Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fresh in the Finger Lakes: Day 1

Day 1

We arrived: the Finger Lakes.

We (my immediate family and my grandparents) had rented a cottage on the shore of Lamoka Lake, a relatively small warmwater finger lake in upstate NY, and I was looking forward to this trip for months!

Dreams of perch, pike, micros, and quality bass flooded my mind as we pulled up.

After unloading the minivan and getting unpacked, I wasted no time and headed down to the dock. I noticed the 6 boats and a boat launch area right near the dock for us, and that too made me think of all the possibilities. As such, the area around our dock was shallow, but we were on a big body of water... surely the boats would come in handy later.

The view from our cottage on Lamoka... Beautiful, is it not?

The first thing I noticed in the lake were the juvenile bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and some sort of shiner swimming around. Well the shiner was sure to be new, so I rigged up my tanago hooks and set fishing.

Hehe. I thought it would be easy.

The shiners would mouth the bait, detect metal, and spit it out. About 10 times I hooked them, and then they threw themselves off the hook. But patience pays off, and I landed species #53, the Golden Shiner, also which happens to be the primary forage base for Lamoka Lake.

After everything was settled, I had some free time and remembered the kayaks in the backyard. I couldn't wait to try them out. I've never gone fishing from a kayak before, although I've gone paddling a couple times. 

There was a marsh near our cottage on Lamoka, a flat, weedy area. And by weedy I mean extremely extensive plant growth. Pads and grass mats were everywhere, I could not find a spot where I could actually see the lake floor... Not only was it weedy, it was really shallow. The average depth was 2-3 feet. 

Naturally, I thought the kayak would work on the flat area because of its slimmer profile and the noiselessness compared to the motorboats that frequented the area. Speaking of other boats, I saw tons of other fishermen on the lake, but none seemed too successful except for some kayakers. Lamoka does receive tons of fishing pressure, so I guess it is things like boat choice that really makes a difference. 

Because of the prominent weed growth, I picked up a weedless, weightless rubber twister-tail worm and set to working the shoreline and cover near our cottage, slowly making my way to the marsh.  I caught a teeny tiny bass just as I started, but nothing of significance. 

At one particular spot, just outside of our property, next to another dock, I felt a slight tap in about a foot of water. It could have been anything, a weed, a branch, or a rock. But I cast it out again to the same spot, and felt a jolt which could only be a fish. Unfortunately, I did not receive a hookup, so again I lobbed out my worm, and it got absolutely slammed right in the middle of a weed patch.

I had hooked a fish, and from its constant headshakes, I came with the conclusion that it was a pickerel. And my conclusion was confirmed when I saw the toothy weasel clear the water. As it neared the boat, the real struggle was getting it in so I could take the hook out. A thrashing, sharp-toothed critter is no small threat. But eventually, I was able to grab it behind the gills and bring it in.

Either there is a huge pickerel out there, or this is a sustained injury from when it was younger... 

My shorts got thoroughly slimed by the slime dart

Aye, it is a toothy critter...

It was a decent sized fish, so I put it on my stringer and we had steamed pickerel that night. It was very good, with a mild, flaky flavor. Bony, but they were easy enough to avoid. Delicious! 

Thus, Day 1 ended on a good note, and we were off to sleep, awaiting our first full day in the Finger Lakes. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Last Day on the Golf Course

One last trip to the golf course... no words for it, really. I have fished this pond since I was 6. It holds my fish, my lures (to my dismay), and most of all, some of the best memories of my life, from wading in a creek, to grabbing snappers and snakes, and catching my first bass.

I still remember that moment so vividly: I was fishing a tiny crankbait with a rod and line much too heavy for it. All of a sudden, I saw a flash and felt weight on the end of my line. I panicked and reeled as fast as possible, and all of a sudden my first bass was right at my feet. I was ecstatic beyond belief... and that happiness and sense of wonder has fueled me to today. It is safe to say that without that pond, I would never have followed the path I am on today, met the people that I have met, and caught all the fish and have all the fun I've had.

For my last day, the pond did treat me well: action was nonstop. Literally bass after bass as I bid each farewell.

Little bugger bit me! Luckily, northern watersnake (non-venomous), so I picked it up

Little guys :) Sign of natural and successful reproduction

Old Warrior: I have caught this bass before...

This one too

Thank you as I bid farewell, for all that you have shared with me.

-Brandon Li

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Camp 2015 ft.Fallfish

I was at summer camp in North Jersey, part of the reason why I took a break from the blog for about a month.

The camp is extremely fun every year, but this year I had no idea it would get me an unexpected lifer...

I'm in a biking group, and each session we do a vagabond, a 3-4 day biking trip carrying everything on our backs. We did about 70 miles this year in a 3 day trip. Last year, I brought fishing tackle for the lake at the camp, but forgot for vagabond. This year was similar. I brought only bass gear and a couple of panfish jigs for the lake, but completely forgot about vagabond.

The lake has an exceptional population of largemouths; I must have caught 50 during the two week session! (fishing is not something we do very often)

Above is an average bass for that lake. The bass there receive no pressure, and they grow quite large by NJ standards. I had the bass in my mind, and forgot about the Delaware River, which we took a break at and had a campsite on. 

I still brought my gear however, and on the first day of vagabond, while stopping for lunch, we found ourselves at the boat launch at Dingman's Ferry. For those who don't know, it is a historic place situated on the Delaware River.  Before eating, I decided to toss around a panfish jig. I stood on a gravel bar, casting the chartreuse tube, when I had a hit in shallow water. 

The fish put up a nice fight on my light gear, and I was expecting a small smallmouth. When I lifted it up, I saw the silver flank, and immediately knew what it was. 

 A fallfish.

I had expected to encounter this beautiful cyprinid at some point or another, just never during camp! I took plenty of photos and sent that creature back to its watery home.

That's makes an unexpected lifer and species #52!

That was the only fish I caught on vagabond. I can't complain, though. We saw bears, herons, mauled deer,and even went to a diner in a small town!

Here are some assorted photos from camp and vagabond.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bluefish, Mackerel, and SPECIES #50!!!

It was August 9th, 2015, a beautiful Sunday. We had booked another party boat trip, this time off Belmar instead of Pt. Pleasant. My mother happened to have a colleague who shared my passion for fishing and they organized a get-together. The team was: Myself, my grandfather, Anther (the colleague), and his daughter and her friend. 

We set out on the Golden Eagle and headed out in the morning. Although it was a gorgeous day, the wind in the morning was fairly strong. I usually don't get seasick, but I did have a minor headache throughout the 1 hour ride to our destined fishing spot. As soon as we got fishing though, it was bye bye headache! :)

It may not look that bad, but it was pretty windy out there. 8 ft waves were present. 

We got to the spot just as other party boats were arriving. I found it interesting that there were about six different boats spread out in the same general area.

Anther was a regular on this boat, and he brought more than enough rods for all of us. I grabbed a spinning combo, and set out fishing. our rigs consisted of a small diamond jig with a tube trailer, and a dropper rig with a teaser on the top. You can see it in the above picture. 

Down went the jigs. the water is about 90 ft where we were stationed. The technique is to reel up as quickly as possible, twitching the rod tip along. After a couple of drops, I felt a hard hit-I mean HARD. After a strong fight, the fish surfaced and I saw my very first Atlantic Mackerel!!! (edit: This fish has been identified as an Atlantic Chub Mackerel by pmk00001 on Thank You.)

Woohooooooo!!!!! Species #50!!!!!!

After that first fish, it was complete mayhem. The five of us were hauling in fish after fish!!! The mates started cutting mackerel up, and chumming the water. We all grabbed chunks to tip our teasers and jigs. I also tied on a bare hook and put on a big chunk of mackerel. 

When the mates started to chum the water, mackerel started feeding at the surface. These fish are torpedo shaped, and swim insanely fast. We could see them darting between the chum. It was like no experience I've had before, it was extremely cool.  When the mackerel started appearing at the surface, I focused my efforts on the top 15 ft of water. The bait got the most bites, but the jig and teaser did very well as well! I hooked a total of seven doubles, but only landed three. I have to emphasize that these fish are very strong. Usually when I hook doubles, fish fight against each other and there is less resistance, minus the extra weight. Mackerel, however, fight in unison, and peel plenty of drag when hooked together. I was surprised at how much pull this little fish had!

But back to the action!

It was getting kinda funny, I was bringing up fish after fish, and people started coming over and asking me tips on how to catch them.

A few people had small bluefish coming over the rail. We were right in the middle of a mackerel hotspot, but there were some similarly sized blues hanging out with the mackerel. Anther said this was not uncommon. As I didn't see any bluefish on the surface, I returned my efforts to drop and reel. Eventually the mackerel got scared off by some blacktip sharks that had arrived, so they returned to deeper water. Two people actually hooked the blacktips, and the mates cut the line. That was too bad. I wanted to see a blacktip, but I guess that would be too dangerous with the amount of people on the boat.

When the sharks left, people started to catch more fish. After a couple of mackerel, including some "jumbos," I hooked into a fish at mid-depth with a more sluggish fight. Was this my lifer bluefish?

Yes it was!!!

I tentatively lifted it over the rail and grabbed it. It had bit on my teaser, and I was glad I unhooked it uneventfully. Some nasty teeth are in those jaws.

Behold! The bluefish, species #51!

Only a few people got bluefish that day, and I was ecstatic to be one of them. All the bluefish were pretty small; mine was the second largest and almost won the pool!

I caught some more mackerel, and then it was time to head back. Luckily, the water was much calmer during the afternoon. The mates cleaned our fish, and we brought home a big cooler!

This pic was taken during fishing. We caught much more. 

Collectively, my grandpa and I caught 22 fish. I caught 15 mackerel and 1 bluefish, and my grandpa caught 6 mackerel. To be fair, it was his first time fishing in deeper waters in the ocean. On my first time, I got skunked. Anther, his daughter, and his daughter's friend caught probably around 40 fish.

After we docked, we tried some fluke fishing from shore, as it was a gorgeous day. We got skunked, but it was really nice out, so we really didn't care.

A big thanks to Anther for bringing us out, and I hope we meet again!