Stocks are up on New Jersey’s streams, lakes, rivers & ponds.
The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s winter trout stocking the week of Thanksgiving continues giving through Christmas and sets it up for hot ice New Year season trouting. All totaled, another 4,480 trout deposit of thick-bodied 14-1/2- to 16-inch 2-year old rainbows are loosed in 18 lakes and ponds in 11 counties ranging from Sussex to Cape May the first two days of Thanksgiving Week.
Barely catching a breath from the 36 swim/20 counties/21,000-plus 14.2- to 23-inch rainbow payload during the October 8-16 autumn releases in north and central Garden State rivers, southern tier county lakes and ponds, and the Maurice River, just 40 days later is occasion for another select salmonid dosage.
To be sure, too much is not enough among Garden State trout fishing enthusiasts as the November stocking is eagerly awaited by trout hunters far and wide. The timing could not be better, and it was planned that way; youngsters are off from school from Thanksgiving Day through the weekend, and with the recently released rainbows getting their bearings and appetites within 24 to 36 hours of release into the new digs, well, it’s a great time to get the family out there fishing.
What’s more, on those venues where ice fishing is allowed, the trout certainly add a two-handed vermilion slash opportunity to the winter hardwater menu.
Two significant alterations to the Winter Stocking Program, which was to be comprised entirely of rainbow trout, started in 2001 included switching the releases to Thanksgiving Week in order to take advantage of the long holiday weekend, and halving the numbers but nearly double the weight of the standard stockie and anywhere from 4 to 6 inches longer. Wings to drumsticks, if you will.
Three years ago, several venues were switched from the November to the October program. Because of their locations in northern counties and being prone to early ice cover, plus being situated in park systems where through-the-hole fishing was not permitted, the move extended angler opportunity by at least a month in case skim ice formed with an early cold front.
Tactics that are successful in April and May will certainly work during November until ice up, with a few variations of course. Bait, hardware, flies…all will put still water rainbows on the stringer. It’s merely a matter if one prefers the bait ‘n wait game or instead likes to cast and move.
The Dough Boys
Berkley PowerBait, and its TurboDough and Gulp Dough siblings are synonymous with trout fishing success. Available in myriad colors and flavors, and some sporting glitter flakes, all will catch trout. However, there are days when one color and/or flavor is preferred over another. Why remains anyone’s guess, but it can pay in stringer weight to have a selection of a half-dozen and switch until the right bite is hit on.
Another consideration is adjusting the height of the presentation by re-positioning the split shot/slip sinker. A guy about 10 yards down the bank was using the same color Powerbait ball yet put a trio on the chain while yours truly could not buy a taste. Came to find out my bait was about 6 inches up out of the strike zone. The ‘bows were cruising closer to the bottom and would not give my bait a glance.
A newcomer to the Northeast’s floating paste/dough bait scene is Pautzke Fire Bait. We tried the yellow and brown glitter colors this past spring and soon discovered that the rainbows found it appetizing. They will be put to use again later this month.
Egg ‘em On
Angling eons before the PowerBait craze, salmon eggs were considered the best bait for rainbows. That they still work would be an understatement. Seems that no matter how many millions of generations are spawned in hatch houses and reared in concrete raceways, it’s in the ‘bows DNA to eat spawn, much more so than the brown or brookie.
Colors, scents and sizes may vary. Garlic, shrimp, cheese and corn-scented eggs are proven performers, and one or two suspended under a small “egg” bobber or balsa float will get inhaled. Again, switch ‘em up if one color or scent is not working.
A tandem of Berkley’s floating PowerEggs or floating Gulp Alive Eggs on a slip sinker rig are deadly, the latter especially when the waters are trending colder as late autumn progresses.
The Trout Magnet, originally designed for streams and rivers, is a lake and pond rainbow-wrecker worked on a go-stop-go retrieve, varying the seconds between letting the jig do its horizontal fall before twitching it back in motion. This is an ultra-light game, as the 1/64-ounce Magnet head and 1-inch nib of split tail plastic weigh next to nothing.
Think 2-pound test monofilament, or a thin diameter 4-pound connection such as Stren Magnathin to aid in achieving distance and keeping the Magnet moving in an unencumbered motion. Our fav fall colors include sassy, cotton candy, gainer, and orange/chartreuse. These or mated to either a gold, pink, black or chartreuse Magnet jig head.
In the case of windy conditions, a small clear casting bubble half-filled with water and clipped 15 to 18 inches above the Magnet will greatly add to getting distance.
Fly Bright, Plug Right
Rainbows are suckers for bright colors, and when conditions are favorable (read: no wind, the bare minimum of leaves on or just below the surface, no crowded bank sides, plenty of space behind for a back cast), we’ll opt for fly rods and streamers. The louder the hues the better. Following the k.i.s.s. routine, it’s tough to beat woolly bugger streamers when it comes to late autumn rainbow riding. White, pink and chartreuse in Nos. 6 and 8 are the bangers.
The only variable, besides switching colors if one is not producing, is varying the wait of sink time/rate of the strip retrieve. There’s no mistaking the strike to a streamer: it’s a solid thump, not unlike the hit to hardware.
Speaking of which, downsized plugs are players, especially during the early going, i.e. within a week, maybe two, of the stocking. The sinking Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnow 2-inch in gold/black, chartreuse), and Countdown Rapala Minnow (1- and 1-1/2-inch in silver/black, firetiger) run a foot below the surface are going to get crunched.
Not to be overlooked are spoons. The time-honored Phoebe (1/8-ounce in gold, blue/silver and firetiger on a slow-to-moderate retrieve is a big time rainbow spanker. Ditto the #00 Mepps Syclops in hot pink and also hot orange.
Keep in mind, the daily limit is four trout. You’ll also need that freshwater fishing license and a trout stamp for fishing those freshly stocked waters this month.