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.
One of my “Targeted” fish this year was a Snakehead and I took off last Friday to meet up with the man that probably catches more Bowfin than anybody else in the entire state of New Jersey, Mr. Bob Priest. Now “Bowfin Bob” catches hundreds of Bowfins each year, and he certainly catches a lot of Snakeheads as well. So after having a few conversations on-line, I decided to see if we could set something up to have a go at those “Snakes” together in the `Yaks. I told Bob that if he could put me into some Snakeheads, that I would gladly put him on some Northern Pike whenever he wanted to come up north. He agreed and plans were made to meet up on Friday morning.
After walking the pups and having supper with Sharon on Thursday night, I set out to the garage to start setting up my rod and reel combos as I decided to take three set-ups down there with me at daybreak. Each reel was stripped down, oiled up and spooled with 20lb. Power PRO braid line. Next I went through all of my gear. Setting up my tackle bag with all of those brand new top-water frogs/lures that I had bought on-sale after Christmas at Dick`s last winter specifically with Snakehead fishing in mind. Loaded up all of my gear, then loaded up my `Yak, then off to bed. I was psyched and hardly slept a wink that night.
Met up with Bob at a WaWa around 9:30 on Friday morning and we made our way to a tributary that was only about two hundred yards from the actual Delaware River. The ideal spot for these invasive demon fish.
As we unloaded the `Yaks, Bob said, Now listen Ken, I said I`d show the area where Snakes are, but the rest is up to you” sort of like he was prepping me in case I couldn`t work a little magic and wrangle up one that day! I said, “No expectations Bob……. Let`s get to it!” –
Bob suggested that we each work a side so we split with him going left and me to the right. Within the first hour of fishing we were “on the board” as I landed a little Bass that was about 15 inches long using a Ribbit Frog. This got me pretty excited as this was also my first time using top-water lures.
After fishing for a few hours, I got into some really shallow water and switched to my other set-up which I had rigged with a KVD top-water Frog. I diligently worked the edges of the lily pads with the frog……..then it happened….BAM! Fish on! And it felt like a decent fish as the drag started screaming…At first I thought, “Might be a nice Bass”……but then as I got it closer to my `Yak, it thrashed the water and appeared to be really dark…….. Could it be a Snakehead? Or was it a huge Largemouth Bass?
I got it closer and the mighty fish violently thrashed the water again showing itself…… “It`s a Snakehead!”, I said out loud and quickly went for my net!
So without any further ado, here`s the Go PRO Video of the day`s adventure way down in South Jersey;
After a full week of rain each day last week, I was really looking forward doing some NJ Turkey Hunting this past Saturday morning. The weather forecast wasn`t the greatest, but better than anything I had heard the last several days. So the alarm was set and my day began at 4:00am.
Now anyone that has ever chased “Thunder-Chickens, knows how the early hours wear on you as the weeks progress. At least my girlfriend always reminds me about my lack of sleep and my crankiness during Turkey season! She keeps me in-check.
So this particular morning, since I had gotten a Gobbler the week before, I decided I would roll the dice a bit and see if I could indeed “Go PRO” a Turkey Hunt. After I shot that Long-Beard the week before, several guys had asked my from various hunting forums, “Do we have a Video Ken?”. “Between calling and setting up the Go PRO, this would be rather challenging”, I thought as I headed out to my truck in the early morning darkness.
I arrived at the State Land where I hunt and made my way out across a few fields at 4:30am, heading towards a wooded lot. I like to try setting up in an area that will give me a fairly decent view within a 30-40 yard radius. Which can be tough when you`re hunting in wild roses. I cleared a spot and sat up against a tree and waited. A roosting turkey that was roughly 300 yards away, broke the cool morning air with a gobble at 5:25am on the nose. Then another much further away also gobbled back.
As it got a little lighter, I really liked the looks of the area I had chosen, even though the turkeys that were gobbling, weren`t really all that close. See I think a good number of hunters like to move in closer to a roosting turkey, and perhaps that works for them. Me on the other hand, I prefer to set up in a spot and see if I can hopefully coax them towards me as the morning progresses. Hey whatever works for you. Right?
However, things got a little “interesting” at around 7am, as another hunter had walked in and started calling within a hundred yards of me. Now this would really bother some hunters, but I really don`t mind it if it happens, because I always figure a different bird may come in from behind him and walk towards me.
He called several times using a mouth call and the turkeys never gobbled back. Then I lightly yelped and they responded to my calling by gobbling eagerly back. The birds were going back and forth way up on this hill that had to be a good 3-400 yards away. And they gobbled back and forth till around 8:30am…… Then the gobbling stopped completely and I didn`t hear the other hunter calling anymore either.
“I`ll bet he`s trying to get closer and moving in on those birds….let`s just sit tight and see how this plays out”, I thought to myself. As I worked a few clucks on my call, a gobble! And another! Two different birds were answering me and they appeared to be running together looking for a sexy hen(me!) – Now they were within 200 yards and definitely coming towards my direction.
I purred lightly as I knew I had the pair of Long-Beard`s attention. Sending them into a Gobbling frenzy!
As the birds circled a bit around to my right searching for that “hen”, I clucked lightly turning them directly towards me. They were now gobbling their brains out less than 100 yards out and coming in fast!
At about 50 yards the gobbling intensified even louder! I slowly put down the call……….. and raised my Browning A5……
Now…… without any further ado, here is my first Go PRO Turkey Hunting Video for you all to enjoy. If you think this was easy to do, put the call down, put the Go PRO on my head before the turkeys got to me, then pick up the gun,……think again gang! This one was tough to do! So turn up those speakers, as I think you`re really going to like this.
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There are so many different critters and interesting facets in the New Jersey outdoors that I come across. I thought I`d share this with all of you, as I think you`ll enjoy it too.
While I was out and about scoutin` some new deer hunting territory last week, I set up a couple trail cameras to see if there were deer moving in the area. When I checked them over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised at what sort of “Rare” creature showed up to have his or her picture taken.
The New Jersey Flying Squirrel! Yep…….. I did say “Rare” didn`t I? See the reason that I said that they are rare, is because they are nocturnal and unless you`re out and about in the night, most folks rarely have ever seen one!
Now they don`t fly exactly fly like a bird, but they are able to glide from one tree to another with the aid of a furry, parachute-like membrane that stretches from their wrist to their ankle. That`s exactly what it is, a built in parachute.
Notice the times these little devils showed up on my cameras………Definitely enjoy the night don`t they?
There are two types of Flying Squirrels in New Jersey. The Northern Flying Squirrel and Southern Flying Squirrel. The Northern is is likely to be found in coniferous and mixed coniferous forests, where as the Southern Flying Squirrel, which is more common in my area and likely to be found in hardwoods where there might be hickory or beech trees. Flying squirrels eat a variety of foods which include seeds, nuts, fungi, fruit and insects. Now the Southern Flying Squirrel is considered to be one of the most carnivorous squirrels, because from time to time, they will supplement their diet with eggs, birds, and carrion.
Here is a picture of that same tree. Look at the size of the Grey Squirrel on the left, compared to that little devil of the night on the right! Pretty amazing isn`t it?
Hope you enjoyed learning a little about those “Rare” New Jersey Flying Squirrels………..
Wintertime Deer Hunting in New Jersey can be challenging especially when you combine a brutally cold day in January with a gusty wind. But regardless of how hard the wind was howling that morning when I walked out on my back patio in the dark, I was determined to have a go at it and get up in my tree stand before daybreak. And I did indeed have second thoughts!
Now every hunter has his or her own rules when it comes to deer hunting. Some won`t shoot does, others will only shoot trophy bucks and then some of us like to have a freezer full of venison to enjoy throughout the year. Well…….. I certainly like to crack a nice big buck just like any other guy or gal out there, but as the season progresses, I have to focus on fillin` my freezer. And that`s exactly what I did the other cold morning when I was out and about.
I jumped up in my tree at 5:40am and as I looked up at the stars in that cold crystal clear sky, the trees readily swayed back and forth in the strong wind. Definitely was having some doubts as to how or even if the deer would be moving this morning.
Then at around 8am, movement caught my eye about 150 yards out. Seven or eight deer began to skittishly
meander the hillside then disappeared. I quickly turned on the Go PRO………..
So crank up your speakers and jump up in that tree with me and let`s see how it turns 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?
“NJ Striper Fishing and a beautiful Fall Day,…..The ideal combination for an awesome Indian Summer Adventure!” I thought as I was watching the weather forecast days before.
Definitely like to take advantage of any prime-time fishing weather if and when possible and having three days of vacation-time left for the year, would make this the perfect time to burn one of those days.
Loaded up the `Yak and my gear in the truck the night before, grabbed my Hat and made my way South to the Garden State parkway at daybreak.
“Was very excited to have a go at some NJ Stripers. as I was looking forward to getting towed in my `Yak!”
Only fished for about an hour or so, and landed my 1st Striper I ever caught while fishing out of a `Yak! A smaller Bass, but nonetheless, still my 1st in the `Yak!
I fished all day enjoying this gorgeous weather and catching a few Stripers along the way. Then in the evening things got very interesting………
While working a Bomber lure barely under the surface, the water exploded violently as a good-size Striper attacked it! BAM! Striper on indeed!
This was good, solid size fish as the big Bass gave me the “towing” in my `Yak that I was hoping to experience pulling me everywhere! WOW!
Now it certainly wouldn`t be a complete Adventure without a Go PRO Video right? This is the clip that I shot of the day`s adventure. You`ll enjoy this one!
I filleted that nice Bass and my girlfriend Sharon, made this incredible Herb Encrusted Baked Striper dish the next night! I certainly love eating fish, but I have to tell you,……Striper just became my all-time favorite fish after that amazing supper!!!
The perfect ending, to the perfect Indian Summer Adventure!
My NJ Musky Fishing Adventure began at 4:50am, walked out my back door to an unbelievable howling wind this morning. I thought to myself, “The hell with this,….. I won`t be able to take the `Yak out in this today”……With that I went back to bed……. woke up again a 5:30am and “The hell with it, I`m goin` Musky fishing!”So I loaded up the `Yak in my truck and made my way to the lake. When I got there at 6:15am and stepped out of my truck, the wind immediately blew my hat off as if to say, “Better not try this today dummy!”……Now this was only my second time trying for Muskies and after a 24-hour YouTube “Musky Fishing” video watching crash-course marathon, I figured I`d have another go at it. Unsure of what I was getting into exactly. I used a 6`6″ rod/reel combo last time and didn`t really know how to do the “Figure 8s” especially in my `Yak. This time around, I opted to go with my 9foot Striper pole and a heavier Shimano reel spooled with 65lb Power PRO, as the 6`6″ pole didn`t seem to cast the Double Cowgirls as far as I wanted too. The question was would I be able to do the “Figure 8s” with a pole of this length in the `Yak, coupled with the crazy-ass wind and not take a bath in the lake today??……….Well ultimately I actually figured out how to do a solid “Figured 8” with this pole as I practiced right before I went out across the lake. But I also figured out how to do something different retrieval-wise……..and I can`t tell you guys on here how to do “Ken Beam`s Big Musky Retrieval Method”,…..ha! ha! (But I will tell you this, at my second stop at about 6:45am, I used this method that I came up with and lost a monster at the `Yak that had to go 45″ or better! Then an hour later I landed the 35 incher that you see here using my “method” again!)
I battled the wind as I paddled back to the dock with my prize Musky in the net. As I took a few pictures with my Musky, one guy couldn`t believe that I was even out on the lake in a kayak today. He said the wind was a nightmare for his 14-ft boat and couldn`t fathom fishing out of a kayak out there today.Then the other guy asked if I fished for these regularly and I explained how this was only my second time ever going after them. He said he couldn`t believe it because he had put in over 100 hours to date and still hadn`t caught his first Musky!
As I walked up to get my truck the third guy responded and said, “Hey that`s pretty much the normal gig…… you have to put in a lot of hours to land a Musky. What you did wasn`t really the “norm” Ken”
Well…..normal or not, it was certainly quite the fight in my `Yak!
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!