Category Archives: Featured

1st Annual Howie Behre Memorial Round Valley Lake Trout Tournament

Behre Bait and Tackle

For all of you Lake Trout fisherman; Behre Bait & Tackle will be running its 1st Annual Howie Behre Memorial Lake Trout Tournament at Round Valley next Sunday (August 17, 2014).  There will also be a pig roast and BBQ to follow the tournament at Behre Bait & Tackle; starting at 3:00 p.m.  I hope to see you all out there!

To enter tournament:   Stop by Behre Bait & Tackle, which is located at 1239 Route 22 Lebanon, NJ.  If you have any questions you can call Behre at (908)625-2326.

  • Hours of contest:    4:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Bait shop will be open at 3:00 a.m. morning of contest
  • $50 entry, per two-man boat:    $15 per extra man
  • All people on board must be entered in tournament
  • Prizes for top 3 places:    1st – 50%  2nd – 30%  3rd – 20%
  • 7 fish bag limit:    Total weight of all seven fish
  • One bag limit per team:    Every angler can keep limit
  • Biggest fish gets $50 bonus
  • Buy bait and supplies at Behre Bait & Tackle:    10% off for tournament anglers

Double Anchor Night Fishing for Rainbow Trout

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!

Leaving the dock - Night Fishing Rainbow Trout

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”.

Location:
Waypoint - Night Fishing Rainbow TroutWe 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.

Fishing Technique:
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.

Anchoring Up:
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 Harabin - Double Anchor Technique

Fishing Lights:
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!

Ed Harabin - Fishing Light Setup
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.

Night Fishing Rainbow Trout - Hook, Line, Sinker

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.

Bait:
Cooked Shrimp - Night Rainbow BaitCooked 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.

Technique:
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.

Our Trip:
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.

09 July 2011 - Night Rainbows aboard the Double Anchor
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 double.anchor@yahoo.com 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!

To Sleep or Fish? One Wife’s Perspective

fathers Day Fishing 2011I ask myself this question every time my husband wakes up at three in the morning and heads out into the darkness with his fishing pole and tackle box.

I wonder, is it the peace and quiet of being on or near the water with nothing but the sounds of waves lapping at the sides of your boat or the shore of the creek, river, lake or ocean? Is it the lack of any responsibility at that very moment other than hooking your line with the right lure or bait? Feeling for the slight pull of a fish on?

I wouldn’t know, really. This is all just guesswork. In the six years I’ve known my husband, I’ve asked him a handful of times to take me out with him and teach me how to fish. I think I’ve sat next to him in the dark once while he fished off the shore of Long Beach Island while we were down there for a week’s vacation with friends. This was pre-children and pre-marriage.

I wanted to be hurt. I wanted to be offended that he never found the time to take me fishing. He’s loved the sport since he can remember. His mother loves to tell the story of how he took his plastic fishing pole into the backyard and tried fishing in the grass at two years old. I always thought that if I could share this one thing with him, this one thing that he was passionate about, that we’d be closer in some way. Well, maybe, but perhaps some things just aren’t meant for sharing in that way.

As the years went by I started to realize something. Fishing is something sacred to him. It’s something that I would enjoy, I’m sure, but it’s not something I’m passionate about in the least. The fact that he spends hours upon hours reading and writing about fishing, tells a lot. He is a fisherman, and I’m a fisherman’s wife. It can be lonely at times, but I have to respect the fact that he goes out fishing for peace of mind, silence and his own form of quiet joy. It’s in his blood, just like riding horses is in mine. I feel those same things when I’m on a horse and he’s not once asked me to teach him how to ride.

Our two boys are now three and nearly two years old. He’s already taken the eldest out to the creek and pond with a fishing pole. They come back with smiles on their faces and sweet memories to share. The last trip was on Father’s Day. My father-in-law, husband and three-year-old trekked out into the woods with fishing poles and worms in hand. They came back laughing and joking about moments they’d shared.

What’s the point of this, you ask? Well, my point is this: I’m glad that I have a husband who fishes and two wonderful sons that can benefit from knowing the joy that fishing can bring. I can see a long and beautiful relationship forming already. It won’t be long before I’m hearing the alarm clock going off at three in the morning and listening to three sets of feet shuffling out the door, and I’ll just smile to myself and go back to sleep.

Introduction To Kayak Fishing

You’d have to be blind not to notice the latest trend going on in the fishing world; fishing from kayaks, or what participants call kayak fishing. When I got started about a dozen years ago an angler wanting to enter the sport had to be a detective of sorts. There wasn’t a whole lot of info available and what there was came from the west coast. I took the plunge after a day at Monmouth Beach surf fishing. There was a blitz of epic proportions going on. Normally I’d be thrilled but the melee was a few hundred yards off the beach and the fish never came within range. Still my buddy Chris and I stopped by that beach continuously to see if things changed. They didn’t and at dusk we headed home. The next morning I read online the fish crashed a beach to the south at dusk. There was an hour of superb action on striped bass from 15 to 30 pounds. That did it, I had read an article about using kayaks to access such fishing and I was determined to be a kayak fisherman the following season. I took the plunge and got a kayak. It turned out to be a lousy kayak for fishing and after 3 outings I sold it and got a model that suited the purpose much better. As I stated earlier there wasn’t a lot of info available and you pretty much had to figure things out on your own.

Musky from a Kayak

That was then and this is now as the saying goes. There’s a wealth of info available to the angler and lots of equipment too. When I got started it was a struggle finding the right gear. I soon got involved in all aspects of the sport. I shared info on forums and eventually created the first entity that not only dispensed the information but also made the necessary accessories and kayaks available to anglers. When I started there were only a few kayaks that truly fished well. Now there are well over 100 and the total is approaching 200. Manufacturers are even making models that are designed for specific environments. If stand up sight fishing is your thing, there are models that do it extremely well. If fishing moving water is what you’re into there’s even a whitewater based model just for that. There are many choices available. So how does one choose? Just like motor vehicles they all accomplish the same thing, in a manner of speaking, but there isn’t any way a 2-seater sports car, a minivan and a pickup truck are going to be right for everyone. Each has attributes they excel in. Fishing in NJ is diverse. We have small lakes and ponds, rivers, reservoirs, bays and estuaries, and the ocean. There are spots I fish on remote parts of Garden State rivers where I have to wheel a kayak as much as a half mile to get to the water. Not only the trail but the section of river I fish requires a small kayak. Conversely when fishing large reservoirs like Round Valley, bays or the ocean a much longer kayak is required. That short kayak that works so well on the tight river would struggle to make any headway in a 15 mph wind in open water.
Continue reading Introduction To Kayak Fishing

How to Fish for Trout with a Downrigger

We discovered Round Valley back in the early 80’s and spent the first few months on the shoreline chasing pan fish and bass on light tackle. We grew curious to know how all the trout posted on the RVTA bulletin board were being caught. And what were all these guys doing driving around with rods bent and looking like they are ready to split in two? There was not a RoundValleyfishing.COM or any “.COM” for that matter in those days, so we had to approach anyone who appeared friendly enough up on the ramp with our questions. The guys reluctant to share information became easy to spot. They were the ones who would take their lures off their rods before they docked. But, we were fortunate to find a few local sharpies willing to offer some advice for us “newbies”. It became apparent, most successful trout anglers out on the lake were trolling lures at specific depths using downriggers.

Joe Zeyock running a 4 rigger 4 rod pattern
Joe Zeyock running a 4 rigger 4 rod pattern.

Downrigging, or as Cannon calls it, controlled depth fishing, is a trolling technique that involves a pulley-assisted device that uses heavy 8 – 12lb weights, cables and release clips to bring your lure or bait of choice down to any desired depth. When a fish hits, ideally the release clip triggers and frees your main line from being attached to the weight allowing you to play the fish normally.

Cannon Easy TrollA downrigger will let you cover acres of water and will remove all the guess work out of knowing the precise depth of your offering. Units in the $69 to $200 price range will feature manual retrieve systems, counters to indicate the lure’s depth and standard two foot booms. Pricier models offer fast, electric ball retrieval motors and longer booms with swivels. Top of the line models can even be interfaced with your sonar and be programmed to follow bottom contours. Weights are available from 3lbs all the way up to 15lbs. New units will typically come with weights appropriately sized for the rigger being purchased. The smaller, clamp on style, riggers will handle 3lb – 5lb balls. These will not perform well in depths greater than 30 feet due to a concept called blow back. Blow back is when the ball does not stay vertical below the rigger and instead sways back and up.

Pancake Downrigger Weight
“Pancake” type weights have slimmer profiles which can help minimize blow back.

Cannon ball size, boat speed, wind, and current all will attribute to the amount of blow back you will have. Too much blow back and you lose the accuracy of your counter such that your lure is not where you think it is. It also affects your ability to see the ball’s sonar echo. When the ball is in the transducer’s scope, it will show up on your fish finder as a solid horizontal line. This is crucial on the days when the trout are plastered on the bottom and you want to run your riggers just above. On the Valley, we have used 8lbs or 10lbs weights and have had little to no issues in most conditions. Check your unit’s specs for its maximum rating. Craigslist and Ebay are great resources for deals on used equipment.

Downrigging Setup

The majority of trout anglers trolling with downriggers will use medium-sized conventional level wind reels, with line-out clickers, matched to 7 to 8 foot rods that have a slow, limber action. Slow action rods are those that begin to bend about mid-way down the blank. This allows you to adequately arc over the rod after setting the rigger. The reel is typically filled with 14 – 17lb mono with a rod’s length of 10 – 12 lb fluorocarbon leader. Start by trolling at the lowest possible speed. You can check your speed on most fish finders and certainly all GPS units. 1.1mph – 2.2mph will be adequate for most lures. Begin to pay out line to get your lure back away from the boat. When targeting browns and rainbows, downriggers are generally set from 10 – 60 feet deep, depending on the time of year. Being on the shy side, bows and browns require your lure to be quite a distance from the downrigger ball and away from the whir of the engine. 50 to 100 feet back off the ball is a safe bet. Lake trout, on the other hand, are not scared of a downrigger ball. We even spot them at times on the sonar coming up off the bottom to investigate cannon balls. So, when targeting lake trout only a 15 – 20’ lead off the ball is needed in depths of 40 – 120 feet. With your lure now set back from the boat, engage your reel’s line-out clicker and go to free spool. Place the main line about ¾ of the way into the downrigger’s release clip. Be sure the line is not wrapped around the tip at all and begin to lower the ball slowly. The clicker will prevent the spool from overflowing and back-lashing. Once the ball is at the desired depth, lock the reel into gear and slowly reel up the slack until there is a good bow in the rod.

John Korn Jr. with downrigged Laker, Note the rod set and flexed in the rigger
John Korn Jr. with downrigged Laker, Note the rod set and flexed in the rigger

Too much and you’ll end up pulling the line off the release. Generally, we try to set our releases so they trip when an average sized fish strikes. We do not want it set so light that we end up with too many false releases. When smaller sized trout hit, the release may not trigger, the shaking of the rod tip will be your indicator. This is all dependent on brand and style so it will take practice to learn the best setting for your release. If you are alone when a fish is hooked, continue trolling in forward gear. This will help maintain pressure on the fish and also prevents your other lines from tangling. If you have a partner with you, you can opt for him or her to clear the other lines, and go to neutral to fight the fish. We typically will have 4 rods out at a minimum and will usually continue to troll when hooked up. If a big fish is on, we might clear the lines too.

Downrigging Lures

About now you are asking, what lures should I pull when fishing with a downrigger? Rapala stick baits, Sutton spoons and prism taped willow blades are our standard everyday go to lures. Always drop your lure along the side of the boat to check its action before setting it back. Submerge it a little to be sure its action is true at the speed you are running. Some spoons will lose their fish catching appeal when they begin to rotate and spin. While home-made willow blades can be deadly, they can only handle relatively slow trolling speeds before they start to ‘helicopter’. Alternatively, the slender style Sutton and Savant type trolling spoons can tolerate speeds upwards of 2.2 mph yet still maintain a true side-to-side wobble. Straight and jointed Rapalas pulled along on a downrigger are never a bad idea. They are the definitive staples of successful trollers. Bait-heads have become quite the rage over the past 3 years and oddly enough, unlike spoons, these are designed to rotate and spin.

Underwater cameras have shown that trout can often follow trolled lures for great distances without hitting. They get mesmerized by the lure’s speed and action and just swim along with it. Sometimes it is not until the lure does something drastically different that will trigger a strike. So here it’s important to not just troll in a straight line at uniform speed. Quick surges in throttle will cause your lure to rise and drop back. Lazy ‘S’ turns will impart changes in lure speed and action similar to what a water skier experiences when the driver swings back and forth. The raising and dropping of your riggers up and down will get your lure to jump. All of these techniques can get zoned trout to bite.

We have seen it everywhere; the most successful fishermen are those who do not lock themselves to one method of angling. So if you have never tried it, put down the baitrods and give downrigging a shot. After having success with your 1st rigger, do not be surprised to soon find yourself trolling a six rod spread, with several riggers, pulling a plethora of lures set at a multitude of depths. Keep an eye out for RoundValleyFishing.com to provide advanced techniques in the coming months, and continue exploring the art of downrigging.