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Frank Ruczynski

I've spent the last twenty-five years chasing the fish that swim in our local waters and I've enjoyed every minute of it! During that time, I've made some remarkable friends and together we've learned a great deal by spending loads of time on the water.

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September 29, 2016

Weak Nights

by Frank Ruczynski

There are not many things I enjoy more than catching weakfish during the night tides. After many years of tough fishing, it's great to have the weakies back again! My nights have been filled with solid strikes, bent rods, lots of croaking/drumming and some awesome drag pulling, headshaking battles. This year's weakfish run continues to be one of my best seasons in close to a decade.


I love it when they talk to me!

Over the last few weeks, I've experienced a consistent bite that just seems to be getting better. The speckled beauties are showing up in good numbers and sizes in many of their old haunts. While I enjoy catching the spike weakfish this time of year, the bigger weakfish are a welcome unexpected bonus. Since September's full moon, schools of 20 to 26-inch weakfish have been mixed in with the spike weakfish. These fish filled in nicely as we transitioned from the recent closure of the summer flounder season to the beginning of the striped bass fall run. Weakfish anglers tend to keep to themselves more than most so I guess it's not surprising that even though weakfish reports are picking up, they aren't quite on par with what I'm experiencing on the water.


This 25-inch weakfish slammed a bubblegum-colored Zoom Super Fluke

Did you even wonder why most weakfish sharpies are so tight lipped? While most of us enjoy a little elbow space, it's mostly due to the fact that when the fishing action is good, weakfish are among the most predictable fish that swim in the ocean. This may sound pretentious, but I've spent twenty-five years chasing weakfish and I think I know where these fish will be before they do. It may be hard to believe, but I'd wager that ten years from now, I could set up on a particular rock, on a specific day, time, tide stage and not only catch weakfish, but probably predict the size within a few inches – however, the wager would have to be rather sizable for me to give up such a predictable location. It may come as a surprise to some, but when weakfish are around in good numbers, they are almost as predictable as the sun rising each morning.


I'll never tell!

To break it down even more, weakfish not only tend to have seasonal habits, but they tend to feed on the same tide stage night after night. The old saying, "You could set your watch to the bite," couldn't be more true. High and low tides change about fifty minutes a day so if I had a good bite from 11 PM to 1 AM on an outgoing tide, chances are the next night the bite would take place from 11:50 PM to 1:50 AM. Lately, the fish seem to be most active during the last few hours of the outgoing tide, but each location has it's own windows of opportunity depending on bait, structure and current. Time spent learning weakfish habits will pay off for years to come.


20 years later - same place, same tide, same bait, same result!

Unfortunately, it looks like my weakfish train might be coming to a screeching halt. The recent northeast wind and rain is a real bite killer. I think we could withstand a couple days of coastal flooding, but with constant 20 to 30-MPH NE winds combined with an influx of freshwater into our back bays, things aren't looking good in the near future. With talk of Hurricane Matthew working its way up the east coast early next week, things aren't looking great in the long-range forecast either. Events like these combined with tomorrow night's new moon have a way of flushing our back bays prematurely – say goodbye to the mullet!


Coastal storms and mullet runs seem to occur at the same time each year.

I don't give up easily so I'll be trying for weakfish as soon as the weather breaks. Weakfish seem to be a little more sensitive to weather and water conditions than most other fish so I'm hoping that Hurricane Matthew tracks east and heads out to open water or it could be a long two weeks. If the hurricane brings more coastal flooding and wind, it may take a while for our waters to clean up. If this scenario plays out, it will likely be time to switch from weakfish to striped bass.

In the meantime, it's probably a good time to get back to some sweetwater action. Our ponds and lakes should benefit from the heavy rain. Some of our local waters were as low as I've seen them in a long time. I've spent most of my free time chasing weakfish, but when I did stop at my local fishing holes, action seemed to be on the slow side – little largemouth bass and a few small pickerel. Hopefully, the cooler weather and extra water trigger some better action. I'm looking forward to spending October mornings and afternoons in my kayak chasing largemouth bass, crappie, pickerel, perch and rainbow trout.

November 24, 2013

It's Our Turn, Right?

by Frank Ruczynski

Wow, what can you say about the lovely weather we had this weekend? The sad truth is that it's not looking much better as we head into the end of November. After today's 40-mph winds, a nor'easter is due to blast our coastline on Tuesday and continues into Wednesday, followed by another shot of hard northwest wind and more frigid temperatures. To top it off, the December long-range forecast looks to be filled with additional below-average air temperatures. If the current trend continues, I think the South Jersey fall run may come to an end before it ever really started. I hope I'm wrong, but it's not looking good.

I think most anglers would agree that it's been slow for those of us that fish from Long Beach Island to Cape May. About ten days ago, we had some strong blowout tides and things have been slow to recover ever since. I've been out day and night and while I'm finding some fish here and there, it's been far from what we've come to expect from our fall striper run. In areas where I'm used to catching five to ten bass in a few hours, I feel lucky to have two or three on the end of the line.

On the bright side, a little further to the north, boaters and surfcasters reported some better action. Earlier this week, anglers fishing around Island Beach State Park enjoyed some solid action. I, like many anglers, grew tired of waiting for the stripers to visit our area so I headed up to IBSP to get in on the hot bite.

With a tip from a friend, I walked on to the beach at 5 AM and had birds and stripers busting on sand eels in front of me for hours. I caught a bunch of fish in a short amount of time and enjoyed every moment of it. Does it get any better than watching the sunrise over the ocean with a bent rod and a school of hungry stripers in front of you? Not for me, I was in heaven! I caught most of my fish on metals and teasers, but needlefish plugs and Daiwa SP Minnows worked well, too.


First bass on my new Van Staal

By the next day, word of the great bite was out and most of the beach was shoulder to shoulder with surfcasters. Even with 100s of surfcasters on the beach, I still managed to put together a decent catch of solid striped bass. I thought to myself, this is what I've been waiting for!


Word of the hot bite spread quickly!

A return trip on Thursday morning saw more anglers and less fish. A stiff, east wind provided some beautiful white water, but it also cut into my casting distance. I felt lucky to land the one that I did. Since my last visit, the weather and fishing reports have gone downhill quickly.


A fall fatty, full of sand eels

Recently, one or two sources were laughed at for tossing the idea of, ‘The season might be over." out there. While I wouldn't go that far, I have to admit, I'm certainly concerned. A cold shot or two is normal for this time of year, but an extended cold period with a coastal storm mixed in could be a death blow. I sure hope my feeling is wrong; I was just starting to have fun.

With poor conditions for the weekend expected, I hit the South Jersey backwaters on Friday night as I thought it might be my last shot for any decent backwater action. I waited out the rain and hit a bunch of my favorite backwater fishing holes. Conditions were good, but I had to make a few moves before I found any action. I picked away at schoolie stripers during the falling tide and tagged a few more fish. You really have to work at it to put together any decent numbers of fish. I made the best of it and jigged up eight small stripers and drove home wondering if things were going to get much better from here on out? Over the last few season's some of our best action comes in December so I'm not giving up hope just yet.


A tagged fish right before release

My experience with tagging fish continues. I finished up my shipment of twenty lock-on tags and I'm trying the same number of spaghetti-style tags from the American Littoral Society. I've found the lock-on tags to be ten times more convenient. It's amazing how quickly you can apply a tag and release a fish with a little practice. The spaghetti-style tags require a little more effort, so once this batch is used, I'll be sticking with the lock-on tags. I'm still looking forward to receiving my first tag return.

Spaghetti-style tags from the ALS

Don't forget some of our local waters will receive a visit from the trout truck this week. I've included the stocking schedule below. For more information, please visit the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at http://www.njfishandwildlife.com.


Rainbow
trout will be here this week!

WINTER TROUT STOCKING SCHEDULE 2013

Monday, November 25

Middlesex County
Hook's Creek Lake - CANCELED due to lingering high salinity levels resulting from Superstorm Sandy

Monmouth County
Spring Lake - 190
Topenemus Lake - 180

Ocean County
Lake Shenandoah - 220

Passaic County
Green Turtle Pond - 300

Sussex County
Little Swartswood Lake - 390
Lake Aeroflex - 390
Lake Ocquittunk - 190
Silver Lake - 230

Tuesday, November 26

Atlantic County
Birch Grove Park Pond - 180

Bergen County
Mill Pond - 150

Camden County
Haddon Lake - 190
Rowands Pond - 100

Cape May County
Ponderlodge Pond (Cox Hall WMA) - 160

Cumberland County
Shaws Mill Pond - 200
South Vineland Park Pond - 160

Essex County
Verona Park Lake - 190

Hudson County
Woodcliff Lake - 200

Passaic County
Barbour's Pond - 160

Wednesday, November 27

Hunterdon County
Amwell Lake - 160

Morris County
Mt. Hope Pond - 160
Speedwell Lake - 200

Union County
Lower Echo Lake - 160

Warren County
Furnace Lake - 350

July 09, 2012

Dog Days

by Frank Ruczynski

Is it me or did summer used to be a lot more fun? The last two summer seasons have really taken a toll on South Jersey. Last summer, we had multiple-record-rainfall events that caused sinkholes, breached dams, historic floods, and extensive property damage. This summer isn't looking much better.

Soon after the 2011 floods, I drove down to Bridgeton to spend some time at Sunset Lake and the Cohanzick Zoo. I was devastated when I arrived and noticed that the once beautiful lake was nothing more than a massive mud flat. Just up the road, I stopped by Seeley's Mill Pond which had breached the roadway and was no longer the picturesque little waterway that I remembered. Dams failed at lakes in Atlantic and Salem counties too.


Seeley's Mill Pond 2011

This summer is shaping up to be another memorable one. Last week's storms caused widespread damage and headaches for hundreds of thousands of people living in our area. Many of us learned a new weather term: derecho – a wide-ranging, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms. Fallen trees caused fatalities at Parvin State Park – my thoughts and prayers go out to the two young boys and their families. Others in the area were fortunate enough to escape with their lives, but had major damage from dangerous lightning and 70+ mph winds. Some of the worst hit areas were without power for days and all this just happened to occur during our second and worst heat wave of the summer. I was one of the lucky ones, we only had a few limbs down, but I witnessed much of the severe damage to the east in Atlantic County and to the south in Cumberland County. Not quite my idea of fun in the sun!


Summer Storm Nightmare

On the bright side, the cleanup is well underway, they'll be no shortage of firewood this winter, just about everyone's power has been restored, and the heat wave is over. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the summer on the water with my family and friends.

After a great winter fishery and a decent spring run, I needed a little time off to recharge my batteries. For anyone that fishes as much as I do, you know what I'm talking about. Lately, I've spent much of my free time rigging my wife's new kayak, turning my utility trailer into a kayak trailer, and getting my fishing gear back into shape. With no real off-season this winter, I neglected some of my usual winter-checklist responsibilities. I have to admit, cleaning and re-spooling reels in an air-conditioned house is almost enjoyable when it's 100 degrees outside.


Jen's New Kayak

With a favorable weather forecast and a little time away from my rod and reel, I'm dying to get back on the water. The local lakes and ponds offer some great action during the early-morning and late-afternoons hours and the backwater night bite should be worthwhile. I continue to hear a good deal about weakfish, so I have high hopes for the latter part of the summer season. Traditionally, the late-summer weakfish run provides some of the best action of the year.

I'd like to remind our readers that it's a great time of year to get the kids out on the water. I take my little crew out frequently and plan on getting them out often over the next few weeks. Whether you fish freshwater or saltwater, the summer months offer a tremendous amount of fishing opportunities. A bobber and a baited hook should provide lots of action in most of our lakes and ponds. Sunfish and catfish are plentiful in our waters and will usually provide steady action until you run out of bait. In saltwater, a plethora of species are available to our coastal anglers. It's tough to beat snapper bluefish, but croakers, kingfish, and little sea bass can usually be found in good numbers.


My Little Fishing Buddies

Over the years, I've learned a few things while fishing with my kids. My best advice: Make sure to never forget the snacks and keep the trips as action-packed as possible. Kids don't care what they're catching as long as they're catching something. You'll find that sand sharks, stingrays, and turtles are much more admirable than any striped bass, summer flounder, or largemouth bass. I can promise you one thing, they'll never forget the time they spent with you on the water!


Summer Memories


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