Wednesday, February 3, 2010

02.03.10 Hunting for sea-run brown trout in the Manasquan River

Since the other day when I met Andrew on the Manasquan River my interest in the sea run brown trout program has been growing. After I posted the 01.27.10 blog I started doing some research on this interesting and relatively "quiet" fishery. So even though I would rather be writing about a more well known fishery and river, ie: steelhead and the Salmon River, I decided to take a long "10 mile drive" to the river where nearly 25 years ago I started fishing for trout. This morning I gathered my notes on where the most sea run brown trout have been caught and headed to Brice Park in Wall. When I got there another guy had just set up a Home Depot bucket and planted his rod in it after casting some Power Bait into a large pool on a bend in the river. At first he was tight lipped about the sea run browns that are caught throughout the river. He said sometimes the fish are huge...and recently he had been catching smaller browns on Panther Martin spinners there at the park. But his eyes lit up when he talked of fish in the five to ten pound range that are caught every year. "Okay- thank you, have good day" what I thought to myself as the man turned and got into his car to stay warm. After a few casts a large town dump truck came into the park and stopped near where I was parked. Two tough looking guys starting walking over to me and I at first thought maybe I was fishing when or where I wasn't supposed to. But as they got closer I could see one of the guys had a fly fishing hat on, so my back hair stood down. We talked for a while and the one guy seemed to know a lot about this location and more importantly, about the sea-run browns. He started in about the big browns, and how just a few weeks ago he ran into a guy at a local coffee shop who showed him pictures of three fish he had caught upstream in the days before, up to 10 pounds!!! He also told me that the sea-runs come back into the river in October-November and make their way upstream to spawn? (The state is still evaluating if in fact these fish do spawn). According to the stocking chart on the NJ Division of Fish and Game website in 2009 the state stocked 18,090 brown trout that averaged 7.6 " with a total weight of 3,015 pounds, or .16 of a pound, which means very tiny fish. I would think most of these would be a tasty treat for larger prey in both fresh and salt water.
So I packed up and headed to a place I haven't been to in 25 years. I started my trout fishing "career" here on the Manasquan. A river where you learn where not cast rather than where to. It's also a river that could be used to show the history of hooks, sinkers, and lures that have been used in the last 100 years. Basically, there is wood everywhere. Forget the backcasts, it's behind you, in front of you, above you and below you. It's where I started with mealworms and salmon eggs. Salmon eggs that would be stored on your wading belt after removing the cap and screwing the jar into a metal lid and holder combination. I can remember the slick that would be formed everytime I would bend over to reach to remove my gear from a log or branch.
The access I went to was Preventorium Road behind the high school. As soon as I got to the bridge it felt very familiar. I saw the signs stapled to the trees and went over to look.

The bottom sign was the Trout Stocked Water warning sign and above it was about the Sea Run Brown Trout. Maybe these things do exist! I spent the next hour and a half remembering how to fish the Manasquan. It's takes practice and patience. It was a little new since I had never used a fly rod on this river. I can remember how deadly and accurate I was with an ultralight Diawa spin outfit. I didn't catch anything but boy did I have fun. I found some nice holes above the bridge and also remember what it was like to try and cast through a thicket of branches to get

to that perfect spot. I did get there, managed to get a wooly bugger in there, and waited for the strike that never came. I moved below the bridge to some water that I would think held fish but not today. It was just fun to be out there. The water temp was 40 degress and the air temp went from 32 when I got there to 38 when I left. The area below the bridge was a series of s-turns

that made pools and bends in the river. As the morning turned into afternoon I decided to try a new spot downriver. I took the short drive and was on a neat section, with long slow pools and a few riffles. I changed my wooly bugger from olive to black and a few casts later felt a fish on. I saw it turn near the surface after a sluggish strike and it was off. Game on now. It was a little over an hour later when I lost the next fish downriver. But I felt good because I knew fish were there. I went back at both of them with no result. As I tried the second time for the first fish, braced on an overhanging tree, with my leg up as a counterweight, and slightly off balance, I could feel the resistance as I made my cast in the air. My eyes focused on a large branch overhead. First I saw the series of spilt shot, then above that a bobber, and then finally near was my wooly bugger. A typical Manasquan River decorated tree, and with that, my day was done.