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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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March 31, 2015

Start Your Engines!

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.


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!

March 10, 2015

Melting Into Spring

by Frank Ruczynski

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, it looks like we've finally turned the corner. It appears I jumped the gun a little with my last blog, "There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel." The "Light" was squashed by our biggest snowstorm of the season and more artic temperatures shortly thereafter. If this is what winters in South Jersey are going to be like, I better invest in some ice-fishing gear. While snow and ice still cover much of our landscape, spring is just a little over a week away. The bright March sun is gaining strength with each passing day. Open water, warm afternoons and bent rods can't get here soon enough!

Walking on Water

Despite frigid fishing conditions, the opening day of striped bass season went off without a hitch. A bunch of die-hard anglers headed out shortly after midnight on March 1 and a few returned with sizable linesiders. Word of keeper-sized striped bass travels fast so I'm sure the warm-water discharge was stacked with anglers on the following days. I haven't heard much action since opening day other than a handful of short striped bass. It won't be long before we start seeing migrating bass heading towards our inlets, estuaries, and rivers.

First Stripers of the Season!

Coastal water temperatures are about as low as I've ever seen them for March. Most of the monitoring stations are reporting 34 to 36 degree water temperatures. While I'm not certain water temps are essential to migrating fish, I do know they will not feed as actively in cold water. I'll likely wait another week or two before I grab some bloodworms and head to a few of my favorite early-season hot spots. We should expect more widespread action sometime into April.

If you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a weather geek. When you spend as much time outdoors as I do, it kind of comes with the territory. The amount of weather-forecasting resources available to us today is actually quite unbelievable. Armed with a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, it is easy to acquire the same information our weather experts use to formulate weather forecasts/trends. As far as I can tell, winter is over and spring is here. Air temperatures over the next few weeks should be close to 50 degrees most days. While a big warm-up would be nice, it looks like we're going to slowly transition into spring with average to below-average temps. In fishing terms, this translates into - expect a slow start to the season. Some years, we enjoy a few weeks of striped bass action before weakfish show - a few days later, bluefish and fluke appear. I'm expecting this to be one of those spring seasons when everything pops at once. This year, I expect the floodgates to open sometime just after mid-April.

In the meantime, I'll be looking for open water and some freshwater fishing action. Chain pickerel, largemouth bass, yellow perch and crappie should be waiting for us as soon as the ice thaws. It's hard to believe the 2015 Trout Season opens in a little less than a month on Saturday, April 4. This year the stocked fish will consist only of rainbow trout. After last season's furunculosis outbreak, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife decided rainbow trout are much less susceptible to the disease. I'll miss the big brown and brook trout, but it's good to hear things are back to normal at the hatchery. Please don't forget most trout-stocked waterways are closed to fishing from March 16 until opening day, April 4.

State-Stocked Rainbow Trout

My offseason duties are completed. I just finished going through my equipment (again) and ordering a few more things for the upcoming season. You know how it is - you can never have enough. I'm considering upgrading my kayak, but I'm still undecided. It's funny, but not fishing seems to be costing me more than when I am fishing. Sitting around waiting for the ice to melt seems like it's taking forever, but at least I know we're heading in the right direction now.
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