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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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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

trout will be here this week!


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

November 01, 2013

Sweet and Salty

by Frank Ruczynski

‘Tis the season: the month of November offers South Jersey anglers some great fishing opportunities highlighted by truckloads of sweet-water trout and tons of salty striped bass. Over the last few weeks, the state stocked thousands of super-sized trout in many of our local waterways, with hundreds more heading our way in the coming weeks. Striped bass action hasn't quite reached full tilt, but action is picking up and should continue to do so for the entire month of November. It's a great time to be fishing in South Jersey!

The best of both worlds!

I've been fishing day and night with solid results. My days have been spent chasing trout along the banks of streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes. By dusk, I'm in my car and headed down Route 55 to cover the back bays, inlets, and beachfront for striped bass. Believe it or not, I welcomed this morning's storm as I needed some time to catch up on sleep, household chores, and my blog.

Fall beauties

A few weeks ago, big, beautiful brook and rainbow trout were stocked into many of our waterways. For some reason, the trout haven't received much attention from local anglers. I can't figure out why the fall stocking doesn't seem to garner the same attention as the spring season. The weather is perfect, crowds are minimal, and the average trout is at least twice the size as the spring fish. I've visited a bunch of the freshly-stocked venues and more times than not, I have the area to myself. Don't get me wrong, I love having the lake and hundreds of trout to myself, but I just can't figure out why more anglers don't take advantage of the great fishing action.

Our limit of brook trout

With so many fish available locally, I've had my little sidekick, Jake, with me on most trips. We've been fishing spinners and the fish have been eager to chase them down. Over the years, I've thrown all kinds of spinners, but I've settled on one that seems to receive strikes much more than the others. It's made by Thomas and it's a nickel/gold double spinner. Just in the last few weeks, I've caught hundreds of trout on this spinner. The spinner casts a mile, tracks smoothly, and provides more flash than any other spinner I've ever thrown. I have a few more left in my bag, but I'll be making a bulk order before the end of the season.

Jake with a beautiful brookie

While there are still plenty of big brookies swimming in our recently stocked waters, the truck will be visiting again on Tuesday, November 25. This time, hundreds of 14 to 18-inch rainbow trout will be tossed into some of our neighborhood lakes and ponds. For a complete list of stocked waters feel free to visit the NJ Fish and Wildlife site.

Ok, it's time to get salty and talk about stripers. To be honest, the striped bass action has been a little slow to start as mild, ocean temperatures seem like the new normal. I can remember, not that long ago, when some of the best back bay action took place in October; that's just not the case anymore. Over the last handful of seasons, it seems like the bulk of the migratory bass arrive in our waters sometime between mid-November and December. Thinking back, I can remember the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving offered the hottest action; however, more recently, the best opportunity at numbers of striped bass seems to have shifted a little later into the season with the best bite occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially in the southernmost portion of the state.

Julia with a limit of backwater bass on 10/28/13

Although I'm certain the fall migration starts a little later than it used to, I'm still out there giving it my all. There are enough striped bass around to hold my interest and in the last few days the action really picked up. While there usually seems to be plenty of 18 to 26-inch bass around in the backwaters, recently, there's been a push of sea lice covered 26 to 32-inch fish. With the water temps still hovering around 60 degrees, I've hooked into a few weakfish and a bunch of out-of-season summer flounder. We need the water temperature to drop a bit more before we experience any serious striped bass action.

Striped bass with sea lice

With high expectations over the next few weeks, I've decided to start tagging many of the fish I catch during the fall migration. I did a bunch of research and talked to the great people over at the American Littoral Society in great depth about the science of fish tagging. I've bothered Jeff Dement, the ALS Fish Tagging Director, a bunch over the last few weeks with email, phone calls, orders, and questions and he's been a pleasure to talk to each and every time. I'm looking forward to sharing my fish tagging stories in the coming weeks.

My tagging packet from the American Littoral Society

Well, it looks like the storm is over and the front pushed through. You know what that means: it's time to pack up the gear and get ready to hit the water. I'll catch up on sleep later. Get out while you can because the holidays and Old Man Winter will be here before you know it.
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