by Frank Ruczynski
I waved the white flag during the snowstorm that took place on the first day of spring. Tomorrow morning, I won't just be flipping a page on the calendar to April; I'll be waving the checkered flag on what seemed like a never-ending winter season. Sure, we're off to a bit of a slow start, but warm, sun-filled, April afternoons have a way of putting us back on track. The race is just about to begin and I'm ready to lay some rubber on the road. No More of This Stuff!
It feels great to have open water again. I can't remember the last time our lakes and ponds were iced over so late into March. Thankfully, our waterways thawed just in time for trout stocking. Once South Jersey waters are stocked, they are closed to all fishing. Even though the stocked waterways are well posted, some anglers still seem confused about the regulations – select waters allow year-round fishing, but they are clearly noted and up north. Recently, I stopped by a few stocked waterways and was a bit surprised to see people fishing. After explaining the regulations to them, I got the notion that some didn't know the rules while others just didn't care. In either case, they stopped fishing while I was there. While the correct information is written on the posted signs, I believe the choice of wording and bolded letters could be used in a much better manner. Trout season and many of my favorite lakes open at 8 AM this Saturday, April 4. CLOSED TO ALL FISHING!
Between the ice and trout stocking, several of my early-season hot spots have been off limits. The lasting cold has my whole spring routine turned upside. Usually, I spend most of late February and early March freshwater fishing the local lakes and ponds. By early-to-mid March, I'd be ready to switch gears over to saltwater and striped bass. I think it's safe to say we're a few laps behind.
With our options limited, my son and little fishing buddy, Jake, decided to hike through the woods in search of some new places to fish. Jake seemed to enjoy our adventures as much as I did when I was his age – I just wish I had Google maps when I was a boy! Looking back on the last few days, we did a lot more hiking than fishing, but we managed to find some great little fishing spots. Some of our newfound waters were great; a few showed potential for later in the season and a couple didn't qualify for another visit. This pretty little pond still had some ice on it.
One particular pond has been on my radar for years, but access was sketchy. Usually I'm not thrilled about new construction sites in our little part of the world, but this site offers access to a bunch of new waters – including the pond I've been dying to fish. Jake and I made the trek towards the pond on the first warm afternoon after ice out. After a long, muddy walk, we came upon the perfect little pond. A quick glance down at the water showed a big largemouth bass and a few pickerel. Jake casted first and had his Zoom fluke inhaled by a pickerel and the bass shot off into the depths. We've visited the same pond a couple times since our first trip and I've yet to see that bass again. We'll head back when the water temps warm up a little more. I guess it's true what they say, "You don't win the race on the first lap."One of the many pickerel Jake caught this week
With spring-like weather gaining momentum, it won't be long before we have a difficult time keeping up with the fishing action. The trout season opener is great, but I'm looking forward to the weekly truckloads of trout that continue through much of the month. Largemouth bass are waking up - those big girls will be looking for a meal or two before sitting on their beds. Schools of striped bass will be moving through our backwater estuaries and up into the rivers. By month's end, I'll be running on fumes, as I'll be chasing striped bass, weakfish and bluefish up the coast. Hang on; it's going to be a great ride. It's time to get your gear and hit the water!