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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In reply to SKP, I’m posting this fishing story, which he says is customary before seeking advice from the community.

The story is a little long, but it’s a text I had at hand, having written it to make my brother and some other fishing buddies jealous enough to come up and fish with me. The subject is the attempt to crack a pond that was reputed to have big bass in it, but whose shores were made somewhat inaccessible by extremely wet winter and spring seasons. Fish involved are largemouth bass and pickerel. I don’t know what the bass are like in Oregon, but they don’t get as big in the Northeast as they do in the south.

I followed the western trail beyond the northern tip of the pond and couldn't find a trail to the shore. There was nothing left but to bushwhack. And, oh, how did I bushwhack. You can get through mountain laurel—now blossoming--but it's a constant wrestling match. I was encouraged by seeing some well-positioned rocks just off the water’s edge as I got nearer to the shore, but the level is still way too high, putting you up to your ankles before you're in a position to reach them. Also, the bush makes it impossible to jump any distance.

I finally found a little opening and was able to make some short casts with difficulty. Got nothing more than a couple of little sunfish bites.

Bushwhacked out again, this time with a little less difficulty. Decided I'd go back to semi-open spots on the trail I'd seen on the way in. After all, I'd seen a big cruiser on the shoreline the first time I did reconnaissance on the pond.

Found a little opening where I was able to cast quite well--marvelously well compared to the pathetic aperture among the bushes--and then the action started.

Got a couple of modest-sized largemouth pretty quickly. Then a decent pickerel that fought really hard. Landed him and was trying to angle my pliers to extract the hook when his teeth cut the line. I had to pick him up by the tail to make sure he got back in the water OK. In addition to fighting so hard, he repeatedly snapped at the hook with lightning speed.

After that one I moved to a spot where I had seen a rock jutting out. Luckily I was able to reach it. It had a pretty good-sized flat surface above the water, with another plateau of about the same size just beneath the water, which was perfectly negotiable with boots. But before I stepped out on to the rock where I'd be able to cast more freely, I tossed my senko over the rock. Sure enough, I got hit by a bass lurking on the other side of the rock. Plump 13-incher. Fun catch.

Then I stepped out on the rock where I could cast long distance without hindrance. Luxury!

It wasn't long before another fish struck—clearly way bigger than what I'd been catching. I let out my drag a little while fighting him just to make sure the 8lb test line didn't snap. Turned out to be a pickerel. Fought him for several minutes, play him as hard as I dared to avoid having him run to deep cover. When I got him near I could see that he was hooked well in the mouth. The challenge was to keep the line fairly taut so that the line was clear of his teeth. I was pretty confident until the crucial time when I got him close to landing.

When he ran, he just ripped line off the spool. I figured I had to let him run, if for no other reason than to make sure he was really tired before I tried to unhook him at the rock. I finally heaved him up without a struggle. He was 22.5 and fat. A real beauty. Got the hook out with the pliers and poured him forward into the water. He was so exhausted that he barely swam, though he was able to maintain equilibrium, which was a good sign. He just sort of lurched down to the nest of the bass I'd caught a few minutes earlier- which, seeing the big pickerel, prudently moved off. There the pickerel stayed, almost motionless for several minutes before steaming slowly away.

A few casts later, after some little bites I got hit hard. Whatever it was dived and ripped line off the spool. I reeled in and the line went slack. Instinct told me to reel in as fast as possible. Turned out to be the right move, as he was swimming toward me. I got resistance on him pretty quickly and tried to prevent him from hitting the rough on the shore. He made some amazing dives, sending my heart rate soaring. This was a lunker. And a bass, not a pickerel. He shot from side to side under the pressure and then finally made a run to my left. Unfortunately he got around a fallen tree to my right. It was a hazard I'd tried to avoid. Though a small tree, it had just enough branches to make it difficult to maneuver him back. I tried to trick him into running the way he had come, but nothing seemed to work. I was wishing I had a wingman with a net. I was at least able to get a close look at him. I calculated him to be from 18-20 inches, but he seemed considerably more powerful than the 18-incher I bagged at Clinton Reservoir. He eventually broke the line, right in front of my eyes.

Lesson learned, I tightened up my drag a little.

Next bit of excitement was another big pickerel. Another lunker, though perhaps not quite as big as the other one. Hard to say. Before I got him really close, he sheared the line. That was disappointing, but I really didn't feel much like complaining at this point. It was fun while it lasted, and really, nothing more than what you’d expect when hooking a pickerel without a leader.

I caught another bass, this one 15.5 inches. Fine fish, nice fight!

Casting out a little deeper, I let the senko sink. After a couple of pulses, I felt some motion. Seemed really steady. Oh yeah! Something big! Another massive fight, with plunging runs. This baby wasn't going to get away. I reeled furiously to keep tension and decided I wouldn't aim to tire, but would try to bring the fish on the rock and deal with it there. As it got closer it shot back and forth and jumped out of the water a couple of times. I kept the tip of the rod low and the tension high. When I felt it was safe, I pulled it toward the rock and tried to grab it.

Like the 15.5-incher, the hook was in the lower jaw, making grabbing it a little awkward and dangerous. I decided to hell with it and gave it a good grip. Having thrashed so vigorously just before the pull to the rock, the fish now went totally immobile. He even cooperated pretty well with the measurement. 17.5 inches, if not quite 18. Hooyah!

Looking down its mouth, I saw it was gut hooked. "Is that my hook?" I wondered, then I remembered avoiding the hook in the lower jaw. Also, the hook in the gut was a really big one. I thought for a moment that it may have been the one that broke my line, but the hook was different. Since the line was cut, I worked the barb of hook out a little with my pliers by pushing on the eye end. Then I grasped the barb end and worked it out. The bass was sluggish when I put him back in, heaving slowly into some cover by the shore. But I figure he was a lot better off than he was with that bloody great hook in his gullet.

[ 07-15-2003, 08:25 AM: Message edited by: Reservoir Dog ]

43 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the warm welcome.

I went back to that spot a few days later and had a slow morning. Watching the red blob of the sun coming up over the pond was reward enough. I also saw a pair of osprey, one with a rather large fish in its talons.

The ospreys have come along famously in the last few years, as have the bald eagles--which I never saw around Northern NJ as a kid.

Anyway, slow day or not, I caught one beauty of a fish: a two-foot long pickerel, second one that size I've bagged this year.

Some people around here--particularly the bass purists--look askance at the pickerel, but I love to catch them. Beautiful, vicious predators.
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