Sunday, December 4, 2016

Armchair Lifer: Florida Bass

An amchair lifer: A surprise new species when viewing older pictures and new data. 

I've taken a look at my Florida 2015 trip, and what I know was that I caught a large bass which I classified as a Florida largemouth bass: Micropterus salmoides floridanus. However, there has been plenty of scientific consensus that this strain is indeed a separate species, Micropterus floridanus. So there you have it, a new species, the Florida Bass, which brings my total to 72!

A summary of known Black Bass species: 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Whiskers on a Brisk, Late Fall Day

The sharpness of the late fall air cut into my face, reddening my ears. Each breath exhaled brought forth a satisfying cloud of vapor. 

Late November this year has been quite interesting. We just recieved a huge cold front, and air temps went from 70 to 40 in a day. And yet, despite the weather, the underlying urge to be out there on the water was pervading my mind. And so it was that I took the opportunity to explore a new spot quite close to home that offered an enticing piece of river. 

The goal was to fish for whatever would bite, catfish and pickerel were what I would have expected, if anything was to bite at all. Nonetheless, it felt good knowing I was going to be outside, enjoying myself in these fish-deprived times. The spot I chose needed a bit of a hike to get to, and access was a bit iffy, so I packed up my rods and gear bag and began walking over. 

Some construction obstructed the way

When I got to my spot after a couple slips down the hill, I could see that it was all worth it. Two big pools were connected by an enticingly fast, thin run, with good eddies and slackwater on both sides of the run. The stained water was quite inviting, so I wasted no time sending out a chunk of old pig fat and ham, letting it drift until I felt it setttle in the current break. 

Simply gorgeous

I didn't have time to set up my second rod before I hears the bells on my first rod. Unbelievable, I thought. It must have been a stick. Some sense of hope forced me to go over and pick up the rod, however, and when I felt tension, leaned into the circle hook and reeled in a small fish. Eel? Bullhead? I wasn't too surprised when I brough up a small yellow bullhead. Their sense of smell is unpeccable, and the oily, smelly pork must have appealed to its palate.

What I was surprised about, however, was the color of this particular specimen. The golden-yellow soft belly seemed to glow in this gloomiest of days.

Crazy coloration...


Not a long while later, I received another hit, and pulled up a larger specimen of yellow bullhead. Although this one presented another spectacular palette of colors, it didn't quite hold up against the first one.

I picked off another similarly-sized bullhead shortly after. Oddly enough, I received a lot of bites that couldn't connect, and a lot of hookups that became unbuttoned. That may be credited to my use of 1/0 circles, which I chose in the case of a larger fish, and to prevent gut-hooking of bullheads, eels, etc.

As I halfheartedly cast a stickbait for pickerel, I saw my rod get a solid thump out of the corner of my eye. I dropped my ultralight and ran over to my rod, which now sustained a consistent bend. Picking it up out of the rodholder, I leaned into what clearly was a better-quality fish.

As I reeled in the fish, which was putting up a decent scuffle, thoughts ran through my mind questioning the identity of this specimen. Big eel? Channel catfish? I saw a stocky, grey body and a large head, and a thought entered my mind that it may be a white catfish. As it neared, my suspicions were confirmed.

I brought up a considerably larger white catfish than I had caught back in West Palm Beach. It was only my second white catfish ever, and my first on from NJ. A satisfying catch, indeed.

What was quite shocking was the proportion of the fishes head to its body. It's head and moth were both massive, something I noticed to be often characteristic of the white catfish I've seen. I've always though white catfish were interesting little buggers - color of a blue, but with a body that looks as if someone forced a bullhead and a channel to procreate. To add, they're not prolific like bullheads, and in my experience, fairly uncommon, but you can expect a few in every body of water.

After I watched the grayish fish kick away, I talked catfish and pickerel, as well as other miscellaneous things with a fellow angler who happened to be passing by. I didn't get any other connections, but it was refreshing indeed to breath fresh air, and even better to find a new, promising, secluded spot. Hopefully I can return soon.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Return to the Golf Course Pt.2 (Plus some bonus fish)

The second outing to the golf course occurred a couple weeks after the first one. School has been taking a huge toll on fishing, but I got out that Sunday for some fall bassing. 

It was a beautiful day, bluebird skies, trees turning colored, and a fresh fall breeze. 

I tied on a crawfish trailer on a small finesse jig, and hopped it around, hoping for some eager biters. The water was fairly cold, so my intentions were to pick off fish here and there, not to have a great numbers day.

Right away I got started with some very small bass, but the action lulled after a while. 

As the day grew older, I was a bit nervous about the situation. I hadn't had a bit of action in over an hour, and in a small, shallow pond like this, that wasn't a good sign. I bombed a cast with the jig to the center of the pond, where a fallen tree laid. I gave it three hops and it got crushed. 

Right away I could tell this fish was of a higher caliber. It jumped, and then I knew it was nice. The fight was actually pretty decent with my light gear, with the bass giving all of its effort to shake the hook. However, it was over soon enough, and I reached down to grab it. 

It measured out at 17" and three pounds. I don't know if it was my  golf course pb, but it had to be close.

The fish was pretty skinny and had a huge head. You can tell this fish was old by the size of the head, but the small body shows the slow growth rate in these cold, shallow waters of the northeast.

Satisfied, I decided to push my luck and walked over to the end of the pond when I was confident all the golfers were gone. The sun was near setting, and I tossed my jig around, and picked at some teeny bass.


On one cast, I pitched my jig out no more than 10 feet out in front of a patch a reeds, and when I hopped the jig a couple of times, I felt resistance and thought I had hooked some weeds. I pulled up in annoyance, but the "weeds" shot off for deeper water. I tightened my drag and fought the fish, shocked with how lethargically he hit it. As it neared, it flashed its flank and I saw that it was bigger than the last one.

My heart rate spiked, and I grabbed it desperately once it hit the bank.

This fish was a tubby one. 18" and 3.5 lbs. Definitely a new golf course pb. Again, big head, small body. That's how it goes for these fish up here. Still looking for that 4 lber golf course fish, but this'll do for now.

To catch some nice golf course bass felt nice. The search for one that breakes the 4 lb mark continues...

First Return to the Golf Course

So a crazy turn of events happened recently. We ended up moving back to our old house, and that brought me back to my beloved golf course. Naturally, I took it upon myself to fish for a while. I started with the creek that flows under the bridge, in hopes of a whie sucker. They were there, but they wanted nothing to do with me. 

I did get a bunch of sunnies, a bullhead and a couple small bass as a consolation before I decided to head to the pond. 

Looks like he was attacked when he was younger. Oddly enough, this is the most mottled I've ever seen a yellow bullhead. 

A couple smaller bass found their way to my bait.

I headed back up to the pond. It looked quite surreal, to be honest. The dead calm water and the lushness of early fall made it seem like paradise. Quite interesting was the noticeable decrease in algae and weedbeds, perhaps they stocked some grass carp? I did see some big swirls when I cast my bait, swirls too big to be bass... But that's a matter for another time.

I was focused on catching some bass, as I haven't caught a golf course bass in a long time. I tossed around a 7 inch texas-rigged worm, and was rewarded with a chunky bass.

It was good to be back.

More smaller fish ensued. I was ecstatic. With all the "strange" fish I have been fishing for recently, it felt nce to throw a line for some good ol' largies. Meanwhile, enjoy the showcase of some average-ish nj fall golf course bass.

It did feel quite good to be on familiar ground, fishing for familar faces.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Belmar Bergalls

The day was definitely not over. The whole family had plans to head over to the Jersey shore for an afternoon on the beach at Belmar. Knowing that there was a chance to catch a plethora of new species, I was more than happy to bring some fishing gear along. 

Hopes were high on the beautiful afternoon for fluke, searobin, seabass, and others. Unfortunately, I was caught in a tough situation: I had no bait. Nonetheless, as I got dropped off at the Shark River inlet, I was quite optimistic. As I looked around, there were plenty of anglers, but none seemed to be catching much. Tying on a bucktail jig with Gulp! and a teaser, I cast into the inlet. Cast after cast followed, with not even a nibble. As the day wore on, I began to see people using clams catching what appeared to be tiny seabass. I sighed, knowing that this was a potential lifer I would miss out on. 

Oddly enough, the water began to become calmer as time passed, allowing me too look at the life underwater. I began to notice small grey fish swimming along in pairs. I decided to switch my tactics up and put a small hook on with some smelly Gulp! maggots. I planned to poke around the rocks to see if I couldn't find myself a bergall. I knew that this was prime habitat for the pesky bait-stealer. 

Lowering my rig into a likely-looking crevice, all doubts I had were eliminated as my bait was immediately swarmed with bergalls. With their hard mouths and sharp teeth, it was a couple savage bites until I finally hooked one. 

It was that simple. Species #71, the bergall! 

My first was small and rusty-brown. I overheard the guys fishing next to me say with sarcastic disbelief: "He's taking a photo of a cunner(local nickname for bergall)?" Joke's on them. They didn't catch squat with their heavy rigs. 

After my first one, it immediately became evident that these were the bluegills of the coast. I understand now why these little buggers are such a bane to fishermen: Their strong jaws and teeth are literally made for ripping baits off hooks. 

As I poked around a little more, lots of little bergalls greedily attacked my bait.

I've read that bergalls have the ability to change color. I don't know if that's true, since I didn't observe any changes myself, but I did notice a huge variety of hues present. One I caught was pretty much a bright scarlet. Compared with the greenish-brown one above, the difference is incredible, especially in person.

As I dropped my bait into an enticing hole in the rocks, I felt a sharp tug, then nothing as the fish scrambled into the rocks. The scenario repeated itself before I was able to finally turn it on my light gear and pulled up a much larger bergall. For such small fish, they sure pull hard in some short spurts of power. The bigger specimens seem to have a particular affinity for diving into rocks upon grabbing the bait, not unlike tautog and groupers.

A few more bergalls followed, including a couple larger ones.

After a while of catching bergalls, the sun began to crawl lower and I decided it was a good time to head back to the beach for a swim. It was a pretty productive outing, finishing with 22 bergalls, a new species. In hindsight I should have cut one up for bait, perhaps I would have lucked into a searobin, seabass, skate, or who knows what. Oh well, there's always next time.