‘20 Stock Report: NJ’s Rainbow Rundown - The Fisherman

‘20 Stock Report: NJ’s Rainbow Rundown

the purchase of a freshwater fishing license and trout stamp
Whether by fly, worm, spinner or Powerbait, the purchase of a freshwater fishing license and trout stamp allows you access to a bounty of fish stocked by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Talk about “tasting the rainbow!”

Much like the Skittles commercial with an overflowing bucket of multi-colored lip-smackin’ treats, the Garden State’s April 11 statewide opening of the trout season promises a rod ‘n’ reel rainbow trout gut buster.

When the season commences at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning, some 184,000 10- to 11-inch rainbows will have been liberated in 173 venues statewide. In the mix (2% of every preseason payload) will be 2- and 3-year-old spent breeders measuring 16 to 26 inches in length and weighing up to 7 pounds. This bonus ‘bow bounty numbers in the neighborhood of 7,000-plus, and those remaining after the preseason deliveries will be loosed during the first week, and maybe the second, of the in-season release schedule.  By Memorial Day weekend, approximately 570,000 rainbows will have been released throughout New Jersey waters.

Actually, more will be stocked if the Pequest Trout Hatchery continues repeating itself. Every year for the past decade, the facility has been producing well above the baseline 570K number. During the March-May ‘19 stocking period, 592,030 rainbows were liberated, a head-shaking 21,970 above the baseline figure.

Who knows what the surplus will be for this year, but it could be even greater as in previous years, and these fish are usually released during weeks 5 to 7 of the stocking schedule as the final count is tabulated and the waters assigned.

Not applying the Opening Day trout fishing brakes, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries continues its “Bonus Broodstock Lakes” program. Ten lakes and ponds spread between urban and suburban easy-to-reach-and-fish waters divided between the state’s northern, central and southern regions are selected to receive way above and beyond the 2% count of breeder trout. This wildly popular and successful project is designed to not only “hook” youngsters on the excitement of trout fishing, but also recruit those new to trout fishing and also re-up those who may have left the fishery.

The Fantastic 14

STOCKING TRUCKReduced by a pair, the Wallkill and Black Rivers, from the heretofore Sweet Sixteen list, are considered the Garden State’s exemplary trout rivers governed by the archaic “No Fishing” until 5 p.m. on the day they are stocked (instituted in ‘73). These are all classified as “Trout Maintenance” wherein salmonids can and do survive on a rear-round basis, with several, such as the South Branch of the Raritan, the Wanaque, the Musconetcong and the Pequest rivers via sections of main flows and/or tributaries, host breeding populations of brook, rainbow and/or brown trout, hence the Trout Production status.

These closed waters range from the freestone Big Flatbrook in upper Sussex County to the brooding, brush enshrouded banks of the Toms River in northern Ocean County.

Of the pair struck from the closed stocking date list, both the Black (Morris County) and the Wallkill (Sussex County) provide top-notch trout fishing not only for stocked rainbows but also the not-so-rare native brookie and/or wild brown. Lack of angler pressure was the primary factor in the duo being dropped from the list.

Playing Small Ball

Myriad streams and brooks stocked through April, and a few into May, provide top-flight trout fishing. Granted, they do not receive the big numbers of trout every time they are dosed, which might only be two or three times, the corollary being that after the second, maybe third week of the spring season, they are vacant of anglers, even if rainbows are still being delivered.

To be sure, these venues can be counted on to provide enjoyable uncrowded angling. In fact, come May, it’s a sure bet you won’t encounter another rod even though there are still plenty of holdover fish eager to nab a prospective victual drifting by.

Of course, there are exceptions. For example, the Lamington in Somerset County is stocked four times in-season, with the Peapack Brook, also in Somerset County, hit five times. It’s a fiver for the Mingamahone and Hockhockson brooks, and Shark River in Monmouth County and four shots for the Cohansey and Maurice (pronounced “Morris”) rivers in Cumberland County.

Even with the extra ‘bow dosages, these, and similar swims witness a dramatic drop as April melds to May.

Close to Home

Denise Theiler
Expect to see Denise Theiler on one of the many Garden State lakes, ponds, rivers or stream on the April 11 opener, along with a few thousand of her fellow anglers.

Hiding in plain sight are the dozens upon dozens of urban and suburban ponds, lakes and creeks spread through 18 of the Garden State’s 21 counties that are literally stuffed with trout during the April stocking schedule. Some of these are dosed into the first week of May. These certainly play a vital role for those who do not have the ways and/or means to get to the more hallowed waters, have only before and after work to fish, and, frankly, do the numbers.

For example, while living in Union County, the April forays to the Big Flat, Black, Musky and Pequest were delayed until May for the simple reason that the former boasted eight stocked waters. The reasoning was: why travel the 100-plus round trip miles when the same size salmonids were being stocked within anywhere from a five- to 20-minute drive from the front door? Over the decades, untold counts of April limits went into the freezer before the vehicles headed north and west.

The exceptions to the urban/suburban ‘bow bounties are the still bucolic Sussex, Passaic and Warren counties whose rainbow-dosed brooks, streams, rivers and still waters are situated in what is still considered “mountain country.”

No Kill & Wild Natives

The 2.2-mile Ken Lockwood Gorge beat on the South Branch of the Raritan River and the 4.2-mile stretch of the Big Flat Brook from Route 206 to the Roy Bridge are catch-and-release/artificial lure only regulation. Limited harvest is available on those seasonal and year-round Trout Conservation Area lengths of the Pequest, Toms, Muscontacong and Pequannock rivers. Again, artificials only.


The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and its Division of Fish & Wildlife began its 2020 downstate freshwater trout season on March 7 with the opening of two downstate ponds stocked with rainbow trout. Both Tidbury Pond near Dover in Kent County and Newton Pond near Greenwood in Sussex County have been stocked and are open as of that date for trout fishing, with each pond stocked with more than 300 pounds of 12- to 13-inch rainbow trout before opening day, with a second stocking in March. Trophy-sized trout weighing 2 or more pounds will be included in the stocking as an added attraction for trout anglers.  Proceeds from the purchase of Delaware trout stamps are used to help purchase next year’s trout for stocking. The popular fishery also is supported by federal Sport Fish Restoration funds administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that are generated from anglers purchasing fishing equipment.

Delaware fishing licenses and trout stamps are sold online, at the licensing desk in DNREC’s Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901, and by license agents statewide. To find a participating agent, or to purchase a license online, visit Delaware Licenses. For additional information on Delaware fishing licenses, call 302-739-9918.

As for wild places and native traces, those eschewing the stocked trout craziness will find exceptional opportunities to fish for native brook trout as well as wild browns and rainbows in any number of waters in the northern tier counties. For the native brookies, it is strictly catch-and-release, with limited harvest allowed for wild browns. There are 17 flows classified as Wild Trout Waters wherein there are all three species of spawned trout residing. Amazing, in this most densely populated state in the Lower 48! Refer to page 22 of the 2020 Freshwater Fishing Digest for the native and wild particulars.

Big water trouting enthusiasts have the likes of Merrill Creek and Round Valley reservoirs, and Clinton Reservoir (Newark Watershed/special permit required), and lakes Tilcon, Sheppard, Wawayanda, White and Aeroflex to ply their drifting and trolling acumen. Species include rainbow and brown trout, as well as lake trout (Merrill Creek and Round Valley) and landlocked salmon (Tilcon, Wawayanda and Aeroflex). All are under special harvest regulations outlined on page 23 of the Digest.

Yeah, you can say it’s all here in New Jersey when it comes to trout fishing: from narrow brooks to sprawling reservoirs and waters in between.  For a full rundown on the 2020 stocking schedule (water/dates numbers) go to www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/trtinfo_spring20.htm.   You can also call the Trout Stocking Hotline 606-633-6765.  And be sure to get your freshwater fishing license and trout stamp first by visiting www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/fishneed.htm. Both the license and trout stamp can be printed out from home.