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.
The odds weren`t looking too favorable tonight, as the Parkway was jammed up, the days are getting much shorter and a strong wind was whipping in the cool Fall air. At the rate I was traveling, with the sun setting on the horizon, I figured maybe I`d have forty-five minutes at best to have a go at those NJ Stripers tonight.
But I had my `Yak and I was determined to wrangle up a NJ Striper or two before darkness set in. Boy was I ever wrong.
The wind was really kicking up as the sun was setting and I thought, “Ahhhhhhhh just a couple more casts and I`ll call it a night” – But it`s never, ever just a couple more casts with me!! ha! ha!~
As darkness set in, I was still making “just a couple more casts” – I paddled back close to where I had launched and figured I’d have one more go at it, drifting in the strong breeze in the darkness. Now I`m not saying it was the smartest thing to be sitting out there tonight in the strong wind, in total darkness without any sort of light, but hell I didn`t really mind it at all. “After all, the Indians must`ve done it like this“, I thought to myself.
BAM! Striper on! As I set the hook the drag screamed as the fish dove for deeper water. In a matter of minutes, I had landed my supper, paddled back to shore and called it a night.
As I`m writing this, my NJ Striper is sitting on ice all filleted this morning and I`m looking forward to Sharon making one of her amazing dinners out of the best tasting fresh fish that you will ever dine on!
Till next time…..
After I got done fishing, and loaded up my `Yak and gear in the Murano, I stopped at a WaWa to get some ice…….A bunch of young punks, maybe six or seven teens, 14 to 17 years old or so were inside. So I swaggered in to grab my ice and one goes to me, “Hey man……where`s your knife?” as they all started laughing at the young ball-buster`s smart-ass question. Since it was the night before Halloween. I decided to have a little fun with the young smart-ass. I walked over towards the group, with the brim of my hat over my eyes and then when I got right in front of all of them, I looked up with a sort of wild-eyed. crazed look and said, “Now…..what did you ask me Son?”………as I glared at the group like I was nuts!!!! ha! ha!
The kid goes….”Uhhhhhh…..uhhhhhhhhh nothin` Sir”…………. I turned my head away then snapped back and went “Boo!” and man, everyone of those kids jumped a mile!!!! I think the kid in front of me shit his pants!!! Then I said. “Happy Halloween boys!”………….grabbed my ice and walked out.
This year I swore that I wasn`t going to go Grouse hunting way up north, as my hip has been giving me some on & off trouble. And the swampy areas can certainly make for a very challenging hike when you`re out and about hunting up there.
Now my best friend Curt usually heads up just about every week, if he can and always fills me in with his weekend “hunting reports” on his way back to Jersey on Sunday eve.
At this point in the season, he`d been up to Tug Hill only twice as work has kept him busy weekends. Well two weekends ago he called me on his drive back home to give me his report and tells me how he must`ve had forty “flushes” that weekend but only shot two grouse.
Now that really got me interested(ok ok….. maybe salivating!), I said to Curt, “Hell….. maybe ya could`ve cracked a few more, if ya had another, maybe a even faster “gun” up there with ya“
Curt said, “Who….you?” I said, “Ahhhhhh yeah what the hell, let`s go up next weekend!” as I figured someday we might not be able to do this. Me with a bad hip, bad knee and three back surgeries and the fact that Curt is a diabetic and starting to have issues with cramping in his legs, was enough justification for me to say the hell with it, we`re going up.
So I packed my gear and gun on Friday night as we would be leaving at Curt`s by 3:30am on Saturday for our four and a half hour drive north. Sharon put together our meal bags so Curt and I had plenty of grub to eat for two days of hard hunting.
On our way up, we stopped at “Fat Nancy`s” on the up by Pulaski so I could get my out-of-state hunting license. While at the register, the Lady kept staring at my Hat and finally said, “That`s the most interesting Hat I have ever seen“…….. I grinned and said, “Thanks……. it`s my lucky fishin` & huntin` Hat and hopefully it won`t let me down this weekend”
Getting into Tug Hill, we stopped at the first spot of the morning and Curt`s bird dog “Jake” was raring to go as we threw on our hunting jackets.
We joked as we started walking down the old logging road as to who would crack the first grouse of the day!
Which wouldn`t take too long……..as Curt was quickly on board with the first Grouse of the day!
It was very,very windy on Saturday and we still did relatively well ending up with two Grouse and three Woodcock at the end of the day.
Got up Sunday morning and Curt suggested we go grab a hot breakfast down at Lloyd`s Diner which sounded good to me. Well why we were there, I noticed this bottle of ketchup on our table……..
Curt was like, “Hey Ken….you like hot foods, put some of this on your scrambled eggs!“
Ha! Ha! I said, “I believe I`ll pass…… Don`t need any Fire in the Hole out there huntin` this mornin`!“
Now the weather was a bit different this day as we had to contend with a steady light rain and windy conditions almost the entire day. But we still wrangled up a few birds!
And you must know by now that I usually have my Go PRO! So without any further ado, here`s the Video that I shot of the weekend`s adventure up north.
Always a good time up north with Curt and Jake. And isn`t that what good Friends are all about?
A NJ Musky Kayak fishing adventure was my agenda for this Saturday morning. As I loaded up my kayak and gear on Friday night in my truck, I was pretty psyched because I had just received my new Double Cowgirl Lures the day before and was really anxious to have a go at some Muskies on Saturday at daybreak.
I spooled up a couple reels with 65lb Power PRO, attached a reel to my 9ft medium-heavy action pole and hung a new 100lb fluorocarbon leader on the end of the Power PRO. Now I was all set. I like the 9ft pole as I
can get really good distance casting this in the `Yak. Definitely a “Shoulder-Burner” doing the “Figure 8s” but I like the way it feels.
Got to the lake and was fishing by 6:40am. It was a beautiful, serene Autumn morning. The air was cool and crisp as the steam fog rose eerily from the lake. A very calm, picture-perfect morning to have a go at some Muskies.
I took my phone out of the waterproof case to see what time it was as I only planned to fish till 11am at the latest. It was already 9:30.
I put the phone away and on the very next cast……. BAM! Musky on! And at first I really thought it was a smaller Musky by the way it was fighting/pulling the rod. Boy was I ever wrong! I clicked on the Go PRO and as the Musky dove a little I thought I`d loosen up the drag a little to have a little fun. As I was loosening the drag, the Musky bent the pole in half as he dove under my `Yak and literally exploded out of the water on the other side of me!
Definitely awesome Musky action as he danced on the water on the opposite side on my `Yak!
Sometimes the moon and stars just don`t always align and things don`t always go as planned. Without any further ado, here`s the clip I shot from today`s adventure. I think you`ll enjoy this.
As Summer fades away, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather last weekend and head back up north to Blue Mountain Lake in Sussex County with the pups for a little fun in the sun.
It was the perfect day to go swimming and to have an awesome picnic, as we were up there almost five hours. A very relaxing time indeed!
As you can see, the “Gang” loved Sharon`s little raft-chair too!
As we were leaving Blue Mountain Lake, Sharon spotted and took this picture of this Black Bear! Plenty of wildlife up there that`s for sure, as Blue Mountain Lake is exactly where I almost stepped on that big Rattlesnake while Wild Blue Berry picking a couple years ago right by the parking lot!
On our way home, we stopped at Long Meadow Farm, just outside of Hope NJ, to do a little Raspberry and Apple Pickin`
Well of course you all know by now………. There must be a Video right?! ha! ha! So turn up your speakers and enjoy this clip that I shot of the day`s adventure up north;
With Fall just around the corner, it was certainly a great way to spend the last weekend in August!
Last Sunday was my last day of vacation and we thought about hiking Merrill Creek. But it was going to be a scorching hot August Sunday. So I said to Sharon, “The hell with hikin`……let`s head north with the pups and go swimmin` up at Blue Mountain Lake!” – And we did just that!
If you enjoy dogs as much as we do, I think you`ll really enjoy this Video
I shot that day up at Blue Mountain Lake!
NJ Bowfin……. The “Jurassic” NJ River Monster, was the latest target in my quest for NJ outdoor adventures. Yes indeed, I did say the Jurassic River Monster and here is why; The Bowfin is a primitive type of fish and the sole representative of an ancient fish family that dates back to the Mezozoic Era, Jurassic Period – more than 180,000,000 years ago!
Just imagine dodging T-Rex while you`re out and about trying to catch your Bowfin supper many many moons ago!
I got the idea to chase Bowfin over a year ago and posted a question on a fishing thread, asking if anyone knew of a place to go after Snakeheads and Bowfin in New Jersey. This Lady wrote saying she knew of me from watching my You Tube Fishing Videos and that she knew where there were Snakeheads and Bowfins. So we chatted back and forth a bit and she shared some very impressive pictures of the Bass that she had been catching lately. Let me tell you something, she is quite the expert Bass-Fishin`-Fisher-Lady!
I loaded up my gear and made my way down into South Jersey and met up with her. She graciously showed me around to the couple of spots where she had seen the Snakeheads. This was more of an exploring expedition. I needed to learn my way around this new area a bit and in doing so, this was definitely burning up my daylight, as I would only have a few hours to have a go at it in my `Yak.
Definitely a different type of terrain than I had ever fished.
There were creeks seemingly
everywhere, that had an abundance of lily pads and plenty of excellent cover for those Bowfin and Snakeheads.
Only had one smaller Bass strike a Booyah Pad Crasher Frog that I was throwing in the lily pads that day.
Fished for about three hours then headed back up north. I was very excited about fishing these “new” waters and was on vacation all week, so I decided to get up at dawn the next morning, and run back down there to have a go at it all day. But I decided to really concentrate on just Bowfin and went and caught some live sunnies at daybreak, then headed south that next day.
I brought my heavy poles that I use for catfishing on the Delaware River that next day, figuring I would live-line the sunnies that I had caught that morning for bait.
I sat up all three poles with steel leaders as everything I had read indicated that these primitive fish had teeth as sharp as a Pike`s.
I fished for about two hours without a strike………. Then BAM! A wicked strike! I grabbed the pole as I watched the line spin off wildly from the reel. It ran up and down river unlike anything I had ever seen. Then the line went limp, as the fished swam towards me, then it stopped. Then like a rocket on a launch pad, it shot out viciously and I set the hook! Fish on! As I reeled that fish closer to the spot where I was standing, the fish flashed sideways in the murky creek water…..and revealed itself……. A Bowfin!! And just as I saw it flash, it thrashed it`s head and threw my hook. I quickly re-baited and got the line back in. Not long after I sat the ple down, another hit on a different pole! Again, took off wildly and I yanked back attempting to set the hook. Nothing. A miss. As I reeled in the pole to check my bait, this is what I saw;
A Bowfin dined on my sunny, biting it in half!
An hour later, the first line ran wildly up river…….. I let the fish really take it good, then set the hook very hard! Fish on again!
I managed to wrangle up this nice `Fin! What an excellent fight too! Notice the `Fin`s battle-wounds….. the tail is bitten off! Remember the diagram above? On the male Bowfin the tail fin is rounded and has a “black
spot” on the upper base of the tail. This “black spot” resembles an eye that predators will
mistakenly attack, allowing the bowfin to get away. On this `Fin the tail had looked like it had been literally just recently been bitten in half.
As you can see, the `Fin certainly had some extra battle-wounds. See the small puncture wounds in it`s side? This was definitely a fighter!
Quite the adventure. The day I`ll always remember down in South Jersey when I caught my NJ
Had a little time to head on out to the Passaic River last Sunday August 2nd, to chase those Jersey “River Wolves” in the Passaic. Obviously as you all can tell by now, the Northern Pike is one of my favorite fish to go after and my goal is to hopefully, to wrangle up a 40 incher to hang in my office.
There are a few reasons I keep coming back to this river. 1.) I like the terrain,….. you have to work for the fish and getting around with the `Yak in some pretty heavy cover/obstacles, is certainly challenging. 2.) You never quite know what you may catch or come across in that mysteriously murky river. Hell just a couple weeks ago, they pulled an alligator out of it down around Elmwood Park! 3.) I know that there are River Monster Pike in there! Gotta keep tryin`!
Figured I`s start at around 8:30 and work my way down river for two or three hours. The river was lower than I had anticipated and it`s usual murky self. I worked the river ever so slowly. Casting with pin-point accuracy in various pockets and around submerged brush and logs as I head down stream.
After a an hour or so of fishing, nothing. Then I cam upon this stretch that just really looked “Pikey” with a nice deep pocket at the end of the pool. On the second cast a Pike swiped at the Bomber Lure. Two more casts…… and nothing. Then the next cast BAM! Pike on!
Turn up your speakers and enjoy this short clip I shot of the day`s adventure on the river;
That young Pike was the only one I found that morning. That`s ok……….. I`ll be back in my quest for that
Passaic River Monster 40″ Northern Pike!
Ahhhhhhh…….These hot Summer nights make me reminisce of a time long ago. A time when life was a lot more simple. See after a good hard rain, Dad and I would get flashlights and walk around the neighbor`s lawns on Raritan Drive, searching for nightcrawlers in the wet grass. Can you even imagine what would happen nowadays if people saw someone walking in the dark, on their lawn, constantly bending down picking up something? We all know where this would go! ha! ha!
What we were doing was gettin` our bait to do one of my favorite Summer pastimes…….Eel Fishin`!
So the other night, I had a hankerin` to chase some eels on the river….. only one problem. The moon.
Yep….. it was almost a full moon at that. You won`t catch many or even any when the moon is out. But I decided to have a go at it with Sharon, figuring we might wrangle up a straggler or two.
We weren`t fishin` very long and I wrangled up this really nice eel! Had to jump in the river to get my pole as this fella ran it off the rocks and started takin` it out to deeper water!
So we only fished till 10:30 as the bite completely shut down as that big `ol moon peeked over the tree tops. I put the eels on ice for the night and made my way back down the river at daybreak to clean `em.
How could we have an adventure without a Go PRO Video? We can`t right?! ha! ha!
Turn up your speakers and enjoy this short clip I shot that night;
Well the night kinda panned out as I thought it might, with the moon and all. We only caught those two eels, but they certainly were very nice ones as you can see and Sharon, “Dingo” and I had a fun night on the river!
Well the title alone ought to give ya an idea as to how this day panned out! ha! ha!
So turn those speakers up and watch this Video of the day`s as I do a little NJ Pike Fishing on foot!
So for those of you that have written to me asking if it was possible to catch Pike on foot, well here`s your answer. I did manage to wrangle up one Pike this morning and had another one swat at and miss my lure.
So yes, you don`t need a `Yak to get the job done.