Reports (Rob Z.): Cranes Lake, NJ

Rob Z.'s report on Cranes Lake, NJ.

For previous reports from Rob Z.:
First Flathead of the year
The Lakes at FDR - 2
Core Creek, Bucks County - 2, PA
Wissahickon Creek, PA
Core Creek, Bucks County - 1, PA
The Lakes at FDR - 1
Cranes Lake - 1, NJ
Scranton, PA

Written by Rob Z. - edited by Leo S.
It was around Saturday noon, when I was trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the weekend.  Suddenly, the thought of camping at my favorite spot came to my mind. Could I camp alone? It would have to be a solo trip, unless someone could join me. I looked up the price for a rental on priceline, and was able to get one for around 36 bucks for a 24-hour period. That was good enough to make the plan a go, so, I made the car reservation. Frantically, I started gathering my things.
My gear was in good order and I settled on 3 rods and a bunch of Bass lures. I brought a light rod with 6lb test for Black Crappie - hopefully, and two 6-foot medium action rods: one with 20lb braid, and the other with 8lb mono. I decided that I would not bring a cooler or get ice, and I would not have a fire. I would need changes of clothes (warm clothes), an extra pair of sneakers, a sleeping bag, and my coat. The tent was good to have as well. I walked to the car rental place and picked up my Crown Victoria. :-)
There was plenty of space in it, and the load ended up being a large duffel bag, a Whole Foods re-usable bag, my fishing backpack, and the 3 rods and reels. Enough to carry in one trip. Very minimal. I loaded up and hit the road with a box of pop tarts, two bananas, and some potatoes that I had cooked in the morning with onion, garlic, and spices. Also, I had plenty of water.
When I arrived, I did not have a reservation. Even so, I got one of my favorite sites, right at the edge of the lake. I paid to use a rowboat and hoped I would see my friends and borrow their anchor.  I drove up to my site, and started getting it ready. First, the power cord and the phone charger. Then, the tent, the blankets, and the sleeping bag. I tied a Spinnerbait on the Pflueger with the 8lb mono; a Bobby Garland baby shad on a 1/32 ounce jighead with a weighted bobber on the light rod; and the braid got a Crankbait.
I walked back to the camp store and grabbed the oars, and went to the dock to get the boat. I knew to pick the one with less water in it - they both leaked, but one more than the other. I rowed the 100 yards or so to my site, and docked the boat right at the edge of it, pulling it onto the grass a bit. Best camping setup ever.
There is a couple there who have been spending their entire Summers there for a long time. They were out on the lake that day. They are retired, and they fish all the time. They saw me and told me to get the anchor from their spot, which I was very happy to do so.  I tied it to the rental boat and shoved off with my rods, my tackle bag, and some water.
Turning the boat around, I rowed towards them, and dropped anchor. We exchanged stories, got caught up, and within 5 minutes, I had my first Largemouth on the KVD Spinnerbait. This fish actually hit the bait upon its impact on the water, before I even started retrieving.  This would turn out to be the only fish I caught that way.  You can see my friends fishing in the first picture below. 
You have to get good hooksets against bass with tough mouths with lures with large hooks. Also, I had a trailer hook on, which is actually a 2nd hook attached directly to the first hook. I am convinced that this equals more fish in the end. One of the fish I caught was caught only on the trailer hook. 
The place is a flooded blueberry bog that is fed by a Creek and spills down at the other end. The lake averages about 4 feet deep, but it's shallower and stumpy in some places. It does run a bit deeper
in the original creek bed. The weeds were dying, and lures needed to be somewhat weedless.
I cast with the wind along the deeper edge, and as I was retrieving, there was a nice big swirl right in front of where my spinnerbait was going to be in 3 seconds! I held my breath, brought it through, and WHAM!!!! I set the hook, and I knew I had a great fish on. I pulled him boatside, and brought him in. It would end up being the biggest at 2.5 lb on the scale. I took a few pictures of this nice fish, and released him. You can see it on pictures 2-4.
I was very happy with the start, and kept at it, despite the water in the boat that was starting to splash on my sneakers. Oh well...I kept working that area but could not pull out another one. I pulled up the anchor, and moved further, where I slammed a hookset on another solid fish (picture 5).
After no more fish at this spot, I moved on closer to some docks. I gave the Spinnerbait some action on the retrieve. I pulled it up, and as it was falling, Blazammo! (picture 6)
Since I was near some wooden wall structure, I got out my light rod to try to find some Crappies. I cast out there, and it went under water in seconds. I gave it a quick hookset, which is important for Crappie and Pickerel, and it turned out to be a Pickerel! If you don't lip hook them, they will rip through 6lb test. This guy was lip hooked. (picture 7)
As I tried, I could not find the Crappies. I didn't know where they were, and I couldn't find them two weeks ago either. I caught another Pickerel and missed a fish too. I think it was a big Pickerel. Next, I got broke off by a Pickerel on the light rod, and I gave up on the Crappies. I switched back to the Spinnerbait. That wasn't getting attention either. I decided to take a break as light was fading.
I went back to shore, where I met my neighbors, and they were fishing too. They had a fire going, and it was almost dark. I had no fire, and that was okay. I did have a headlamp for light, but, of course, it didn't work when I turned it on. It worked 2 weeks ago, but ceased to. In the dark, I re-tied on a buzzbait to the 6 feet rod with braid. I started my walk on foot around the lake.
At this point, it was night, and I had 4 nice Bass on a Spinnerbait and some Pickerels so far. I had never caught a Bass on a Buzzbait, but I was determined to try. Not having a headlamp was a problem, but what luck - it was a Full Harvest Moon! I could see great just by using the moonlight, and was able to fish and fix any little issues that would have ended my night in real darkness.
I was walking, casting, retrieving, and just making sure that the action given off by the bait was good. I walked half the distance from the site to the boat rental docks, and I got a strike! However, the fish missed. I tried to get him again, but he was gone. I should have had a trailer hook on there.
I went for another few casts, and then, another hit! This guy would end up being the smallest Bass I caught during the entire trip. Score! (picture 8) Not bad for the smallest fish of a dozen. Over the next 45 minutes, I got 3 more nice ones on buzzbaits. (Pictures 9-12). This would bring my first day Bass total to 7 nice bass and a small one.
I slept on the ground with a down sleeping bag. I used my jacket as a pillow and did my best to sleep. I was surprised to wake at 6:15 - I thought I would have been up earlier. I got on the boat and went right back to where I started yesterday. The moon was still up on the other side of the sky before the sun came up (Picture 13).
The Pickerels were there - nice and early to greet me (Picture 14). Looking to put more Bass in the boat, I looked up again to that same Spinnerbait. I re-tied it since it had been used so much - "better to re-tie now than to lose a fish and the lure later."
I was throwing it, making it rise, sink, twitch, and then, my first bite of the day! A solid fish (Picture 15). I worked my way to the boat docks again and found another willing biter. Landed another solid Largemouth (Picture 16).
Not yet giving up on the Crappies, I positioned the boat and cast towards a nice wall. I twitched the bobber, and it went down. I set the hook with the Browning light combo, and it was a nice fish. I was praying that it was a Crappie. As it got close, it was confirmed! The first Crappie I had caught in months (Picture 17).
Some of the fish were there, but not all of them, as there should be more than I found. However, I was grateful to find them. I stayed in that spot for a while and ended up with 3 Crappies there, as the sun arose in my face. The Crappie on the scale reads 1.08 lb (Picture 18-19).
A toothy critter came up next on my Baby Shad jig. This was a decent sized one (Picture 20). I then switched back to the Spinnerbait, and picked up yet another solid Largemouth Bass (Picture 21-22).  
The morning was rounded out with 1 more Largemouth Bass, two more Crappies, and a Sunny on the light rod (Picture 23-24).
I do feel a sense of accomplishment with this one trip. I challenged myself and achieved great results. I just feel lucky that the fish were cooperating with me, in order to reward me for my efforts. It was a great way to spend the second half of my weekend!
Pictures are below:  
My Largemouth Bass on a KVD Spinnerbait, and my friends fishing in the back.

2.5lb Largemouth Bass
Third fish of the day
4th fish of the day on a Spinnerbait! Blazammo!
Lip hooked Chain Pickerel on a Bobby Garland Baby Shad
Smallest Bass of the entire Trip

3 nice Largemouth Bass in 45 minutes, on a Buzzbait.
Not quite day time yet.
The Pickerels were waiting for me in the morning.
First Largemouth Bass of the second day

Second Largemouth Bass of the second day
1st Crappie that I caught in months.

1lber Slab!
Decent size Pickerel on a Bobby Garland Baby Shad

Another Largemouth Bass!
A Bluegill on the Crappie jig.

1 of the 2 Crappies that came up followingly.
Hope you guys enjoyed Rob's report on Cranes Lake, NJ. There's a little bit more on Cranes Lake coming up in another post, where Mike Hsiao gets a 4lber Bass on a top water Zara Spook. Sensational!
Best of luck for all of us,
Long Days and Pleasant Nights,
Leo S.