New Jersey Fresh

by Louis Bignami

Fishing away from home for new species in new waters always works best if you start with a guided day. I note this as a very experienced fishing writer with well over a thousand fishing articles and books on life bait, fishing records, regional guides and fishing humor.

Carl Price, who manages media relations for the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority suggested a fresh water day to go with the light tackle saltwater Topwater fishing, pass casting, beach fishing -- the world record striped bass came from an Atlantic City beach jetty -- and offshore head boat and charter bill fishing. Given he'd just suggested the White House for hoagies -- Frank Sinatra used to send his jet from Hollywood for these -- I knew Carl's information was reliable. Besides, he wanted to go fishing too.

So we set out relatively early for the Egg Harbor area and the river. On the way it became obvious that the recent rains had left the river high and somewhere between root beer and cocoa colored. Fortunately David Henderson, a local guide who fishes daily and keeps on top of the action far better than those who only guide weekends, had things in hand. He offered "trophy bass fishing on a private lake with bass to 8 pounds" and, it must be added, photo proof of this. We opted for an alterative, "A spot 30-minutes down the no wake areas where you'd get a mixed bag of fish."

Bass anglers may suspect brain damage, but I love fishing for new species in new spots with new techniques, and ultra light two and three inch plastic on 1/16-ounce lead heads promised variety as David has, among other things, even taken striped bass on these rigs.

The half-hour ride from Atlantic City quickly showed that recent rains had turned the river the color of root beer. So, rather than fish the "usual spots" we chugged a half hour up through what may be the longest "no wake" zone in North America. A wild collection of moored craft from massive yachts and a buoy tender down to canoes fronted the eclectic mix of shore shacks to "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" mansions.

At least a dozen species of diving, wading and woods birds kept the binoculars busy until we

At least a dozen species of diving, wading and woods birds kept the binoculars busy until we headed off into a backwater under a bridge with headroom so low rods had to come out of racks. The football field-size aquatic saucer ran down to ten feet or so deep with an interesting assortment of rock and sand bottom and an amazing assortment of aquatic weeds.

Spot casting to the edges of cover or, for that matter, blind casting back towards the channel, produced a nice mix of yellow and white perch, a basket of catfish and "temporary custody" of a couple of larger fish that nicely filled four hours or so. Nothing special in size, but given absolutely nobody we checked on our way back to the dock had any fish, a nice day.

So for a look at an interesting, easily overlooked area -- or that alternative option on bass to eight pounds on private water -- Dave seems a decent investment. Such is particularly the case for family or other freshwater anglers who'd like an introduction to New Jersey Fresh.