by Frank Ruczynski
What do you do when you're favorite coastal fishing holes are inundated by countless numbers of holiday weekend vacationers? I don't know about you, but I stay as far away as possible! Before Memorial Day, I picture myself floating along in my kayak with the company of striped bass, weakfish, summer flounder and bluefish. After Memorial Day, I picture overcrowded roadways, hundreds of boats and of course those wonderful jet skiers. Maybe I'm a bit spoiled, but I fish to get away from the masses, not to be a part of the crowd. From now until Labor Day, it looks like my coastal fishing trips will be limited to weekdays and nights.I already miss having the water to myself.
A making-the-most-of-it attitude goes a long way in life, but to stay on topic, I'll focus on the fishing aspects. It's Memorial Day weekend and I'd love to be chasing striped bass, weakfish and summer flounder, but the odds of having a successful trip and enjoying myself seem fairly low – see the overcrowded roadways, hundreds of boats and wonderful jet skiers reference above. I could make the most of it and fight through the traffic, crowds and everything that comes with it to catch a few fish or I could stay closer to home and make the most out of fishing my local lakes and ponds for largemouth bass, crappies and chain pickerel.
As it turns out, my decision to stay closer to home paid off, as the weather was much better inland than along the beach. While some may argue that fishing in the rain is a good time, I'd prefer to stay dry whenever possible. Warming waters and cloud cover would make for perfect fishing conditions at our local lake. Our commute took all of about five minutes and I didn't even pass a traffic signal. When Jake and I arrived, we had most of the lake to ourselves and began working the flats with Rapala Shad Raps. It's not raining here!
The resident largemouth bass and chain pickerel didn't disappoint. Jake and I caught a ton of 1 to 2-pound bass and pickerel. Jake was using a light-colored Rapala Shad Rap while I was tossing a perch-colored Shad Rap Shad. The lake was just treated with an aquatic herbicide so the weeds weren't a problem. Fishing action was good as we rarely went a few minutes without a strike. We had double hookups often and enjoyed our time on the water. Doubled Up on the Shad Raps
Just after lunchtime, things got a little more interesting. A monster pickerel left a tremendous wake as it rocketed across the flat to strike my bait. Once hooked, the pike-sized pickerel went airborne and then made a bunch of sustained drag-pulling runs. A few minutes into the battle, I began to wonder if my 10-pound leader would hold, especially after I got a good look at the beast's impressive teeth. After some tense moments of back and forth, I finally slid my hand under her gigantic gill plate. She shredded my 10-pound leader, but it held – thank you Seaguar! She taped out at a little over 27 inches. After a few photos, she swam off strong.What big teeth you have!
After a good catch, I like to sit back and appreciate the moment. I thought to myself, "Somehow a great holiday weekend just got better." While I'd prefer to catch trophy striped bass and weakfish, I don't think I'd trade my time with Jake, my catch or our peaceful surroundings for the hustle and bustle of the shore towns on Memorial Day Weekend. For the record, I heard some great reports of striped bass and tiderunner weakfish in Cape May County waters. Years ago, I would have raced down to get in on the bite, no matter the circumstances. Fishing isn't any less a part of my life, but I'm learning to appreciate fishing for everything that it offers. A great fish!
While many anglers put striped bass or largemouth bass on some higher level, I find similar enjoyment fishing for what some may consider lesser species such as sunfish, pickerel, bowfin, snakeheads, crappies, catfish and carp. Now, I fish on my own terms and I find myself enjoying time on the water ten times more than I did when I was chasing fish and reports up and down the New Jersey coastline.
This Memorial Day weekend is one I won't soon forget. Not just because of the solid fishing action, but because I was fortunate to spend the weekend with the people I care about the most. Family barbeques, kisses from our 9-month-old granddaughter, Addison and teaming up with my daughter-in-law in a crazy game of horseshoes will all make the list of things I remember about this weekend – it was Amanda's first time throwing horseshoes and she threw two ringers including the game winner! I think the boys are still a little salty.
After our fun-filled weekend, I couldn't help but think about the real meaning of Memorial Day. I cannot express the level of gratitude I have for the men and women that fought for our freedoms and never made it back to eat a hotdog, cast a line, throw horseshoes or spend time with their loved ones. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend as much as our family did, but please take a moment to remember those that made it all possible.