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.
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.
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.