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.
Snakehead wranglin` was most definitely on my agenda last week. I planned on going down into South Jersey at least once while on vacation despite having a very painfully infected leg. Apparently the week before I had been bitten by something underwater while fishing/wading knee-deep in a really swampy covered lake. Guessin` it was probably a snake as it bit me on the top of my foot……twice! And now my top of my ankle was pretty swollen and hurt like hell, just a few days later.
My girlfriend was a bit upset that I hadn`t gone to the doctor….yet.
But……. I had a date with some “Snakes” down in South Jersey first.
I was going after `em on foot as I wasn`t comfortable draggin` the `Yak all around by myself. Definitely not 100% confident about doing certain things since suffering a massive heart attack a month and a half ago.
But now I had a bad “foot” to complicate matters a bit.
I studied some maps of the Delaware River for a few days, looking at the various tributaries off the main river. This is where I was going to be targeting……… Accessible areas of the “tribs” by foot.
Got up the next morning, Sharon made me an awesome breakfast & packed me a nice lunch with plenty of drinks. It was definitely going to be a hot one as the weather forecast was calling for a high in the 90`s in the area I was heading too.
Then I saddled up and was on my way. My destination was approximately thirty-eight miles south of Gibbstown. At least that is what I wanted to scout out a bit, as the area looked ideal. Swampy and accessible.
After a two and a half hour ride, I arrived in the general area…… if it wasn`t the exact spot, it was close enough.
Eager to start throwing some top-water lures, I hiked about a mile into the abandoned swamp area of the tributary that was probably five to six hundred yards from the Delaware River. Good thing I had covered myself with Deep Woods OFF bug repellent before I left my truck, because hot, muggy and buggy best described where I was walking.
I was planning on throwing a KVD Top-Water Frog to start things off. Working my way into an opening, I began casting.
After about the sixth cast into the thick, green-pea muck, a magnificent swirl missed my frog as the thick green muck quickly calmed back down. I worked the area carefully, attempting to provoke a strike. Nothing.
Then next cast, just as the frog was literally six inches from shore, a violent eruption!!! Snakehead!!!
Fish on!…….. then just as quickly…….. fish off.
But as I was fighting that Snakehead briefly, I saw two others swimming in this pool of muck next to the one I I had on. I didn`t actually see the fish, just the swirls…….and there were at least two other demons lurking in the dark, thick green muck.
Four more casts……… all quiet. Then I decided to toss the frog in and just give a a few short twitches and not retrieve. It had to be out there floating in the muck at least five minutes………..then BAM! A violent explosion as the Snakehead smashed the frog I set the hook hard! Fish on! The snake gave quite the acrobatic show as it broke water and thrashed about! Then dove deeply into the thick green seaweed! This is where the 20lb. Power PRO Braid line would come in handy as I muscled the snake out of the water-grass and onto the bank.
My first “Snake” of the day!
I quickly got the stringer out as this Snakehead`s next destiny was going to be with my knife, as snakeheads are an absolutely delicious delicacy!
Working my way through the bush, I came upon another likely looking spot and began working the frog. Casting under the very edge of an embankment that had bushes over hanging it a bit. “The perfect ambush area for a hungry snakehead”, I thought to myself.
I purposely tossed the frog in the bush, to make it drop in the swampy water below. No sooner had the frog hit the murky water below and BAM! Another snakehead was on!
Another nice one for the stringer!
The Snake Party was on!
Over the next few hours, I fished the area hard and managed to call it a day and headed home with four nice size snakeheads in the cooler.
Got home around 7pm…….. had a bite to eat, then had some Snakeheads to fillet afterwords.
If ya like to fillet fish, like I do,…… you`d love runnin` your knife across the back of a snakehead. Beautiful fish to fillet. Very white and thick. Sort of reminds me of a walleye when you fillet it.
And if you like to eat fish, you`ll love grilled Snakehead! Out of this world. Awesome breaded and fried as well. Sharon used a Cajun Seasoning on the Snakes and I got to tell ya, it was like I was dinin` back on the Bayou in my Air Force days back down in Louisiana. Simply delicious.
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;
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
Planned on doing a little NJ Pike Fishing before the storms blew in on Saturday morning. As I watched the forecast the night before, it wasn`t looking very good weather-wise. They were calling for severe thunderstorms between 8-9am, so I decided to have a go at it at first light.
But that didn`t pan-out like I planned……..`cause I overslept by an hour! I left the house at 6:10 and arrived at my destination at 7:00.
As I hastily unloaded the `Yak there were already a couple rumbles of thunder in the distance. As I hiked my `Yak to the river bank, I was in for another unexpected surprise…… The river was muddy!! I put the `Yak down and stared for a moment. I was sure the river would be clear as it hadn`t rained in the immediate area for days. But I was wrong. Apparently it had indeed rained somewhere upriver and the tributaries feeding into the Passaic were the culprits causing the chocolate-muddy water that I was looking at in disbelief.
I sat in my `Yak in the very muddy river, looking up at the sky, thinking maybe I should`ve “overslept” even longer! It certainly wasn`t looking very promising situation as the skies were darkening quickly.
I worked the stretch of river I was on for a good hour without a strike, thinking it might just be a little too muddy today. Then I switched to a Crazy-Color Clown Bomber and that `ol magic kicked in! BAM! Fish on!
A good Pike at that!
A strong, heavy Pike indeed! As I got him closer to my `Yak, he must`ve sensed it as the water erupted from his mighty thrashes as I attempted to “introduce” him to my “friend” the Net!
A very nice, thick-bodied Pike that weighed in just over 8.5lbs. Not a monster, but not too shabby by any means!
Now I certainly have a pair of big “mitts”(hands)…..take a gander at the size of this big boys head! They have a mouthful of razor-like teeth that can definitely do a number on your fingers! Trust me, my fingers have gotten too close to a nasty Pike`s mouth on more than one occasion!
Turn up your speakers and watch this short Video of the day`s Adventure;
So in a nutshell, the river looked way too muddy and with the threatening storms quickly moving in, it definitely looked like bad odds. However, I managed to wrangle up three Northern Pike in under two hours and didn`t get my ass lit up by the lightning in my `Yak! So onward……
I was back in my `Yak doing a little fishing for a couple hours up at Merrill Creek the other morning. Thursdays I go in to work at 1pm, so I got up at the crack of dawn and headed over to the beautiful Reservoir located in Warren County NJ, which is less than a half hour drive from our house.
The water was as smooth as glass as I paddled my way across the scenic water. Barely any breeze at all, as temperatures were expected to climb in the mid-eighties later that day.
The combination of warm Summer air, with the sun rising over the mountains, and seeing a few deer drinking water along the banks, as you paddle your way out, is very tranquil at that hour in the morning.
Wasn`t too long before I set the hook into something that felt really decent in the scenic, crystal-clear water of Merrill Creek! I thought I might be in trouble of losing this battle, as the fish repeatedly dove around the standing, half-sunken trees out there, making the drag scream on my reel!
I managed to tire out and net this beautiful, 24 inch, very thick Chain Pickerel! The only other time I had ever caught a Pickerel with similar girth, was while I was in the Air Force back in 1985 down in Louisiana.
Quite the Chain Pickerel!
Turn up your speakers, and enjoy this short clip of the day`s adventure out on Merrill Creek Reservoir-
After a little “C,C & R” (Catch-Click and Release) that beautiful Chain Pickerel was on his way back into the clear depths of Merrill Creek.
It was certainly a good morning to be out and about at Merrill Creek for a NJ Kayak Fishing Adventure!
Then again, anytime in my `Yak is just fine by me!
After knocking out some of my chores/projects around the house this past Saturday and Sunday morning, I
decided relax a little and have a go at it Sunday afternoon on the Passaic River in my `Yak.
So as sat on the patio table out back, studying my map of the Passaic River, I mapped out a new destination to try. The last adventure worked out pretty well, as I paddled upstream and fished my way back down to where I launched and parked my truck. Now I told Sharon I`d be home around seven that night, so the tricky part was calculating just how far upstream to paddle, in order to be back at the truck by six-ish, in order to make it home by seven(or so). What complicated this a tad more, was the fact that this adventure would once again, take me into new territory.
Arriving at my new destination, I got my `Yak in the river and just soaked in some of the beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon weather before headin` upstream. The river was a bit higher than normal and a tad “murkier”/discolored than I was used to seeing.
I tied on a fave combo, an `ol Firetiger Spinnerbait with a double-tail Chartreuse Twister Tail. Which also had a little something “extra” attached. My Canadian friend Nathan Robinson showed me this when he was down here a few weeks ago.
A “Trailer-Hook” –
This Trailer Hook will definitely help raise your odds against fish swatting the Twister Tail and missing the hook!
I paddled upstream a good two and a half hours, then started fishing my way back down the Passaic. Found some absolutely awesome looking pools, but after a couple hours of fishing, not a strike or even a miss. The pike just didn`t seem to want to cooperate on the gorgeous, hot sunny day.
By now it was getting later in the day and it looked like I was going to get skunked, as I was only about three hundred yards from where I launched. What to do, what to do……… I felt like it was fourth and long and I was at the two minute warning. We needed a “Brett Favre Gunslinger move” and we needed it now! ha! ha! As I rifled through my “bag-of-tricks”, I pulled out my old faithful “Clown Bomber” Lure that I caught that Tiger Musky on a few months before. “What the hell?” I thought, “Let`s give it a go!”
This is the exact color combo “Clown Bomber” that I used. Like I said, I nailed a Tiger Musky with it a few months back. Would/could there be any “magic” in the Bomber now as my time on the river was fadin` fast?
First cast……nothin`. Second cast with the Bomber and BAM! Fish on! And a good one at that!
Crank up your speakers and watch this short Video of the day`s NJ Fishing Adventure:
What a way to end the day! Wranglin` up a beautiful 5.8lb. Largemouth Bass! Guess the `ol “Gunslinger” had it in him that day on the river –
I am available for Guiding also if you`d like to have me join you on a NJ Fishing Mission, simply write to me on my site; www.AdventuresWithKen.com and we can discuss and arrange everything.
Made my way out & about on Saturday to try my hand at some Tiger Musky Fishing for the first time in some new territory. Loaded up my `Yak & headed out at daybreak to my destination….. Oxford Furnace Lake.
I really don`t know all that much about this beautiful Lake other than it`s only a hop, skip & jump from my house in Warren County NJ and that I heard there are Muskies in it.
It is an absolutely gorgeous, very serene location. The water was very calm with hardly any ripples as there was only a hint of a light breeze.
“It was a gorgeous Spring day to be out in the `Yak”, I thought to myself as I started working the water with
my Bomber Lures.
This adventure was indeed very
exciting because everything I was
doing that morning was purely trial
and error, as I had never fished
specifically for Tiger Muskies, nor
had I ever fished Oxford Furnace
Lake before. I didn`t have a map of the Lake, so I really don`t know what it`s like structure-wise. As I scouted the entire Lake the one thing I did notice was the fact that the majority of it appears to be fairly shallow. If I had to guess, I`d say the deepest seemed to be around 30 feet or so.
I worked various spots for a good two to three hours………Then it happened! BANG! Fish on!
Watch the Video below that I shot that morning of my first Tiger Muskie. It wasn`t a monster by any means, but it was still the targeted Tiger Muskie that I had come there for so I was pretty darn psyched!