by Frank Ruczynski
Wow! Sunshine and 75 degrees sure feels good. It's hard to believe we had ice-covered waters just a few weeks ago. Fishing action is exploding in South Jersey as freshwater and saltwater fishing continues to improve daily. Largemouth bass, pickerel, crappies, perch, catfish and truckloads of trout are keeping sweet-water anglers busy. Striped bass have us surrounded as they migrate along our beachfront, through the inlets, into the back-bay estuaries and up into our freshwater rivers. With bluefish, weakfish and summer flounder due in a few days, my head is spinning. It's time to get out on the water!It's like the ice-cream truck for anglers!
After the long winter, I'm enjoying every minute of spring. If I'm not fishing, I'm planning my next trip. With so many great opportunities, it's difficult to keep up. I started at the local lakes with slab crappies. I don't know why I enjoy fishing for these paper-mouthed panfish so much, but I do. Big schools of crappies have moved onto the flats and I've been annihilating them. On calm days, small, weightless, soft-plastic baits work well. On windy days, it's tough to cast weightless baits so I switch over to a crappie jig under a float. The action the crappies provide is remarkable, as it seems every cast ends with a strike. I love big crappies!
After some fun with the crappies, it was time to chase some trout. My son, Jake and I had plans to fish early on opening day, but he woke up at 1 AM with a stomach virus. Fortunately, Jake felt better later that afternoon so we decided to hit the lake early on Easter morning. We woke up at 5 AM on Sunday and made our way to Giampietro Park in Vinleland. When we arrived, there were thirty to forty cars in the lot and I thought we were a little late to the water. I started to doubt my decision to forego our local stocked lakes in order to fish a new lake that was stocked with fifty bonus-broodstock rainbow trout. Once we got out of the car, we noticed no one was fishing. As it turned out, the parking lot was full for a sunrise church service.
Feeling relieved, Jake and I set up and tossed our Powerbait rigs into the darkness. Within minutes, the sun came over the horizon, the church group began singing and Jake's drag was screaming! With his rod bent in half and line peeling from his reel, we knew this was a super-sized trout. After a well-spirited battle and way too many swipes with the net, we landed a beautiful 5-pound rainbow trout. Jake and I high-fived and took a few minutes to enjoy everything about our early-morning adventure.Jake had his hands full with this rainbow trout.
A few minutes later, my rod goes down and it's my turn. Another great battle on light line and we slid a 5+ pound rainbow into the net. After a little more celebrating and I few more photos, I decided to switch it up and throw a spinner. As luck would have it, my third cast ended with an explosive hit. The big rainbow went crazy and put up a great fight. After some adrenalin-pumping back and forth, I guided the 6.5-pound beauty into the net. We took a few more pictures and I had to make sure Jake knew my fish was bigger than his – if you have teenage boys that fish, you know what I mean! We caught a few more regular-sized trout before packing it up. We shared our stories and photos with our family members at Easter dinner. It was one of those fishing trips that we'll always remember.Happy Easter!
After some more fun with the trout, my dad came up from Texas and wanted to try his luck with the linesiders. I haven't fished with my dad in years so I was looking forward to catching up. We picked up a couple dozen bloodworms and headed for the Delaware River. With marginal water temps and dreary weather, I didn't think we'd have a good shot, but we gave it our best. We spend the better part of two days on the riverbanks and caught a bunch of small striped bass. It was the most fun I've had catching short stripers in a long time. There's nothing better than fishing with family!
Since our last trip to the river, it seems like the action has picked up big time. Over the last few days, quite a few big, breeding striped bass have been caught and released. It's time! Get out and enjoy everything spring has to offer. I have to go - the trout truck is here!