Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ice Fishing New Jersey's Lower Blue Mountain Lake

Yesterday, I traveled 150 miles to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where I ice fished New Jersey's Lower Blue Mountain Lake. I had been dreaming of hard-water fishing ever since the cold spells of late November, but a recent warming trend in the northeast delayed my first trip until the beginning of January. I chose Lower Blue Mountain Lake because it sits above 1000 feet, and the extra elevation helps create a little more ice underfoot. Lower Blue Mountain, though, is an isolated public lake that requires deft navigation and a bit of hiking. To my surprise, I had the lake to myself. Think about that for a second: in the middle of ice fishing season, I was alone on a body of water in the nation's most densely-populated state.

While I sat on an island-based rock ledge overlooking my equipment, I attempted to come up with encomiums worthy of this place. And I kept failing. I tried to write in my head, which inevitably led me to start thinking about writing itself (such are the pitfalls of my profession). In particular, I thought about the act of writing about nature - perhaps the most basic of any type of writing. Words and concepts like inspiration, hermeneutics, beauty, alienation, and sublime floated through my head, while the birds sang above, and the fish swam below. I concluded that it is remarkably easy to write about the outside world, with its overwhelming combinations (a brightly-colored blue jay in a barren shagbark hickory tree), and otherworldly constructions (wind-swept wisps of snow blowing on the frozen lake like ghost-snakes). Just look at this blog and others like it: I write about nature and my participation within it, and people I've never met read the post, comment on my writing, and email me. In a sense, the moment I put these words on the page, I become united with readers who encounter or seek the same experiences. And no paragraph or sentence, no poem or novel, no blog-post or article, can convey the way I felt yesterday at Blue Mountain Lake. I'm simply not that good of a writer.

At one point, I focused on the silence surrounding me. I knew I was the only human within miles; I had no cell phone reception, and I didn't bring any other media with me. But then, an airplane would fly over-head, and I would hear its powerful engines echoing off the ridges. Or, I would hear the distant rumble of an ATV or the crack of a rifle, as hunters pursued their quarries. Man-made sounds like these pierced the quiet, and these eruptions showed me that the lake wasn't silent at all. In fact, it was a cacophony: roaring wind, singing jays/cardinals/juncos/flickers, hammering woodpeckers searching for food within the bark of wintered trees, and the thickening, expanding, and separating of the ice. And there I was, all alone at the top of the mountain. I may have caught six fish (three yellow perch, two largemouth bass, and one chain pickerel), but I still would have been endlessly happy if I had caught none.


Donna L. Long said...

I don't fish but you have a way of communicating some of the joy and wonder you feel out on the water.

I learned new information reading your post. I could actually imagine myself fishing.

I like that. Thank you.

Lauren said...

The Earth & life around us has a lot to say if we'd only listen.

You got to enjoy an ancient, and profound language for a few hours.


Passinthru Outdoors said...

Another great winter time post that made me jealous that I'm stuck in CT.

Thanks for sharing.

Passinthru Outdoors Blog - Sharing the Passion

Bruce Litton said...

Your writing style is as placid and secure as ice surface. I felt invited to visit Blue Mountain Lake to ice fish it myself. Many out of the way ponds and lakes exist in New Jersey, but for the past 14 years I've broken ice only at large, name lakes, besides a Boy Scout Camp impoundment near Forksville, PA.

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