2017 Rainbows: Stocking Season Continues - The Fisherman

2017 Rainbows: Stocking Season Continues

2017 11 Stocking Season Continues Ice Trout
The trout stocked this season often find their way to improving action in the dead of winter once lakes have iced over for another season of hardwater fishing.

The third and final round of the 2017 rainbow stocking technically should prove a knockout punch!

And the trout keep coming, reminding one (if I may) of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, sans the sourdough.

In round three of the stocking schedule that began in the third week in March and concludes the first and second days of Turkey Week (with gaps, of course), the New Jersey Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries will liberate 4,270 2-year-old rainbows averaging close to 16 brick thick inches in 18 still water venues spread over 11 of the Garden State’s 21 counties for its winter season. This is a mere 33 days after the final releases during the autumn stocking period spread over two weeks that saw 20,750 2-year-old ‘bows, among which were 500 breeders to 6 pounds let loose in 37 waters in 19 counties between October 10-18.

Add the 588,930 trout stocked pre-season and during the seven week in-season stocking period that ended the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and the figure comes to a rather staggering 613,950 rainbow trout from 10-1/2 to 20-plus inches throughout the Garden State.

To be sure, the getting long-in-the-fin Pequest Trout Hatchery, which began operating back in 1982, continues proving itself a veritable salmonid factory. Notwithstanding the 2014 furunculosis hiccup, the facility, superintendent Ed Conley and the high octane crew continue producing mind boggling numbers of bodacious ‘bows and has transformed New Jersey’s trout fishery into a rollicking, year-round reality.

2017 11 Stocking Season Continues FLY BE FREE
The liberation is underway throughout the Garden State as the New Jersey Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries get set to stock another 4,270 two-year-old rainbow trout across 21 counties.

The Program

The “winter” stocking was instituted in 2000, and was spearheaded by now-retired principal fisheries biologist Bob Papson who saw the late autumn period – particularly the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend – as a prime time to enjoy trout fishing, especially since youngsters would be out of school and families could enjoy time together on the water.

Response was good, but could have been better, and the Bureau tweaked the stocking in 2006, when, instead of 9- to 10-inch rainbows, 2-year-olds measuring to 16 inches or better were stocked. It was same for the autumn stocking. This was in response to input from the trout stamp buying public, and to its credit, the Division of Fish & Wildlife gave its blessing to the change. As with the autumn releases, the overall number of rainbows being liberated was cut by half, but angler participation spiked and remains at a high level right to freeze over.

A bonus that the Bureau foresaw was the ice fishing potential. One glaring problem that was alleviated in 2016 was that a fair percentage of the waters were ensconced in county parks or other domains where hard water fishing was expressly prohibited for liability reasons. Hence, six venues were removed from the winter list and switched to the autumn roster. These included Lower Echo Park Pond, Verona Park Lake, Woodcliff Lake, Speedwell Lake and Mill Pond, and the month earlier stocking was greeted enthusiastically to say the least, as it offered extra weeks of fishing time as a hedge against an early freeze and subsequent angler lock out.

The lakes and ponds reach from Lake Ocquittunk in the north (Sussex County) to Ponder Lodge Pond in the south (Cape May County) and spread from Verona Park Lake in the east (Essex County) to South Vineland Park Pond in the southwest (Cumberland County) and include both rural, suburban and urban areas. As such, the program strikes a near-perfect balance for open water opportunities as well as those that avail themselves when safe ice shrouds the liquid skin.

“The ice fishing aspect was very important, and that’s why the change was made last year,” exposits Bureau boss Lisa Barno, adding “and we’ve found response to be extremely favorable. Those fishing the lakes and ponds where ice fishing is not permitted get to fish earlier in the fall. It’s a win-win all around.”

2017 11 Stocking Season Continues NETMINDER
More net-fulls of fish will be released on November 20 and 21 in the third and final round of the 2017 trout stock.

The Rewards

Unlimited potential, limited only by the creel limit of four fish. This time of year, most of the arboreal finery has submerged and settled, and the waters have cleared. This makes for ideal conditions whether doing the bait ‘n wait, working a spinner, spoon or downsized plug, or doing the hand twist with a nymph or stripping a streamer.

Of course, weather will play a part, as windy conditions nix the fly rod approach, and should the leaves have proven recalcitrant and are still swirling and/or matting topside and/or sitting just beneath the surface, makes the cast ‘n retrieve approach an exercise in hook clearing frustration. It pays rod bending dividends to be versatile.

Our SUVs each have ultra-light St. Croix spinning rods, one rigged for bait, the other for hardware, and Fenwick fly rods ready to go. Observe the conditions and decide the approach. One great part about the venues (and I write this as one with a very recent total hip replacement) is that it’s a short hike back to the vehicle to make a switch. Easy peasy.

Oh, yeah. About that existing four trout limit: look beyond the end of the rod tip. The trout you release will survive into the spring season, meaning that come opening day, you can catch one of these holdover heavyweights that will appear in stark contrast on your stringer to the 10-1/2-inch standard spring stockie.

To be clear: there is nothing wrong with harvesting a limit, and no one enjoys eating trout more than yours truly. But the rod bending benefits afforded later should give one for pause ‘n release.

2017 11 Stocking Season Continues Bridge
While some of the more popular locations could see shoulder-to-shoulder conditions for the fall run of rainbow trout, there are plenty of low key options to be found this month.

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