When Carl Lovisolo & I launched his boat this morning, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to try and places I wanted to check.
Some of those techniques worked well, and some didn’t. Some worked in some of the places I wanted to check, but in other places,we had to revert to things that weren’t on my list in order to catch fish. And in a couple areas that I expected to find them, we came up completely empty.
Some of the things I learned today were encouraging. Others were anything but. And some were just confusing.
Shallow areas where there were good sized fish chewing on topwater presentations last week were full of little guys who only seemed to want a jig & plastic or a jerkbait. Other areas where there’s been a paucity of fish for the last few weeks produced some of our best action today.
So yeah, I guess it’s spring, and things, they are a changing. Daily. Hourly, even. For the next week or two, until we get enough herring in the river to get the striper activity a little more stable and predictable, every time out is likely to be a new learning experience.
Today, if you wanted numbers, it meant fishing a jig & plastic or a jerkbait. If you wanted size, it meant buckling down and throwing a big, weightless soft plastic and resigning yourself to some long stretches of no bites, no swirls, no action. And of course you had to be ready when that big bite finally happened at the least expected moment. And tomorrow it could be totally different.
We had a hook in 4 or 5 keeper sized fish today.
One of them made it into the boat.
I lost a couple after getting what felt like a solid hook set and fighting them for a short time. Carl lost his mind and tried to swing a 32-33 inch fish into the boat with a medium action spinning rod. That didn’t work out. And now Carl needs a new spinning rod.
Steve Durkee and I hit the river early Friday morning, and I was rewarded with a 31 inch keeper during the morning twilight period. Caught a few more fish in that area, but nothing that was going to keep us there for very long. We soon started a milk run of spots with a big fish, topwater history. Not that we only fished topwater. Fished some heavy head and big bait, some light head and small bait, and (I) did a whole lot with a jerkbait too. Everything caught at least a few fish, but for the most part, with the clouds and rain, we kind of force fed the topwater stuff.
I think we ended the day with between 110 and 115 fish. I know we managed 10 keepers between us, and all but the first one were taken on unweighted soft plastics, fished on top.
Last time out on the river, I continued with my experiments to find the most reliable and surest hooking setup for fishing Lunker City’s big 7.5″ SwimFish on top. Today’s experiment was tandem exposed hooks, similar to the rigging of the pre-rigged Slug-Gos. The setup worked well, but now I want to compare it to a single, larger hook rigged in similar fashion. Caught a number of fish on the tandem hook deal Friday, including a nice, 31″ keeper.
The fish were active from the time we started before full daylight until we called it a day a bit after 2pm. With 10 keepers out of more than a hundred fish, and almost all the meaningful fish coming on topwater, Friday was a mental highlight reel kind of day for sure. Here’s some fish porn from Friday.
Saturday started out not too much different from Friday.
I rode with Alex Saturday and got a pre-daylight jig fish from the same stretch I’d caught my first keeper on the day before. It was raining lightly, the air temp was around fifty, and the breeze was mild.
Then we ran south and started fishing right where Steve and I had caught some the previous day, and sure enough, we duplicated Friday’s topwater pattern. But the fish seemed smaller, and the bite became sporadic pretty quickly. Moving to other spots in the same general area, we found the fish to be much more timid in attacking out topwater presentations.
Before long, we ventured farther south, to another area that was productive for Steve and I a day earlier. When we got there, we (read that Alex) enjoyed about 8 minutes of fishing that rivaled the best the previous day had to offer. Two keepers in a matter of three or four casts.
And then it was over. We caught a smaller fish here and there, but rolls and misses outweighed hookups by 10 0r 12 to 1, and even they weren’t all that frequent. Just to make it a more joyous occasion, it never got near the predicted high of 62, and the wind picked up considerably greater than the predicted 6mph.
Basically, Saturday was 8 minutes of great fishing (for Alex anyway) surrounded by 6-plus hours of tiresome and disheartening.
We did encounter one sort-of bright spot, when we found some fish in an area we didn’t expect to find any, on the way back. But that evaporated in a matter of minutes, and it just turned into more tiresome and disheartening.
Here’s all the fish porn we could muster on Saturday.
Here it is the middle of April and I’ve been so preoccupied chasing stripers that until today, I hadn’t been fishing for freshwater bass. Figured it was time to change that, so I joined Jimfish for a day on the pond.
With bass likely in early prespawn mode and some pretty strong winds forecast for the day, I got myself in a jerkbait mindset, even though my three primary presentations for this place regardless of the season are an Ozmo on a Titleshot jighead, a panhead jig and a Sinking Slug-Go. Sure, I had those three options rigged and ready, but I had a Rapala BX Minnow jerkbait tied on a fourth rod, too. I fully expected that to be my most used rod today.
But launching on a nice, calm pond, I grabbed the Sinking Slug-Go first, and put three quick fish in the boat with it. Little guys, but kind of gratifying to pop the freshwater cherry for the year that quickly. By the time we got to the rocks that would be our first real spot, the wind was sneaking up behind us. I tried sticking with the soft stick bait, but the wind made that skate too much. Switched to the jerkbait with no takers. Meanwhile, Jim got his first fish off one of the rocks with his PanHead jig.
The wind kept building. The jerkbait was clipping the weed tops enough that most casts were ruined by picking up a clump of decaying milfoil after a few jerks. Would have been worth putting up with that if the jerkbait was getting bit. It wasn’t.
I put the Ozmo on a heavier head and pretty much alternated between that and the jig for the rest of the day.
There are two casting targets you should never pass up — an anchored floating buoy and a pipe. Only takes a cast or two to fish either, and turns out to be worth it a surprising percentage of the time.
This was one of those times. My next fish came off a floating buoy. Felt the pop as the PanHead swam by the rope that anchors the buoy to the large block of concrete at the bottom (the rope always leads to something substantial on the bottom, which is what you’re really casting at when you fish a mooring or marker buoy) and set the hook. The rod groaned and the tight drag grudgingly gave a little line on the hook set. The subsequent boil on the surface was enough to get Jim excited. “Pig,” he said!
When the bass stuck its open mouth out of the water, I was thinking seven. Then I saw the rest of the fish, and dropped my guesstimate down to five. Three jumps later, and I had a grip on her lower lip and was swinging her over the side. She really did have the mouth and head of a 7 pounder; My fist easily into her mouth. She wasn’t really skinny, either. Just short. Didn’t measure her, but I would guess that she wasn’t much more than 20 inches long. Giant head and mouth, but only weighed 5-4. Still, toadly enough to make me happy on my first largemouth excursion of the year.
We ended the day with a total of 27 bass between us, almost all caught on either the PanHead or the Ozmo. All of the better ones were jig caught fish, but if you find that surprising, you haven’t been paying attention to your lessons, son.
Jimfish’s pond boat ready to take on the day.
5-1/4# – PanHead with an old 4″ Supertail trailer
3-1/2# – PanHead with a Paca Chunk trailer
And by slightly, I mean many magnitudes.
Steve and I hit the river early. Our first couple spots produced some fish, but the action certainly didn’t warm the cockles of our hearts. The water temp seemed surprisingly chilly, given the weather we’ve had the last couple days. The next spot was a good deal warmer. It did produce a keeper, but only a few fish total, and most were borderline rats. Next spot showed plenty of fish on the depth sounder, but apparently, none of them thought our lures looked very appetizing.
Time to find some different water. Time to find some different fish. Fish with a different attitude.
It didn’t take too long to do just that.
We got into a heavy swing bite in fairly shallow water as the outgoing tide started to crank, and the serious catching commenced. Light jighead and plastic combo? Yup, they’re biting that really good. How about a jerkbait? OH, yeah, they’ll smack that thing like there’s no tomorrow. What about topwater? Yup, mile high sky be damned, chew it they will. It was harder to find something they wouldn’t bite than something they would. Bite slow up a little? Turn off the spot lock and drift down river 50 yards or so, then lock it up and start catching again.
Feel like a change of scenery? Start it up and run over there, and sure enough, the bite is hot and heavy there, too. As long as we were in position to present our lures in heavy current and shallower than about 10 feet, we were catching. We fished right through the outgoing, the slack, and the first couple hours of incoming, and ended the day with 190 between us, including 10 keepers and I don’t know how many keepers in training. We did have to cast to a little deeper water on the sluggish current of the slack tide, but that was really the only adjustment we had to figure out.
The water temp — except for our first spot where it was only 48 — was mid fifties, rising to upper fifties in the afternoon. Water clarity was medium clear most places. A bit of brown in the water, but still 5 to 6 feet of visibility. Winds varied from none at all to a 5 to 10 mph breeze out of the north, shifting to the east southeast, and finally dropping down a about a 5 mph south southwest breeze. None of it seemed to matter as far as how well the fish bit.
Fish porn below…
Steve caught a bunch on a tandem hook, pre-rigged Slug-Go
My best of the day hit a 9″ Albino Shad Slug-Go
Steve’s best hit a 7″ Ice Shad Fin-S Fish on top
This one ate the big 7″ SwimFish, unweighted and retrieved steadily across the surface.
This one (and a lot of others) ate a jerkbait
Alex Esmeraldo and I have been fishing the tidal Housy on Easter morning for 10 years or so. Last year was the first time I can recall that there were other boats on the river with us. To the best of my recollection there were two.
Today, I counted 9 trailers at the Derby Ramp and another half-dozen at Sunnyside. A couple more boats came up river from beyond the Rte 1 bridge, too. I wouldn’t say it was crowded, but it sure wasn’t like having the place to ourselves.
Water temp flirted with 51 degrees before we hightailed it for the trailer just after 10:30.
Under bright skies and dead calm winds, the fishing was mediocre at best. At least that’s the way it seemed to me. But it might have been me more than the fish. Other than a 32 incher at the morning twilight, neither Alex nor I had anything decent. The problem was, I was barely catching anything at all. Alex wasn’t counting, but I’d conservatively guesstimate his catch at 75 to 80 fish. Meanwhile, I was counting, so I know that I caught 25.
We’d pull up on a spot and Alex would catch 8 or 10 to my 2 or 3. Or sometimes, my nothing. A big run for me today was catching two in a row followed by another one 3 or 4 four casts later. Something just ain’t right!
I probably spent too much time with a topwater bait in my hand, as there was zero reaction to it today. I also spent a good deal of time fishing a 1/2 oz head and a small (5″ range) bait, while Alex stuck with the 7″ and 1 oz combo. But most of the fish I actually did catch, came on the lighter head, so I kept going back to it.
I often stress the importance of repeating the same cast with the same bait, letting it sink for the same count, etc, after you catch a fish. I believe that kind of hurt me today. I think I was fishing something that appealed to a certain group of outliers. I should have been trying to duplicate Alex’s last cast rather than mine, because he was the one getting bit regularly, not me. When I did catch one, repeating what an oddball fell for didn’t help me until I happened to run it by another oddball of a similar bent.
Trying to piece it all together, I think I was fishing too slow and too deep, too often. Or maybe not. I haven’t felt out of the loop with the fish like I did today in a long time. Hopefully, it gets fixed soon. Like on my next trip.
Here’s Alex with the day’s only keeper.