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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Killing Time at Core Creek

This past Sunday I had an opportunity to go to Core Creek, a large lake nearby. Because I didn't have much luck at it previously,  I decided to head to its spillway, where I knew there was a greater concentration of fish. There were carp, sunfish, bass, catfish, and even a slim chance for a white perch, a species I still need for the lifelist.

With one rod I threw a little bit of corn out in hopes of a carp or two, and with my ultralight, I tied on a jig with a piece of gulp minnow. Immediately I was into bluegills on the jig. Despite the murky (and smelly, to be honest) water, the fish were aggressive and appeared to be very healthy as well. Some where also surprisingly colorful, which I would not have expected given the low visibility in the water. 

A bunch of bluegills later, I had made a bad cast and was reeling in my jig quickly, with it skimming the top of the water. I had a small but savage strike as the jig was on top. I was mildly amused as I lifted up a miniature largemouth. How something so small could have produced a splash larger than itself is beyond me.

More bluegills followed, as expected.

Between the never ending waves of bluegills, I hooked into a real gem - a spectacular emerald pumpkinseed. I don't know if this is the most colorful sunfish I have ever caught, but it had to be close. 

Eventually, I got tired of bluegills in the merciless August sun, so I sat in the shade sipping water while waiting for the carp rod to do something. I glanced down for a second, then glanced back up again, and couldn't see my rod. I sprinted to the bank where I saw my rod on the ground, fallen over next to the rock I propped it against, the line slowly moving along. 

I knew straight away this wasn't a carp. Carp bolt as soon as they feel the hook. I reeled it in uneventfully while something gave a rather sluggish fight on the other end of my line. I wasn't too surprised when I saw a little mouth and whiskers emerge from the muddiness: A bullhead.

Given the slight mottling, I assumed it was a brown, but a quick chin barbel check proved it was a yellow. It wasn't big by any means, but larger than all the other yellow bullheads I've encountered.

The heat eventually got to me and I headed back, calling it an outing. Not bad at all, finishing with a pb yellow bullhead and a stunner pumpkinseed. However, the day was definitely wasn't over yet...