Sunday, February 26, 2012

Round Valley Reservoir Shoreline Brown Trout and Lakers

Friday was the third or fourth visit I've managed to make at Round Valley this year. I really wasn't paying attention to the auspicious weather for fishing, but did think to try at the South Lot instead of by the main boat ramp. I walked downslope to lake's edge to talk to the sole angler fishing in the wind and rain, his hood up, traversing in orange gear between two light rods and a bucket of shiners. His excitement affected me immediately--oh yeah...I looked at the roiled water and barely visible shorelines as if I hadn't been aware at all in the moments just previous of the fishing potential. He had a 20-inch laker, 16- inch brown, and had just released a 15-inch brown in 45 minutes or so. "They're really hitting today!"

I fished 45 minutes and caught a 15-inch brown on marshmallow and mealworm, photographing the fish at my feet in water muddied by wind-blown little rollers. Trout have been caught steadily since October, but usually by numbers of one or two here and there, rarely lakers, more browns than rainbows. October was better with catches of a dozen on one outing possible. Merrill Creek Reservoir is good from shore too; I read a report in The Fisherman this past week of a six pound brown caught on an injected nightcrawler. Don't underestimate those Berkeley and Lindy Worm Blowers. My son catches more bass that way, but I certainly can see the effectiveness for trout too, especially with baby nightcrawlers.


Some like to use slip bobbers for shiners. I've even witnessed a standard round bobber used effectively with a single salmon egg on a size 12 hook two and a half feet under the float over 10 or 12 feet of water in October, cruising rainbows rising from a couple yards or more deeper to take the egg without hesitation. But the most effective way to fish shoreline rainbows and browns is probably with m&m's (marshmallow & mealworm), a method of attaching one or two small marshmallows to a size six, light wire plain shank hook, then a mealworm, tying off a four foot leader (six pound test or lighter) to a small barrel swivel, and a half ounce steel egg sinker with the main line slipped through behind it. The marshmallows float the rig just enough so that the bait is clearly visible to trout in the reservoir's gin clear water; floatation will not pull additional line through the egg sinker so that the bait ultimately would float at the surface.

Otherwise, it's hard to say that shiners are any worse. And they will catch lakers on rare occasions, as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass, and pickerel. Use the same length of leader, line test, barrel swivel, and egg sinker to simply allow the shiner to swim freely right near bottom. Sometimes the shiner will find residual vegetation and foul the leader in it, or even tangle line among stones, although these instances are infrequent and may be remedied by adding a little Styrofoam to the line. Just slice the foam with the line so it holds in place above the shiner or use Lindy walleye floats you slip line through as you would a slip sinker. The shiner tends to swim erratically and attract trout anywhere from about 10 to 30 feet deep. In October I've witnessed rainbows in a foot of water.

For more about Round Valley, you can go to my other blog: and click under labels on the right margin: Round Valley

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fishing New Jersey Smallmouth Bass

New Jersey smallmouth bass are a wild wonder worthy of pursuit principally because of the mystery and elusiveness they share with other fish. This should never be forgotton and overlaid by habits of effective angling, never forgotten completely, although easy familiarity is an enjoyment, a self-possession earned through getting out there and finding bass. I bet every boy who fished for the first time, or the first three dozen times, was captivated by the otherworldliness of water and the self-determined denizens occupying it.

I began taking my son snorkeling in the clean water of the upper North Branch Raritan when he was seven. We both have observed many smallmouths over the past five years--and they us. They don't dash for cover as trout do when you approach, especially as brown trout do. Why do they bother to stare a diver in the face? They can't reason about us, but I bet they are fascinated with the perception.
Smallmouths are fierce. But above all they are lordly surveyers of their precincts. I love pickerel for their lightning strikes, but they cannot match the open, unabashed presence of bass. Pickerel stalk from within darkness of weeds and brush like deviant rascals.
Where to Go

Smallmouths are not native to New Jersey--they were first introduced from the Midwest during the 19th century--but they are fully wild, reproducing as established populations in rivers, streams, and lakes mostly from Mercer County northward, but South Jersey has great fishing in Union Lake and Lake Audrey. Manasquan Reservoir near the shore and Garden State Parkway exit 98 is good fishing too with very good-size smallmouth bass. I know of only one pond--Saffin's at 12 acres--in New Jersey with smallmouth bass.

The Delaware River is the greatest fishery besides perhaps Oak Ridge Reservoir. Plenty of streams from Mercer County northward are full of smallmouth bass. Stony Brook and Bedens Brook in Mercer, Raritan River and its branches in Somerset and Hunterdon, Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Morris, Pequest and Paulinskill Rivers in Warren and Sussex all have plenty smallmouth to catch and release. Throwing them back is important in these small waters, although most of those you will catch are under 12 inch minimum. However, smallmouth much larger are possible, such as the 6 pound, 6 ounce smallmouth caught in the South Branch Raritan, reported in The Fisherman magazine in 2010.

Lakes such as Hopatcong, Swartswood, Greenwood, Echo, Spruce Run Reservoir, Round Valley Reservoir (state record 7 pounds, 2 ounces), Split Rock Reservoir, Merril Creek Reservoir, Canistear Reservoir, Oak Ridge Reservoir, Clinton Reservoir, Monksville Reservoir  have smallmouths, although they are not so prominent in Spruce Run.

Catch Them

Follow my two blogs or check the archives for specific pointers on techniques and wherewithal on various waters. Techniques are too varied to account for now without an unweildy bias. My other blog, Litton's Fishing Lines, has a lot of posts about smallmouths to explore. Here's the link:  then click "smallmouth bass" under the labels heading to the right margin.

An article with some information on NJ smallmouths: