Today is the last day of September, we are now two weeks into the autumn of 2015. Temperatures have been steadily cooling though holding higher than I can anecdotally recall in the last two autumn fishing seasons. The fall fishing extravaganza leaped off to a strong start as the water temperatures steadily cooled and our H2O residing quarry again became more active.
This weekend the majority of the MKFF crew is headed up to Pulaski, New York to check out the early Salmon run then Mark and Zach will be heading down to Sanibel Island for an extended fishing adventure. I will not be fishing due to my college roommate’s wedding; therefore this is an appropriate point to provide you with an update on New Jersey fishing for the first few weeks of fall.
Black River WMA
Pheasant Hunting Season and the Cast and Blasts which mark November are now less than two months away. I dusted off the old JC Higgins 16 gauge side by side along with the Remington 12 gauge and headed down to the Black River WMA range. Both firearms performed well, presenting my shoulder with the swift kick of an old gun while consistently delivering a load to the target. Next on the agenda is to attempt and gunsmith my Savage Model 220B with some parts that are now available online.
The Jersey Shore
The salt water community is abuzz with the looming biannual arrival of the Striped Bass to the New Jersey shore. It is still a bit early for the main event however we headed down to Avon by the Sea to evaluate what could be pulled out from the beach. Initially I was going to try to fish with some spin gear but the guys over at Orvis NYC convinced me to try a few softy minnows in the surf. The plan worked with me landing a few one pound Blue Fish and Jack Crevalle in the morning. Mark pulled in a nice Sea Robin and Star Gazer, however I could not convince him to measure the Star Gazer in an attempt at the MKFF Salt contest. We wrapped up over at Sandy Hook where a few keep able size Fluke were caught from the beach.
Orvis Game Fair
Continuing the fall adventures, Mark and I met in Morristown on Sunday after fishing the shore all day Saturday to head up to Millbrook, NY for the annual Orvis Game Fair. The Game Fair, which we have reported on in 2012 and 2014, is a sporting lifestyle fair geared for the family. This year they had few more distilleries, which are popping up, in the Hudson Valley thanks to New York State’s updated liquor laws. The event has expanded every year that we have attended and is a great way to spend the first weekend of fall.
My other favorite part of the Orvis Game Fair is fishing Wappingers Creek, a local stream in Dutchess County New York. Wappingers Creek stretches 41.7 miles from Thomson Pond to New Hamburg, NY, emptying into the Hudson River. The northern stretches of the creek hold Trout while the southern stretches are more of a Smallmouth fishery.
After leaving the Orvis Game Fair, we stopped at The Roadhouse in Pleasant Valley, NY. This is an excellent upstate New York bar. This establishment is a jewel, a true treasure including a main floor with a list, pool table, dartboard, cold beer and delicious beer. This is not a yuppie bar, the bartenders are friendly, the food delicious and reasonably priced!
New Jersey’s fall Trout stocking is scheduled to commence between October 13th and 21st , this year they will be placing 20,000 Trout, between 14” and 22”, in 16 streams throughout the state. Our club is also planning on stocking our private pond with Tiger Trout for the winter. After the Trout season dies down, Saturday November 7th will be opening day of Pheasant season in New Jersey. This is in addition to the fall archery season that begins in October and then the December firearms season for deer.
If there ever was a better time to invest in a snowmobile, the winter of 2014-2015 was that time! The current cooling weather pattern which settled in on us around summer/fall of 2013 has continued in its full glory allowing for copious amounts of winter sports! In my life, Ice Fishing started as and has always been a hobby for winter with little or no usable snow. This winter has featured continuous snowfall; therefore I do not believe I have even gone out ice fishing on a single occasion, excepting for Ice Fish and Chips!
As a quick update on ice fishing in the winter of 2015, Zach Boynton has caught a few Northern Pike, his girlfriend caught a large Brown Trout and Chris Woodhead purchased a gasoline auger. That has been the extent of my ice fishing discussion this year.
This blog is a comprehensive overview of all the winter fun had by the Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing Rod, Gun and Snowmobile club. There should be an upcoming final Ice Fishing blog on these pages shortly. For your fishing entertainment I have tucked in a picture of Mark’s massive Chain Pickerel caught through the ice as any blog is not complete without at least one fish pic.
New Jersey suffered back to back hurricanes, Irene in 2011and Sandy in 2012, combined these storms did extensive ecological damage on the forests and streams of northwest New Jersey. The winter of 2012/ 2013 was snowless and 2013/ 2014 the blow downs made it near impossible to navigate a snowmobile in the forests. In 2014 we enjoyed a white Thanksgiving, at that moment I resolved to get back into snowmobiling for 2015. Call the return to snowmobiling a New Year’s Resolution!
The first step for the resurgence of snowmobiling at the MKFF proving grounds was driven by a January 23rd snowstorm, also my 31st birthday! We woke up to a fresh clean blanket of snow across all of the fields at the Lazy K Ranch and the MKFF Proving Grounds. I had been working on clearing trails before this storm, after the storm it became a little more difficult, however, not too difficult that the New Holland Workmaster and my Stihl Chainsaw could not blaze through the mess.
Brenton, dad and I used to maintain a hare scramble track through the woodlot on Old Barn Acres (MKFF Proving Grounds). The track winds a challenging course through the limestone outcroppings, swamps, ledges and forests common in our area of Frelinghuysen Township. Over the years the track has evolved and several features were added but the general principle of a strenuous trail through rugged and wooded terrain remains.
The trail, henceforth referred to as SnoMax, with its tight features lends itself well to vintage and smaller sleds, the type of machine where you have to lean in and become part of the chassis to make it go and dowhat you want it to. A vintage sled takes skill to ride, which is what we like! SnoMax features one small table top, a rhythm section, one ditch jump, a ledge climb and countless hairpin turns mixed with dodgy high speed straightaways.
This summer, the SnoMax will be expanded with the help of heavy equipment, the features enhanced, the brush cleared wider and various other improvements will be made. With these augmentations and the help of a cooling climate in 2015/2016 the MKFF RAGSC will host a vintage snowmobile timed hare scramble.
Tug Hill is home to a very active snow sports community. Sometimes, it is refreshing to leave my home state where everyone but me curses the winter and go somewhere that the season is embraced with a passion. Depending on the snowmobile club in the area, there are 24-7 grooming operations on major trails. The gas stations pump ethanol free gasoline for snowmobiles and a restaurant or bar will not survive without access to the snowmobile trail network.
The Edge Hotel
Nick initially approached me about a 2015 snowmobile adventure back over Thanksgiving weekend when we received our first snowfall of winter 2014/2015. At that time I was anticipating a return to “normal” New Jersey winters which do not amount to much snow, only mud. I was also anticipating getting the Lazy K Ranch lodge construction project kicked off early, the January 23rd snow event quickly dampened those expectations. With the lodge on hold, Nick informed me that he had found accommodations that meet the needs of snowmobilers. He showed me some pictures and we booked at The Edge Hotel in Lyons Falls, New York.
Driving into The Edge’s parking you will understand that this is a place built for snowmobilers by snowmobilers and managed by people who ride snowmobiles. The hotel is coupled with a bar called Boondock’s, there are vintage snowmobiles and SUVs decorating the roof! The bar crowd is lively and arrives largely by snowmobile, in fact; the trail goes right through the parking lot. The hotel has a snowmobile loading ramp set for three sizes of pick-up trucks, I consider this a new must have for any new lodge construction. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable while the main lobby is decorated as an Adirondack style lodge. The staff is friendly and breakfast is free in the morning, allowing you to get on the trail quickly!
No, Winter Sports!, story is complete without the breakdown or adventures of being lost. You could own a brand new sled or be driving something from the 1980s, it does not matter, they are machines designed to operate at peak performance, you ride them and they breakdown! The 1997 Yamaha Ovation, which I have run continuously since the late 1990’s was functioning perfect all year. However, about ten miles into the town of Brantingham, NY, a horrible noise started to erupt from inside the engine compartment. A screeching, bearing disintegrating howl poured out from under the cowling.
No sooner had the howl started; it calmed down for a minute after I shut off the sled and restarted. Maybe the belt was cold? Nope! As I piloted across the soft snow at about thirty miles per hour all of the sudden, an extreme howl and loss of significant engine power. I quickly pulled to the sled and shut down; this ride just became a recovery operation.
Two hours passed, with Nick and Rob’s help, the Ovation was in the back of my GMC, I rented a sled at the Flat Rock Inn and we planned a ride for rest of the day. The four hour tour which took almost eight hours, in the dark….we will save that story for another day.
The Montague Inn
The Montague Inn located in Lowville, NY is the site that recorded a snowfall total in the United States, 77 inches in a 24 hour period from a single storm. In addition, the New York State Seasonal Snowfall record of 466.9 inches in the winter of 1976/1977 was set in this very town. A localized architectural feature is second floor entry ways for people’s homes. It goes without say that this place is an excellent snowmobiling bar and restaurant. Heavy snows, friendly people and a business that is OPEN to snowmobilers, day or night. Walk right in and there is a huge helmet rack for your gear. Saddle up at the bar; enjoy a delicious local brew and one of the many reasonably priced daily specials.
White To Brown
This brings us to the end of this tale of a white and wondrous winter. As I type my closing thoughts, I am staring out the window at a brown nightmare, 45 degrees and mud everywhere, not yet warm enough for daffodils. The mud season has commenced, so has maple sugar season. Trout fishing is a mere 23 days out, to pass the time we will be working on boiling down maple sap to make maple syrup.
New Jersey has seen better ice fishing seasons than this years most recent encounter, so a few friends and I took it upon our selves to search for some thicker ice and bigger prizes for our efforts. Brant Lake, New York seemed the perfect destination since the season up North has shown some record crappies and a few notable 25+ inch trout. Gear loaded, extra wood piled high in the truck, a nice stash of our favorite beer and the only obstacle holding us back is the 4 hour drive to icy heaven. New York, here we come.
Arrive to the cabin around 7:30 am and we waste no time to set-up camp and head straight for the ice. Not a soul in sight as a light snow starts to trickle over the mountains heading our way. We promptly shovel out an area on the lake about 25 foot by 20 foot to help some light seep into the dark depths of the deep lake. Out comes my brand new auger and within 20 seconds we have our first hole. Everyone thought I was mad that I said the ice was about 14 inches thick but cut through it so fast, so like always, I attempted to prove them wrong!
5 holes dug out, Augers baited and set, fire pit ablaze with 4 chairs surrounding it, and the sound of the first beer is heard being cracked open in the background. Icy bliss has finally been obtained for 3 young fishermen.
Hours pass by and a buzz starts to set in and to our surprise we still haven’t had a bite. Not even a false alarm to get our hopes up and our blood pumping, but never the less our spirits stay high. Throw the burgers on the grill, grab the extra case and toss a few extra logs onto the pit. Fire pit cookin, bellies are filled with some good grub and a few old frosty friends and we are thinking about calling it a night just as a tip-up shoots into the air. Beers into the air as we take off towards the line as it’s tearing out at a hundred miles an hour. Hours of torment and nothing to show for it are finally over as we slowly fight this fish and let it play to us. Around the lip of the hole now and I am wondering whether or not the hole is big enough to fit this behemoth out! Luckily it fit just out perfectly as our jaws dropped. Out comes a 28 inch beauty of a trout!
Busted phone, broken laptop, but one hell of a fish caught = One perfect weekend for a lifelong angler!
The ice fishing season may be over for Ice Fishing, but the MKFF crew is concentrating on a few trips this season that you all can look forward to. From New Jersey to Utah, Colorado to the Bahamas, you can count on us sharing each story as they arive. Fish on folks, and always remember to start “Rippin’ lips from Stream to Stream!”