eggs from sticking together. He then took the bowl over to another station where he sort of trickled water ever so lightly in the bowl as he continued to stir in order to clarify to mixture.
Stirring the Musky “Baby-Batter”
Eventually the “batter” would be placed in one of these clear cylinders and monitored. The gentleman explained to me that the cylinder I was looking at, had 149,000 Musky eggs in it! He also showed me several holding tanks full of baby Northern Pike that they had spawned back in April that they were raising.
You`re looking at 149,000 Musky eggs in this one container!
A tank full of baby Northern Pike that they spawned last month.
Then he showed me a tank full of Tiger Musky Fry. A Tiger Musky is a cross between a Northern Pike and a Musky. These beautiful fish are “created” right there at the Hatchery. Craig explained that with a Tiger Musky they can spawn either a female Northern Pike with a male Musky or vice-versa, a female Musky with a male Northern Pike in order to “create” the Tiger Musky. They showed me a holding tank that had Walleyes just on the brink of hatching and told me in a day or so, there would be thousands of baby Walleye fry in there. It`s also very interesting that the Hatchery trades/supplies other states with various species as well. For instance Craig told me that they ship Northern Pike to Massachusetts in exchange for land-locked Salmon fry to raise and stock in New Jersey.
About an hour after the completed the spawning process, the truck came in with more freshly captured Muskies from Greenwood Lake. The fish were carefully placed in a smaller holding tank, the measured, weighed and tagged accordingly then put in the larger holding ponds until they were ready to be spawned in the upcoming days.
The muskies are then returned to the Lakes immediately after the spawning at the Hatchery.
I never knew till now, how many different species of fish that are actually raised at the Hackettstown Hatchery. It was so interesting to see and learn about the spawning process.
They do have an Open House to the public and I would highly recommend taking the tour of this facility to learn more about what they do there. You will be amazed.
I can`t thank Craig and his team enough for graciously showing me around and explaining their various processes and procedures of the Hatchery.
So I`ve been seeing quite a few of my Facebook Friends, Bob, Kevin, Sandi and Vince posting a lot of pictures lately of the crappies that they`ve been catching and it got me thinking,…. maybe I ought to have go at them. Now up to this point, I had never specifically targeted “Slabs” myself, other than occasionally catching one by chance. But I have eaten a few a few of them that I caught and they were delicious.
Now I don`t about most of you out there, but when I want to pick up some tips or learn something, I immediately turn to YouTube. And that is exactly what I did the other night. I watched a couple Springtime Crappie Fishing videos and after a few minutes of “YouTube School” I was all set.
Now I bought a cheap little panfish/crappie kit from Walmart(my go-to fishing store! haha!) years ago, threw it in a drawer and never used it. Remember that little ultra-light rod and reel that I found last month buried in the snow?
Spooled with 4lb test, paired with my Walmart panfishing kit, this would be the ideal Crappie-set-up.
The forecast the next morning, wasn`t sounding all that good……… very cold with a flood warning. “Hmmmmmm…… well…… I like fishing in the rain(but a flash flood??)” I said aloud, as I tried to convince myself as I loaded up the `Yak. I figured I had a window of about two hours before the heavy rains blew in.
And it was rather “chilly” out to say the least………..As I took this picture in the Murano as I drove out.
I launched and started working a low-lying edge of the shore that had a nice drop off. I was using a pink jig with a white grub tail. Immediately on my third cast, the bobber went under! Fish on! Well well…….. my 1st crappie of the morning.
Now I forgot a couple things that morning; 1.) my light-weight wading pants 2.) my PDF 3.) a cooler to put my fish in.
So as you can see, I had my neoprenes in the Murano and no life-jacket. Definitely not the smartest thing to do. Especially when the water is as ice-cold as it is, you don`t want to accidentally flip the `Yak wearing neoprenes. So if any of you younger fishermen and fisherLadies see this, please don`t try this. Also I didn`t have a cooler to put my catch in, so they all went back to swim another day. Which isn`t a bad thing at all……. but I do like to eat `em!
As I worked my way around the edge of the shoreline, I targeted any brush/debris with my jig that I could find. I managed to wrangle up a few more in the `Yak, before the rain stated coming down steady.
Then after about an hour and a half, It really started coming down. Figured I`d take a couple more casts and get the hell out of Dodge before I got caught in a torrential down-pour.
As I started paddling back, I made a couple quick casts……. and Bam! The bobber was gone! Crappie on! And a nice one at that
I didn`t have anything with me to measure that monster Crappie, my fifth of the morning. And now with the thunder and lightning directly over me, I took a couple quick pictures and released that big Slab to swim another day. “Man….. I loved this!” I said to myself as I paddled to shore in the heavy rain.
And in the words of my friend “Hurricane Sandi”…………