Hurricanes’ impact still being felt along the shore
For the poet T.S. Eliot, April may be the cruelest month, but for outdoorsy types like us, October is, far and away, the best of the best. For folks who want to hunt, fish, hike, camp, bike, enjoy the fall foliage, explore our great out-of-doors and cozy up with Mother Nature, October offers perfect,
Mea culpa! I was supposed to make note of a memorable day in New Jersey’s salt water fishing annals in last week’s column but somehow it slipped my mind.
I was wanting to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 78.8-pound striped bass caught on an Atlantic City jetty during a northeast storm by then local resident Albert McReynolds. That huge fish was recognized by the International Game Fish Association as a new all-tackle world record. McReynolds held that record until just a few years ago when a New England angler topped it.
There are a few fish that garner headlines when a new all-tackle record is established and certainly the striped bass is one of them. Back in 1998 Anthony Monica of Hammonton, NJ broke the all-tackle record for tautog. It was an impressive fish, but outside of the fishing columns it did not receive the accolades of McReynolds’ striper.
But, while McReynolds basked in the limelight, it was not perfect. A number of jealous anglers put out rumors that the fish had been caught by a trawler and sold to McReynolds. Salt Water Sportsman Magazine some time ago ran a two issue report on the events of that stormy night 35 years ago and all that happened.
Today, Albert McReynolds crispy cool weather. That brisk cold snap that blew through our neck of Penn’s Woods late last week arrived right on cue.
I ushered in the month by peddling, paddling, and pacing in the Marshalton Triathlon which I’ve done on the first Sunday of the month (with a few exceptions) ever since the triathlon’s inception. My partner this year was brotherin-law resides in the Naples, FL area where his home took quite a beating in the recent hurricane. And, while he still fishes, his health has not been the greatest in recent years.
I wasn’t there when the record fish was caught but I am firmly convinced that it was a legitimate fish.
Well, here along the shore we now are in our third week of “Victory at Sea” ocean conditions caused by the train of hurricanes that thankfully missed us but still made a mess of the water.
Speaking with Capt. Norm Hafsrud of the Ocean City charter boat ‘The Viking’, he expressed his dismay at the month of September saying he has been chartering here since 1976 and it has been the worst September he ever experienced. During the entire month he was able to take out passengers just two days and neither of those trips was in the ocean.
Just eyeballing the chocolate milky back bay waters you can still see huge schools of baitfish ranging from spot to herring and tiny bluefish. With all that around it is reasonable to assume the predators who enjoy such meals also are around. Some, mostly undersized, striped bass have been caught by anglers venturing out in the dark. Tautog are more than abundant but regulations limit you to just one fish until November.
A few of the big partyboats have run offshore Daryl Robbins, an avid biker and nine years my junior. We were among the 1,600 folks who participated in this popular fundraising challenge that day. Despite some serious navigation problems on the canoe leg of the event, we both managed to finish in the top ten of our respective age groups and enjoyed a perfect day in the Chester County out-of-doors. Bik- on selected days with limited passengers aboard but even they are sticking to the close-in reefs and snags. These boats are reporting the now off limits summer flounder and black seabass being caught but maybe the majority of the fish coming home are triggerfish.
Stay out of the surf if you are fishing the beaches. The rip currents have been exceptionally strong and there is a chance you can make a misstep and find yourself being pulled out.
A warning to surf anglers in the Rehoboth area. Nobody is wearing waders with the water temperature in the mid-to-upper 70s but a number of the anglers are reporting developing a severe rash a day or so after their trip. The most affected area seems to be around the Delaware Bay side of the Cape Henlopen State Park.
If you do insist on surfcasting you should expect to load-up on small bluefish. My understanding is they are boiling the water and in conditions like that it is all but impossible not to catch them. Probably even a bare hook would work.
Other good areas recently include the Henlopen Canal and the bay west of the Point. Indian River Inlet also is giving up a few fish, mainly the blues.
Before they head south, this is the time to get your cast net and stock up on finger mullet. They are piled up around the Point and Inner Wall. ing, paddling, and hiking are all great outdoors pursuits, but there’s plenty more to do on our October bill of fare.
Archery deer hunting. With the summer’s heat and humidity fading in their rearview mirror, bowhunters should find conditions more to their liking, and as the whitetail rut picks up steam later this month, lovesick bucks and does will be on the move and more likely to mosey by any attentive archer’s tree stand.
Muzzleloader hunting. Bowhunters will get some company in the deer woods when the state’s muzzleloader season for antlerless deer only kicks in from Oct. 14 through 21, and the antlerless deer only Special Firearms season for Junior and Senior license holders, Mentored Youth, active duty military and certain disabled persons runs from Oct. 19 through 21. Statewide, our archery deer season runs through Nov. 11. Here in Wildlife Management Units 5C and 5D, it goes through Nov. 25.
Small game hunting. October also features a broad range of hunting opportunities for small game with Junior hunts for squirrel and rabbit having opened this past Saturday, Sept. 30, and running through Oct. 14. For pheasant, the junior hunt runs from Oct. 7 through Oct. 14 with the regular season on ringnecks set for Oct. 21. Don’t forget that a pheasant permit is now required for all adult and senior pheasant hunters. Pennsylvania’s regular seasons on rabbit, squirrel, bobwhite quail and ruffed grouse all open on Oct. 14. Hunting for raccoons and foxes begins on Oct. 21 and the trapping season for raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks, and weasels starts on Oct.22.
Duck and dove hunting. And as if Pennsylvania hunters didn’t already have enough to do in October, our early duck season here in the South Zone is set run from Oct. 14 through 21. Although the early season on Canada geese here in the Atlantic Population Zone closed back on Sept. 25, it will reopen on Nov. 15. The first stage of our three tier season on mourning doves ends this week on Oct. 7 but stage two begins on Oct. 14 running through Nov. 25 with shooting permitted all day long, not just starting at noon as in the first stage.
Turkey hunting. October also heralds the fall turkey seasons with opening day being Oct. 28 in most WMUs. Exceptions to this are WMU 5B which opens Oct. 31 and closes Nov. 2, WMU 5A which runs Nov. 2-4, and WMUs 5C and 5D here in the southeast where there is no fall turkey season.
Fresh water fishing. Fresh water fishing is also in the October air. In Chester County the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PF&BC) is slated to stock the Delayed Harvest, Artificial Lures only stretch East Branch of the Brandywine Creek this week on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The PF&BC will also be busy in Berks County this month with trout stockings scheduled for Scott’s Run Lake on Oct. 16 and Tulpehocken Creek on Oct. 17. In Montgomery County, Pennypack Creek is set to get a fresh batch of PF&BC rainbow trout on Oct. 10.
The PF&BC now reports that on the Schuylkill River in the Black Rock area smallmouth bass and largemouth bass fishing near the Cromby Power Plant outflow has been good this season. Crankbaits and live bait are still the best producers. Catfishing the past month has also been good with anglers taking large flatheads on bluegills and night crawlers. Channel catfish have been caught using the standard fare of chicken liver. When fishing at the Black Rock Dam stay clear of the fish ladder area. Violators caught within 100’ of the fish ladder will be cited. Respect the river and wear a PFD while onboard a boat. Anglers are also reporting catching Smallmouth Bass in the Schuylkill River in the Birdsboro area on tubes and plastics.
Wildlife viewing. And if you’re looking for some unique wildlife viewing opportunities, October is also the month for you. I’d highly recommend a visit to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pa., to watch spectacular migrations of so many species of raptors. An infinite variety of hawks, ospreys, vultures, and eagles will be sailing overhead for your viewing pleasure. For more info on Hawk Mountain events and lectures, go to their website at http://www.hawkmountain.org/.
A little farther away (but definitely worth the trip) is the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, Pa. This time of year the bulls should still be bugling and chasing cows across the countryside. It’s always fun to challenge these hypedup bulls by calling them in with your own medley of elk calls. For more info check out their website at https://elkcountryvisitorcenter.com/ or give them a call at 814-787-5167.