Buckle Up for the Rainbow Ride! - The Fisherman

Buckle Up for the Rainbow Ride!

Buckle Up Rainbow Ride
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is releasing more than a half-million trout into local waters this season.

Our annual “stock report” for the April 8 trout kickoff shows  big dividends for early investors!

The 2017 crop of rainbow trout to be stocked this spring is invigorated, insolent and abundant, making for yet another banner spring-into-summer season.As with the 2015 and 2016 springtime stockings this year’s late March through late May projected Pequest payload will consist entirely of rainbows, with the projected baseline number from pre-season liberations until the final releases Friday, May 26 to be 569,980.

And that may prove to be yet another conservative count, as the aging-yet-amazing Pequest facility and its driven and committed crew has for multiple years (excluding the 2014 furunculosis debacle) produced thousands upon thousands of extra salmonids for the springtime stocking.

In 2016 for example, an incredible 611,455 trout were delivered to 179 venues from Saw Mill Lake in High Point State Park at the top of Sussex County to Ponder Lodge Pond in Lower Township, Cape May County, and there’s every reason to believe that this year will see a similar ‘bow bonanza.

Chasing Rainbows

The extremely contagious and ultimately fatal furunculosis outbreak in late 2013 into 2014 necessitated the euthanizing of in excess of a quarter-million standard size and breeder brook and brown trout and also included a substantial count of breeder rainbows. Needless to say, the spring 2014 stocking schedule was “organized chaos” as biologists with the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries devised, finalized and put into action a plan that saw an amalgam of unaffected and/or treated browns, brookies and rainbows – including breeders – stocked in what proved to be a Godzilla of an Opening Day through the second week of the season in many central and southern tier county swims.

That deposit also included urban and suburban venues in the northern region. Liberations there ceased, and the “Sweet 16” waters, along with a few others in the north received the remaining rainbows to close out a severely abbreviated spring stocking schedule.

Buckle Up Rainbow Ride Author
The author’s much better half shows off another Garden State trout taken on a trout spoon.

Both brookies and browns had proved fatally susceptible to the ultimately fatal pathogen, but rainbows, owing in part to a thicker layer of epidermal slime, illustrated a markedly apparent resistance to the disease. It was decided that the ‘bow was the way to go until the Pequest facility could be thoroughly rid of the possibility of another outbreak, and as you read this, efforts are still underway to guarantee that such a calamity won’t re-occur, but despite the ongoing efforts, there is no absolute when it comes to predicting the return of the brook or brown.

Related Pequest Trout Hatchery Superintendent Ed Connelly regarding the prevention of a future outbreak, “We’re draining and sterilizing raceways and testing the fish. There is a plan for solar covers over the raceways that is still being formulated and involves funding and right now that’s a waiting game. Browns and brook trout? Still a few years away at the earliest.”

From this corner, the absence of either brook trout or brown trout has been, on the overall, of little concern. I mean, which trout fisherman doesn’t miss the speckles, vermiculations and orange-tinged white fins of the early season brookie, or the deliberate take-the-bait or eyeball-the-fly sip of a mid to late black-spotted and tawny May brown? Evidently, not too many, at least for now as the potential for an outbreak is further eradicated.

Trout stamp holders want to catch trout, plain and simple, and the rainbow is the perfect quarry. Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries studies prove that the crimson-sashed, hard-fighting and oftentimes leaping eating machine is the most easily caught, from the gelid waters of early April to the reduced and warmer flows and depths from late May and, on more than a few waters, into the Father’s Day weekend and beyond.

What’s more, ‘bows are, by genetic antecedents, prone to mobility, i.e. they can be found appreciable distances up, down and/or around from stocking points, far more so than the more sedentary brown or brookie. This translates into spreading the catching opportunities from beyond the few yards where the nets are snapped.

Opening Day Rosters

This spring, expect the 569,980 baseline count to be distributed by noon, May 26. For Opening Day, there will have been 183,460 loosed, and these include several thousand 2-1/2- and 3-1/2-year old breeders ranging from 15-1/2 inches to 26 inches respectively and up to an eye-popping 7-plus pounds. Save for the most diminutive waters (Andover Junction Brook or Brookaloo Swamp, for example), the reality is that a drag-screamer could inhale your bait or hammer your hardware.

Buckle Up Rainbow Ride Troutjpg
Buckle up! New Jersey’s trout season officially reopens April 8 at 8 a.m.

“Every Opening Day load will include 2 percent breeders based on the number of trout being stocked,” explained Connelly, while adding “This shares the chances of catching a big trout around the state.”

This is compounded favorably by the Bureau’s “Bonus Brood Stock” program (see sidebar) wherein 10 select waters located throughout the state receive very generous dollops of breeder ‘bows, predicated on water body size, for the Opening Day rainbow rodeo. These swims are chosen on a rotating basis and goes a long way in firing-up not only the base, but newcomers to the thrills and pleasures of trout fishing in New Jersey.

Thousands of extra trout? It’s a beyond-safe bet, and these are habitually backloaded during weeks 5-7 (this year May 8 through May 26). The recipients are the more heavily fished waters in the northern section of the state, the corollary being that salmonid survival is reasonable through the summer, stretching the season. Many of these waters are classified as “Trout Maintenance,” thus providing salmonid opportunities through the summer swelter into the September cool-down.

From salmon eggs to stoneflies, plugs to PowerBait, worms to Wooly Buggers, the Garden State will deliver a prime time, rod bending rainbow ride. The weekly stocking schedule and numbers are available via www.njfishandwildlife.com and also the Trout Stocking Hotline (609-633-6765).

Trophy Watch Bonus Broodstock

For Opening Day, these select statewide waters  have been dosed with 30 to 50 breeder rainbows that can prove to be the trout of a lifetime.

Birch Grove Park Ponds (Atlantic County; 12 acres) – 50
Burnham Park Pond (Morris County; 4 acres) – 30
Dahnert’s Lake (Bergen County; 3 acres) – 30
Franklin Lake (Monmouth County; 15 acres) – 30
Hook’s Creek Lake (Monmouth County; 10 acres) – 50
Lowwr Echo Lake Park Pond (Union County; 6 acres) – 30
Mountain Farm Pond (Hunterdon County; 5 acres) – 30
Shaws Mill Pond (Cumberland County; 30 acres) – 50
Sylvan Lake (Burlington County; 12 acres) – 50
Verona Park Lake (Essex County; 13 acres) -50

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