If you fish long enough at any one place, you start to recognize people. This is how I came to meet Hunterdon Anglers president, Ed Harabin. A few months ago at Round Valley I was talking to Mike (sorry dude, I forgot your last name), a guy I run into once in a while at the valley. I casually mentioned that I run roundvalleyfishing.com and his eyes lit up. “There’s someone here I want you to meet,” says Mike and he walks me over to another fella standing next to his truck and introduces me to Ed. We talk a little and exchange info and agree to fish together sometime in the near future. Fast forward to last week and I get a call from Ed inviting me to come out on a night fishing trip for Rainbow Trout on his boat the Double Anchor.
Now in that phone call Ed told me he was out a few days ago and caught 101 Rainbows… I was a little skeptical but intrigued. I had heard of people catching large numbers of trout at night, but 101? Of course I agreed to go. I wanted to see how Ed sets up for night fishing AND how we’d manage given his outrageous claim. Prior to this my only other night fishing attempt was with a headlamp tied to an anchor line!
At 8pm this past Saturday, I met Ed to go fishing on his 22 foot C-hawk, by far the biggest boat I’ve ever been on in Round Valley. We would fish with a Hunterdon Anglers contingent comprised of Fran Harabin, Dennis Haggerty and Charlie Rahner… like I said, it’s a big boat! What I’m about to share with you is the technique Ed uses to catch rainbows at night. He was gracious enough to share this information with me and indeed his club’s motto is, “Share The Knowledge”.
We motored out to a waypoint near campground 71 in 50 feet of water. Here’s a PDF map of the campgrounds if you don’t know where campground 71 is, I’ve also marked it on our Round Valley Google Map. Round Valley is a big body of water and this is not the only place to go night fishing for rainbow trout, sometimes the south shore is the hot ticket, and sometimes the north point is the place to be. You really have to try a few locations and depths and note the results. A fishing log book would come in very handy.
As you can see from the contour lines on the sonar, the bottom is a fairly gentle slope. You’ll also notice a red x much shallower in 15 feet of water on the same screen. That’s from earlier in the year when water was much cooler and trout were hugging the shoreline seeking warmer water (Ed was probably jerking streamers for trout at those depths). Last month he found trout at 30 to 45 feet, but again, tonight we were targeting fish at 50 feet.
We would be double anchored over Ed’s waypoint and fish with lights hanging over the side gunwales pointed at the water’s surface. The reason for double anchoring is to position and hold the boat over your location. Anchoring from just the bow allows the boat to swing (potentially in circles) as wind changes direction or gusts of wind kick up. Double anchoring also focuses the lights on one particular area allowing all the microorganisms, gammarus, baitfish and trout to hang in one area.
Watching Ed double anchor over a waypoint was a teaching moment in and of itself. As we motored over the point he threw a lighted buoy to mark the location and kept going about 150 feet past it. We next dropped the stern anchor and motored back across the lighted buoy and past it about 150 feet and dropped the bow anchor. Finally he pulled us back over the buoy by pulling in the stern anchor line and allowing the bow line to feed out. Once in position all anchor lines were fastened to cleats and buoy was removed from the water. I really like his use of a lighted buoy (which was just a normal barbell style buoy with a strobe light attached to it) for setting the point of reference, without it we’d have been blown off course by the time we anchored up.
Ed had two home-made lights for this type of fishing. The lights fit neatly in his rod holders and connected to his 12 volt battery. These lights never touch the water and their hoods kept the light out of our eyes. A quick search on Google reveals bulb and lamps for less than $20, a nice weekend project!
Fishing light and corn used for chum. Filleted fish had corn, shrimp and little fish in their bellies. You can also see other boats anchored in the distance.
Rod, Reel and Tackle:
We used ultralight spinning rod/reel combos. I asked why and Ed said mainly because the ultralights are short and allow you to better see the rod tip when it’s 2am and the moon is down. Also, rainbows can be finicky and the ultralight setup allows you to feel the slightest tap or bump.
Our hook, line and sinker consisted of 6lb test, a barrel swivel, a snelled #8 hook and a small split-shot near the swivel. The snelled hooks allowed us to quickly release trout that were deeply hooked by simply cutting the line as close to the hook as possible (while keeping the trout in the water and not touching it). Of the 50 trout we caught about a dozen had to be released using this technique and they all swam away no worse for the wear. So have a pair of scissors handy as well as a few packages of #8 snelled hooks. Lastly, set your drag so a hook-set will not break the thin line. It’s ok for the drag to slip a little when you set the hook on a fish, you can always tighten the drag but too tight and you’ll just snap your line on a big fish.
Cooked shrimp… ok are you done laughing? Seriously, find the best deal on cooked shrimp at your local grocery store and get a frozen bag of size small or medium. Make sure you’ve defrosted them before your trip. Using the previously mentioned scissors cut the shrimp into little pieces about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. Don’t go too big. You’re going to bury the #8 hook in the shrimp, make sure the tip can easily come out on a hook set. Also, drop a handful of whole kernel corn right alongside the boat, an entire can should last all night. You want the fish congregating around your boat and lights.
You can also use worms and Powerbait, though trout and other fish can quickly rip worms right off your hook without you knowing it or being able to set a hook. We had a few poles set up with Powerbait nuggets in the beginning but as the night wore on it was clear that the rainbows preferred shrimp.
I asked Ed how it came to be that we were using shrimp of all things as bait. He claims a fisherman from Louisiana moved to NJ and brought the technique with him. “Down there they use shrimp to catch everything.” The fact that it works didn’t hurt either.
OK, so we are double anchored in 50 feet of water, lights on and pointed at the water, chum in the water, rods and baited hooks in hand. How do we fish? Send your bait to the bottom. Close your bail and reel in any slack. Remain vigilant and if you feel a fish bump bump bump on the rod, give a little by dropping your rod tip, toy with the fish, tease it into striking and when you feel the pull or jerk of a trout inhaling the shrimp set the hook. Set the hook hard by swinging your rod tip high and reeling immediately. Remember you’re in deep water using a short rod and thin monofilament which will stretch.
So you’re on the bottom and not feeling any hits for about 5 minutes? Give your reel one full crank. Now stop and wait again for any sign of life. Nothing? Go one more crank and stop. Keep doing this until you start getting hits and catching fish. Early in the night we caught a few trout on the bottom, but later on we were catching them all 6 cranks up. It was quite amazing. You’d be at 5 cranks and not get a single nibble but go one more full crank on the reel and you’d either have a fish on or your bait stolen in under a minute. By the time the trip was over it became our new motto “Six Cranks Up”!
When fighting a rainbow, keep your rod tip high and just keep reeling. Do not pump your rod or try anything fancy. This isn’t ESPN! Let the flexibility of your rod and drag on your reel do all the work. Once at the surface determine how you are going to release the fish. Can you see the hook? Keep the fish in the water, grab the hook with a pair of needle-nose pliers, turn the hook 180 degrees and quickly give the pliers a jerk. Your fish will come right off. If you cannot see the hook, just reach down as far as you can with your scissors and cut the line as close to your hook as possible. If you don’t touch the fish during either type of release, it will have a great chance of living. If you are going to keep the fish, just guide it head first into the net and deposit it quickly into an ice box.
We started at 8pm a little earlier than normal because Ed wanted to show me some things in the light. Because the moon was almost full our lights were not as dominant a source of light for Ed’s technique. We had a slow pick for several hours first catching nothing but giant sunfish (a pound, pound and a half) then a rainbow here and there. It wasn’t until the moon went down behind the southern mountains at 1am when the bite started. Most boats had left by then. I think we were the only boat left when we were really got into them!
By 3:30am the five of us had caught 50 Rainbow Trout, lost countless others and kept 9 for the coolers. It was an awesome night of fishing on Round Valley and I want to thank Ed Harabin and the Hunterdon Anglers for taking me out and showing me how they double anchor for night rainbows at Round Valley Reservoir.
In the background is the Double Anchor. Pictured left to right is Robert Ivan, Fran Harabin, Dennis Haggerty and Charlie Rahner. Behind the camera is Ed Harabin.
At the end of the trip I joined the Hunterdon Anglers, a non-profit organization and Ed mailed me a bunch of their newsletters which are packed with fishing reports, pictures and perhaps most importantly, fishing technique articles for waters in all of Hunterdon County. It’s not just boat fishing either; he has lots of shore reports and articles as well. The Hunterdon Anglers motto is “Share The Knowledge” and indeed, on the water and in their newsletter, they do share the knowledge.
If you’d like to get in touch with Ed you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or if you see a guy with a big white boat that says Double Anchor on the side, go on up and introduce yourself. I’m certain you will find that Ed is eager to speak with you and answer your questions. Thanks again Ed. I had a great time!