Monday, April 14, 2014

Trophy Tautog 2013

Tog fishing was again very consistent for the fall season in 2013. Unlike some other years, there was a lack of big tog early on, and I only saw one really big tog before the big cold came at the beginning of November. This tog measured 22" and was caught on the first weekend of the season. As usual, Stonington, CT was really productive in two trips, and an easy limit of keepers from 18" - 20" was a given in a three hour trip. It was worth the two hour drive. 

But, the area around the Western Sound still produced the biggest tog for me in 2013. Based on fishing for tog for the last 6 years, you won't get me off of Long Island for the last weekend in October or the first weekend in November. Generally, it is during these two weekends that I catch my largest tog on an annual basis. It usually coincides as a prequel to a big cold front that moves them deep. 

This year was no different and during the first weekend of November, my eight largest tog were powerful bulldogs that measured 24", 23, 22", 21", 21", 21", 21" and 20". I totaled 16 NYS keepers for that weekend. All fish were released. Tog grow and inch per year and come back to the same spots year after year. 

The best fishing occurred between November 2 and November 4. It was the last hurrah for the tog season for the LI Sound kayak angler. During that last weekend, a low pressure system coupled with a lunar period made for some excellent bulldog tog fishing. The day before the front, the fishing was fantastic. The day of the front, the temps dropped substantially, pushing the water temp at or below the critical 55 degree mark. I fished three times during this period, and here are the results: 

My first trip was the day before the new moon. The water temp was about 57 degrees. I caught over 20 tog - 11 keepers (16" or greater in NYS), and 5 bulldogs over 20" - 24", 22", 21", 21", 20". Best day of for big tog of the year for me. I fished for about 5 hours. 

The new moon occurred on the second day. The water temp dropped to 55 degrees, or slightly below. There was a big drop in air temp as well. I totaled 4 tog - all keepers and two bulldogs at 23" and 21". The other two were 18" and 18.5". There was a definite decline in bite, and it got worse as the day went on. Fished for a little less than 3 hours. 

On the day after the new moon, I fished in the afternoon for about two hours. It was very slow and I only one hit that turned out to be a 21" tog and that was the only action of the day. Water temp about 52 degrees. Despite 60 degree air temps, the cold nights pushed the water temps a few degrees under 55 degrees, which usually shuts the bite off as the fish move to deeper water.  During this run, I also had a tog that broke my 50 lb braid. I was kicking off structure to get us both out so I could fight the big tog in open water, and between the thrust of pushing off, and the tog's frantic dash towards structure, my line broke. Of course, there could have been a nick in my line, but it was very new so I doubt it. This shows the raw power possessed by a bulldog tautog. 

All fish were caught on jigs with asian crabs. The end of the season made it a really good year for quality fish, and went out like a lion, but typically shut down really fast. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kayak Fishing Merrill Creek Reservoir - Lake Trout

I finally made it out to Merrill Creek Reservoir near Washington, NJ for a morning targeting lake trout. This was my first trip to Merrill Creek. It is one of two reservoirs in New Jersey with a self-sustaining population of lake trout. It is more kayak friendly than Round Valley Reservoir since it is much smaller and does not allow gas powered boats.

It is a different fishery than Round Valley as well, and I marked more congregated schools of lake trout. I also marked many more bait pods in Merrill Creek. But, all of these fish were marked in very deep water. Since the lakers were holding primarily in the deepest part of the lake, it seems to me that the fish are still in a winter pattern. A water remp of 40 degrees may supports this theory.

I marked most of the fish in at least 150' with most fish cruising between 90' - 115'. I tried jigging some of the more congregated schools without success.  

In any event, I trolled up one 22" lake trout seven cores down over 150' FOW. I also had another hit in the same area. Otherwise, only one other strike fishing the deep water adjacent to an extensive shallow 40' shoal. This hit was in 90'. 

The areas in the 50' - 80' water was completely devoid of lake trout. I believe I marked some smallmouths over some of the shallower 40' shoals.

I will definitely return in the future. Once the water temp reaches the high 40s, I hope that they spread out over shallower water.

Friday, April 4, 2014

First Kayak Walleyes for 2014

I got out fishing on Lake Ronkonkoma last night. The target was catch and release fishing for walleyes.

I fished with Tim MacNamara and we launched to pleasant conditions with an air temperature of around 60 degrees at 7 pm.

The water temperature was 44 degrees. This was surprisingly high and made me optimistic for a good night. About an hour after launching, a big cold front moved through. This dropped the air temperature by about 15 degrees and brought some wind with it. As the night progressed, the water temperature dropped a couple of degrees as well, which is normally a recipe for disaster in freshwater fishing.

The cold front made the fishing tough and I only managed to catch one 17" walleye. I also dropped another  walleye after a brief hookup. In addition, I had several hits, but these hits were soft and almost tentative. They felt like reaction strikes.

Fished for about three hours. Tim had at least one walleye as well.

The pre-spawn walleye fishing is pretty good on Lake Ronkonkoma, and there is a strong population of 15" - 18" walleyes in the Ronk. The forage base in the Ronk doesn't grow many 20"+ walleyes. But, it is very good for consistent action for "schoolie" type walleye during the pre-spawn period at night. I'm sure that there are some larger females in there as well. I will continue to follow this pattern for the rest of the month.

Here is a picture of the only walleye of the night for me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ice Out Kayak Fishing for Lake Trout

Ice-out on Round Valley Reservoir occurred last weekend. With cloud cover, a high pressure system, and light winds, it looked like a good day to target some early season lakers.

Targeting early season lake trout can be challenging. Unlike other times of season, most of the lake is the same temperature and the lakers are spread out over greater distances. As a result, an angler is as likely to find them in 10' as 100'. It is easier to target the lakers in the warmer months after lakes stratafy and produce a thermocline of cooler water preferable to lakers. This effectively shrinks the size of the lake and narrows the areas to look.

In the early spring, a brief, but frantic feeding period often occurs slightly after ice out. The melting ice makes the water super oxygenated and lake trout and salmon often go on a feeding binge. This can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Unfortunately, it looked like the ice out period had passed since it occurred approximately a week ago.

After the ice-out period, the cold water makes the lakers lethargic. So, the combination of lake trout being vastly spread out coupled with the lethargy caused by the cold water often makes for difficult fishing. Well, the water temperature was 34.5 degrees today and the bite was tough.

I launched at dawn and fished until noon and caught two lake trout and a holdover rainbow trout.

I found the trout in deep open water. The first laker hit in 65' and the last two fish hit in 75'. All trout were caught trolling Suttons on leadcore at a pace of approximately 1.4 mph. These fish were very deep, and the clicker on my leadcore read 250. I was surprised to find the rainbow so deep, but I've found brown trout swimming with the lakers in the past at Round Valley. Trout definitely associate more with the bottom at RV than other areas. The rainbow was bright silver like a salmon and definitely a holdover. It measured 16". My largest laker was 22", and the smaller laker was 16" and released.

I found a nice area with a deep water hump where the depth dropped from 90' to 75', and I was getting hits right on the ledge. This hump wasn't in the contour map and I marked it for future use with my GPS. Sometimes a subtle change in contour can congregate lake trout.

I didn't mark any fish during the outing except for one isolated thick school of trout moving through the flats in 20'. The fish were gone before I could jig them.

Tough weather day out there. Late morning rain coupled with a stiff wind made for cooler conditions. I was happy with the cloud cover and light chop for the fishing.

Next week or two will be more lakers. Salmon this month too.

Last Licks on Holdover Stripers

Fished the upper Housatonic River again today for holdover stripers. 

I met up with Hogy Pro Eric Harrisson and Gary Innes of KFA-NY. We launched around 8 am and fished until approximately 11 am. 

It was a much warmer day with very fast action on the stripers. We found a big school slightly upstream of the launch and stayed over them for the entire tide. We fished the last three hours of incoming until about slack tide. The school only moved slightly upstream over the three hours. 

The water temperature was 35 degrees. There were plenty of boats on the water but they were all heading downstream to fish the motherload heading towards the Long Island Sound. Some of the boats stopped  to look at the mark we were fishing and would quickly head down stream. 

We were fishing over a huge pile of stripers so you can only imagine the size of the school downstream. 

Tagged several stripers during this
Most of the fish were cookie-cutter schoolies in the 17" - 22" class. With the cold weather, this was great action. All fish caught on plastics. I tagged about 20 stripers on this trip for ALS.

It seems like the stripers are transitioning despite the cold weather. It appears that they are being pushed more by calendar than water temp. Other than the school we found, the remainder of the area we were fishing was barren. At the peak, there are almost always several big schools moving around there.With ice-out in NJ, this will be my last trip to the Housy.

Alas, I still believe it will be about three weeks until striped bass start to show around Long Island in good numbers. 

So, for at least the next two weeks, I plan on targeting lake trout and salmon in some lakes within driving range in New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First Stripers of 2014

It has been a long time, but I figured I'd start up the blog again, and try to be more diligent in my postings. 

The last quarter of 2013 was a good one, and I had very good fall fishing for a variety of species. Hope to post some final pictures down the road of highlights from 2013. 

I hit the Housatonic River in CT on Sunday and caught my first stripers of the year.

For me, it was the first time I didn't catch a January striper in nine years and the latest I've caught a striper in that time period, which just reflects how brutal that this winter has been in terms of weather even for me on Long Island. Normally, I take a 4 week break from fishing from mid-January to mid-February, but this year it was exactly two months since I caught my last fish.

I got to the Housatonic at around 8 am to an empty parking lot and 29 degree air temps, with a stiff northwest wind cranking at 15 knots. With the lack of activity, I almost went home, but went out anyway since it was a long trip.

Well, there were plenty of stripers there and I caught my first within a half hour not far from the launch - the same biomass moved up and downstream in the area around the launch for the next two hours before I quit at 11:30 am. I think that there were two distinct schools moving about in the area and I caught quite a few in a limited amount of time.

It ended up being a pretty good bite in cold weather, but the wind and cold were brutal, and I was constantly battling the ice freezing on my guides while I was fishing. I was not all that unhappy to go back into the warm jeep.

Only two boats out there and no other kayaks - not even the die-hard Uncle Duke! The lack of fisherman surprised me, but the cold weather and incoming tide were likely factors.

Next weekend is going to be my last weekend of the season up there until probably mid-November. It is ice out in downstate NY and northern NJ and I plan on hitting a couple of nearby lake trout and landlocked salmon spots in Jersey over the next three weeks before the stripers start showing up in salt around Long Island. Best part of living on Long Island other than the beaches is the proximity to both good fishing spots in CT and NJ. 

Anyway, here is the picture of my first striper of the year:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weakfish and Croaker - 8-9-13

Good action on Jamaica Bay near Silver Hole on weakfish again. I caught 7 weakfish to about 21". I left my camera at home, so only got a couple of pics on the phone.

The bay is filled with croaker. I probably caught about 30 small croaker during the trip. Lots of big norfolk spot around as well. The spot are averaging about 11".

The weakfish action should continue to improve. I don't think I'll be able to hit it again until September.

The north wind made the water dirty at Silver Hole. Next time, I'll try the south side of the bay on a north wind.