Let the opening bell ring!
This year’s spring trout season looks like it will be another one for the books as the Pequest Trout Hatchery’s baseline figure of 570,150 rainbows will be stocked for Opening Day, April 7 through the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend.
But don’t let the above figure you fool you. Last year, the baseline ‘bow number was 569,980, but owing to the facility’s efficiency and high octane, crackerjack crew, an eye-popping total of 588,930 trout were actually liberated. I’ll do the math: that’s an extra 18,950 fish that were spread around during weeks five through seven of the in-season stocking schedule.
As the season progresses, the number of venues receiving trout is reduced, the corollary being that the number of anglers is also shrinking. This translates to off-the-charts late spring trout action for those who stick to it through the Father’s Day weekend, and, on certain swims, through the summer swelter.
By the Numbers
In the ‘17 spring mix were 7,380 spent breeder ‘bows that ranged from 16 to 25 inches, and these were released during the three week pre-season stocking period for Opening Day availability.
|DELAWARE REPORT – FIRST STATE DETAILS|
|Delaware’s freshwater trout program is a self-supporting put-and-take fishery in selected streams in northern New Castle County. The fees paid for trout stamps are used to purchase trout from commercial hatcheries. Rainbow, brown and/or brook trout are stocked in selected streams within two weeks of the spring opening date and for an additional period of time into the season. There also may be a supplemental fall stocking. Since Delaware stream temperatures are marginal at best for trout survival in the summer and no reproduction has been noted, stocked fish are meant to be taken. There’s no minimum size, a limit of six fish daily (four in restricted streams). For information or to report a violation, call 800-523-3336.
“Our baseline is 570,150 standard production (10-1/2-inch average) rainbows for the spring stocking season, with approximately 5,000 breeders also being stocked pre-season,” noted Ed Conley, the poker-faced superintendent of the Pequest Trout Hatchery. A slight twinkle to the eye held the possibility that, as in years past, there will be thousands of extra ‘bows-to-go during the latter weeks of the schedule. And that there may well be more than the projected number of jumbos that will go out as well.
But hey, the baseline figures are certainly creel-crowding and include an amalgam of 176 brooks, streams, rivers (or sections thereof), ponds, lakes and reservoirs that offer slap-your-mama trout fishing opportunities.
“Diversity,” that politically correct word that continues overtaking society, certainly has its roots in Garden State trouting, as methods, length limits, possession limits, or catch-and-release-only, all have found a place in a very crowded scheme of trout fishing things. Still, it all is working, as non-resident fishing license/trout stamp sales continue rising.
The big news for 2018 is the salvation regulations for “native” brook trout, the expansion of “wild” trout waters and the re-classification of select waters, their angling potential, hook restrictions and possession limit restrictions. Editorially, this is an article in and of itself, so for logistics and brevity reasons, refer to pages 9-11 and 21-23 in the 2018 Freshwater Fishing Digest available now in your local tackle shop.
Also, the Black River is no longer closed until 5 p.m. on its stocking day—the long hike to streamside and the dwindling interest in this premier Morris County freestone swim.
As a great incentive to spike interest in the urban and suburban put-and-take springtime trout fisheries, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries is continuing its “Bonus Brood Stock” stocking program (see sidebar). Ten ponds and lakes in northern, southern and central New Jersey are stocked pre-Opening Day, on a yearly rotating basis, with 30 to 50 additional 3-1/2-year-old spent breeder ’bows, some in excess of 7 pounds. These numbers are included in the respective venue’s pre-season stocking count.
“It (the program) is a great way to introduce new anglers, especially youngsters, in these areas to trout fishing,” said Bureau Chief Lisa Barno, adding “and the sizes of these rainbows can make them a trout of a lifetime.”
Locked & Loaded
Not to be overlooked, especially as April melts into May are the “small ball” stocked waters that are ‘bowgraced weekly well into May. These include the Capoolong Creek (Hunterdon), Peapack Brook (Somerset), Lockatong Creek, Spruce Run Creek and Mulhockaway Creek (Hunterdon County), Little Flat Brook, Lubbers Run, Clove Brook, Culver’s Creek and Franklin Pond Creek (Sussex County), Saddle River (Bergen County), Ringwood Brook (Passaic County) Lopatcong Creek (Warren County), Hockhockson Brook and Mingamahone Brook (Monmouth County), and India Brook (Morris County) that are dosed five times.
The featureless-but ‘bow-loaded Delaware Raritan Feeder Canal (Mercer and Hunterdon counties) is stocked six times, as is the Black River (Morris County).
And there are loads that are loaded four times. But who’s counting?
What generally happens is that by the last week in April or the first week in May, trout fishing attentions are re-focused on those swims with closed (no fishing until 5 p.m.) stocking dates. The Ramapo, Big Flat Brook, Musconetcong, Pequest, Wanaque, East and West branches of the Paulinskill, the Pohoatcong Creek, the North and South branches of the Metedeconk, the Manasquan, the North and South Branches of the Raritan, the Rockaway and the Toms become the locus of the trout fishing focus—and those waters not stocked a week or two prior are then vacant of anglers, not trout.
Start time is 8 a.m. Saturday, April 7. For those (like me) who need to slake the salmonid thirst as the drake cardinals are trilling and the bud tops are squeezing into the lengthening sunlight, there are waters open to catch-and-release trout fishing. These include the Trout Conservation Areas on the Musconetcong, Toms, Pequannock and Pequest rivers, the catch-and-release beats of the South Branch of the Raritan River and the Big Flat Brook, and on the Lawrence Brook from the Church Lane Bridge up to the Davidson’s Mill Road Bridge. Lakes Musconetcong, Prospertown, Mountain, Big Swartswood and Hopatcong and Round Valley and Merrill Creek reservoirs are also open.
The daily limit on stocked waters is six trout with a 9-inch minimum length limit. This continues through Memorial Day when the daily limit drops to four. Be sure to double check, then check again, the myriad regulations on pages 20-23 in the 2018 Freshwater Fishing Digest.
Visit www.njfishandwildlife.com, click on the Freshwater Fishing Link then the Trout Fishing link and then go to Trout Allocation & Day Stocked. It’s all there. Or, call the Trout Stocking Hotline 609-633-6765.
|BONUS TROUT – BROODSTOCK DEPOSITS|
|The Bonus Broodstock numbers for Opening Day 2018 are as follows.
» Woodcliff Lake (Hudson County/15 acres): 50
» West Hudson Park Pond (Hudson County/4 acres): 30
» Ponderlodge Pond (Cape May County/7 acres): 30
» Crystal Lake (Burlington County/20 acres): 50
» Amwell Lake (Hunterdon County/10 acres): 50
» Oak Pond (Camden County/12 acres): 50
» Giampetro Park Pond (Cumberland County/11 acres): 50
» Seely’s Pond (Union County/3 acres): 30
» Holmdel Park Pond (Monmouth County/3 acres) 30