by Frank Ruczynski
It's been ten days since I've been on the water and I'm already getting fidgety. Ten days and I already feel like a little part of me has died! A few single-digit nights followed by 35 to 40-degree daytime air temperatures are just enough to make fishing in South Jersey very difficult. Most of the lakes and ponds around my house are just frozen enough to make casting impossible, but not nearly enough for safe ice fishing. Flipping through my social media networks isn't helping any either: I see heavily-dressed northern anglers with impressive ice-fishing catches meanwhile my smiling, southern pals are pictured holding their catches in shorts and t-shirts. If something doesn't give, I'll be patrolling the local spillways soon.Two weeks ago, I was in my happy place
Right before the lakes iced over, the freshwater action was very good. Chain pickerel, black crappie, largemouth bass, and yellow perch were crushing our soft-plastic baits. I had a feeling my time was limited so I made the most of open water and spent lots of time enjoying the great action. Looking back, I'm glad I took advantage of the great action because it might be a while until we see open water again.Jake and I making the most of it
Since fishing isn't much of an option, I'm going to need a few things to help keep me sane over the winter. I usually start by reviewing the prior fishing season. If you read my blog or follow me on social media, you know I fish almost daily and post a lot of fishing-related content. I have a ton of fishing photos and videos and I enjoy looking back at the good times. I used to keep a detailed log on a database, but it seemed like more work than it was worth. Honestly, if you upload pictures to Facebook you can go back and view dates and times if needed. If you use a smartphone and add the Timehop application, a daily notification will show you what you did on the same day for prior years and include some basic weather conditions. I know that many seasoned anglers swear by their logs, but if the trips are memorable and worth noting, chances are I will not forget them. I had a lot of fun with weakfish in 2014!
Once I'm done looking over last season's highlights, it's time to buy some tackle. As a writer, I qualify for a bunch of media-related discounts. A few phone calls and a little schmoozing have saved me a lot of money! In case you've ever wondered, outdoor writers aren't living on easy street. The discounted gear is a big fringe benefit and I'm very thankful to the companies that offer great deals – Shimano and G.Loomis have been especially generous over the years. If you don't qualify for a discount, you can still score some great deals during the off-season. Most of us check eBay and the local sporting goods clearance racks, but did you know about discount websites like www.candjsportsinc.com and www.overstockbait.com? I'll be placing some orders soon. Christmas comes a little late for me, but I'm still like a big kid when that big brown truck pulls up with boxes filled of fishing gear. Late Christmas
After I receive my new gear, I'll go through my old gear and sell or donate whatever I don't need. Selling items on local South Jersey websites such as www.noreast.com or www.bassbarn.com is amazingly effective and a great way to meet new people with similar interests. Usually by this stage, fishing season is just around the corner and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Once my equipment is ready, I'll look over my charts and pinpoint some areas that look "fishy." Each season I make sure to incorporate a few new locations into my normal routine. As luck would have it, my father-in-law is a hydrographic surveyor for the Army Core of Engineers. I can't thank him enough for providing some of the most up-to-date and accurate nautical charts available. Most of my "future hotspots" never really pan out, but once in a while I hit the jackpot and it makes it all worthwhile.
Besides the Atlantic City Boat Show, we don't have a lot of big winter-fishing events based in South Jersey, but there are a few great tackle shows in the northern half of the state and over in Philly. The Atlantic City Boat Show will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center on February 4-8, 2015. If you're a surfcaster, mark your calendars for February 21, 2015 as Surf Day and a can't miss. Surf Day costs $10 and will be held at the Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. I'm also looking forward to Bass Pro Shops opening a new store in Atlantic City in April.
For those of us that love to be on the water, the next few weeks aren't going to be easy. I'm hoping for a warm, heavy rainstorm or two as nothing clears our waterways better than a good rain. Please feel free to share any fishing-related activities below as we could use a little help getting through cabin fever during the offseason. March 1 is only forty-four days away!I miss my crappie days!