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Fishin Phil

Any tips?

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    Alright, I'm sick of winter and I've decided to get out on the water this weekend.  Going for smallies in one of the better smallie lakes in NJ.  I've read all the pre-spawn articles we have on the site and others elsewhere.  I think I've figured out some good starting points putting together a decent pattern and their general behavior.  This is the first late winter/early spring outing for me on my boat so all the info is backed with no experience.

    From what I've gathered the Northern side of the lake is generally a good starting point and the crappy topo map that I found agrees.  There are pretty wide flats that lead to the creek channel which runs east to west then forks in the middle heading north west and south west, so we'll probably find the channel and work our way in, looking for baitfish and structure.  Is there any parts of the lake this time of year I can totally eliminate? Here is a link to the topo. I believe those are 5 ft increments. The max depth of the lake is 40 ft.

    As far as a pattern, I think we are gonna start with jigs and Ikas then throw some jerk baits as we get a little shallower.  Water temp/clarity and the weather are gonna be the variables, and I wanna be prepared for whatever we run into.

    That's pretty much what I've gathered.  I was wondering if you guys had any practical advice catchin smallies this time of year.  I'm kinda looking for experiences and not so much just facts, although please feel free to contribute whatever you have.  Especially correcting any facts I have wrong.  I'm all ears. Thanks guys.

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In your part of the country, smallmouth are (probably) still in a winter pattern, holding on structure in deeper water. I would rule out the flats, it's WAY to early for spawn. For deeper water presentations I would throw tubes, grubs, Hula Grubs and maybe a lizard on a split shot or C-rig. I doubt that the smallmouth are active, but if you find them this time of year, anchor down! They are probably stacked up together.

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Thank you.  This is why I love this site.  We have to buy a pass to launch in this reservoir, so we are gonna make the most of it, even if it means freezing our butts off for the last couple weeks of winter.  I also want to scout it out before the spawn and we really aren't expecting much this weekend.  Deep water fishing is definetly something I need to work on anyway.

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RW has it right when he said that they are probably still in a winter pattern, holding on structure in deeper water. I would key on the 18ft to 30ft depth range with visible structure on the graph. Watch your electronics closely. RW is also correct that when you find them they will most likely be stacked up. I personally like to look for deeper water near spawning areas with lots of rock. This early in the year my best artificial lures for Smallies (in PA and NJ) are 1/4 ounce Kastmaster jigging spoons (gold if clouds, silver if sunny). I also use very small plastic jigs with small profile tails (1 Slider Crappie Grub and 3 Screwtail Minnow grubs plastics in smoke, pumpkinseed, and green watermelon). And small hair jigs or hair/marabou jigs rather than rubber skirted ones, in colors to match the crayfish. Also try a 4 LC Slender Pointer they will at times bring the Smallies out of the cold depths early on. And also try a a tube on a carolina or split shot rig this time of the year (and I put a piece of styrofoam in them to give them a little lift). One thing I always use in early spring for Smallies is a fish attractant on all artificials, reapplying often.  And finally if you are just getting out to rid yourself of Cabin Fever, I suggest you take along some live minnows. Artificials don't produce well this time of the year, but live minnows can put fish in the boat. Most of all STAY WARM. Getting cold (especially your fingers) will ruin your trip.

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FP, sorry never fished the Manasquan Reservoir, so I don't have any lake specific tips for you. Some day if you want big quality smallmouth, try Merrill Creek Reservoir near Phillipsburg NJ. It's worth the trip just to fish the standing timber (yep standing timber in NJ) and see the all the wildlife including the nesting bald eagles. The smallies are huge, and the lake can be tough -- at this lake "if you can see them you can't catch them." Also, it's got some great rock structure in deeper water that holds some really nice ones. It's an electric only lake and the wind can really pick up there, which makes it a little iffy at times. Take a look at the lake survey map for Merrill Creek on this link it will blow your socks off.

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/lakemaps.htm

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Merrill Creek was our other choice.  We may end up going there.  The state has some chart with the quality of each species population in each lake in the state. Both got a 1 for smallies. Manasquan is closer but I've heard they can be very strict. Any starting points for Merrill Creek that you wouldn't mind shareing. It seems there is a lot of water you can eliminate. I like that.

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Phil,

First thing I'd do is call them on Friday (during the day) to see if the ice is melted off the lake, and second to see what time they open the gates. The phone number is (908) 454-1213. The guys at the launch are real nice, so talk to them about the lake and pick up some tips from them. Important: remember if the sirens go off it means get off of the lake because winds have picked up so much that it becomes dangerous there with it being a electric only lake. They don't open the ramp in bad weather. When you're done fishing they usually ask you a survey of what you caught and what you caught them on as your getting the boat out of the water.

Merrill Creek tips Fish all around the ramp area and shoreline adjacent to the ramp. As you leave the ramp you will immediately see standing timber on your right (marked as Submerged Woods on the map) try this area, they could be stacked up tight to the trees... both LM and SM in there. I do better with Smallies on the outer parts of the trees and into the open lake, inside the trees for Largemouth.  Watch yourself if you maneuver in and around the trees, as they're starting to decay and you might need a hard hat in there. As you round the point head north and go to both the rock reefs and fish any riprap you see (start in close and move out into deeper water watch you electronics and you'll see structure out from the riprap). Then go to the west across the lake and fish the Submerged Tree Reefs. Always fish any riprap you see and move out into deeper water from the riprap. Also fish any area where you see rocks on the shorline because they extend into the water. I like to use silver buddy's in the deeper rocks. I'd stay away from the standing timber to the northeast part of the lake (that's were the bald eagles nest), I've not done well there in the past.

Take a camera along because you might get some incredible shots of wildlife (the whole place is an Environmental Preserve), and maybe even some lunker smallmouth. Good luck and let us know how you do wherever you go.

Restricted Areas: No walking, climbing, docking or other access on or at:

* All parts of the Main Dam and its instrument access stairway, with the exception that walking on the roadways across the top is permitted.

* All parts of the three Dikes, with the exception that walking on the roadways across the top is permitted.

* Stoned areas at the bottom of the outside slope of the Main Dam and the Dikes.

* Inlet/Outlet Tower and its bridge.

* Fenced areas posted "Restricted Area."

* Other areas that are posted with temporary restrictions (usually only when the bald eagles are nesting).

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Wow. Thanks Zel. Thats a lot more then I thought any local angler was willing to divulge. I'll let you know how we do. I have a funny feeling I already know what that thread is gonna look like, but we might get lucky. :)  Thanks again.

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