An angling enigma to some and a “Shhh, good spot” to others, the 50-acre Lake Shenandoah ensconced within Lake Shenandoah County Park in Lakewood provides across-the-board opportunities for the likes of largemouth bass, chain pickerel, channel catfish, crappies, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish, as well as yellow and white perch. It’s stocked once in March and three times in April with rainbow trout for the spring season, and gets another dose in late November as part of the winter stocking program.
A cursory release of 100 muskies averaging 8.7 inches was made in 2012. Anecdotal reports of a few being caught over the last decade have been forwarded, but for all intents and purposes, figure them gone. This is not to say there can’t be a log-like monster lurking somewhere in the turbid confines, but it wouldn’t be a good bet.
Sporting a near-neutral, fish-friendly 6.65pH, Shenandoah is part of the Metedeconk River drainage. It has a maximum depth of 13 to 14 feet with a mean reach of 5 to 6 feet, but unlike its Lake Carasaljo kin above, its subsurface vegetation is sparse, although bladderwort and lily pads are present. Save for brushy extensions along the shoreline, the impoundment presents, on the overall, an “open water” type of fishing experience. The liquid skin complexion is on the dark side. Two small islands dot the swim. Forage base consists primarily of golden shiners, and panfish, which the bass, pickerel and channel cats feed heartily.
The spillway has a working fish ladder that hosts a short run of alewife herring every spring, and there are fishing areas to either side below the dam. However, no angling is permitted within 100 feet of the structure from March 1 through June 30. Still, this section of the southwest branch of the Metedeconk River which flows in to Forge Pond below offers decent shots at pickerel, crappies, bass, perch, and pickerel.
Shoreline access is at a premium. There are two docks that offer casting space out in to the open waters, while at intervals around the lake there are small paths leading to small shoreline cut outs where it’s possible to cast and maneuver baits. There is a concrete boat ramp/parking area located at Clover Street at the upper end that can handle boats to 16 feet (aluminum recommended). Power is limited to electric only. Bass ‘yakkers also launch here.
Shenandoah’s largemouth population is self-sustaining and steady. Electro-shocking by the NJ Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries revealed bass to 4-plus pounds, and there were two recent stockings of fingerlings via its Hackettstown Hatchery in 2020 and ‘21. The former saw 2,000 released, with another 2,300 the year after. These no doubt will solidify the mossback foundation into the future. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, buzzbaits, ribbontail and twister tail plastic worms, Rat-L Traps, suspending crankbaits, and creature baits are equal opportunity bass busters.
Channel cats remain the swim’s overachiever here for those seeking them. Whiskers to double digits will inhale the likes of live or cut sunfish, chicken livers, Berkley Gulp and PowerBait chunks, the Gulp Dip Bait, and chunks of hot dogs. Augmenting the strong population are periodic releases from Hackettstown. Between 2014 and 2020 (no stocking in 2019), 1,341 kitties averaging 13 to 16 inches were unleashed. These no doubt are growing quickly owing to the rich forage base, and at stocking size were available for immediate harvest as per the 12-inch minimum possession limit.
Rainbow trout get pretty heavy play during the spring and also during November into December. A bonus for the former is that the venue is open to catch and release fishing up to the 8 a.m. on the April 8 opener. In the spring of 2023, there will be 550 ‘bows stocked the week of March 27-31, then it’s a Monday dose of 420 trout on April 10, 17 and 24. The daily limit is six. PowerBait and Gulp! Dough and Nuggets, garlic and shrimp salmon eggs, kernel corn, butter worms, garden worms, mealworms, waxworms, spinners, and the Trout Magnet will load a stringer.
The omnipresent panfish, namely crappies, perch and the bigger sunnies, are suckers for 1- and 2-inch Mr. Twister Grubs on a 1/6-ounce jighead. Ditto fathead minnows or small killies under a bobber.
(This is the first in a six-part Hot Spot series for 2023 focusing on some of the smaller, often overlooked freshwater locations in the Garden State.)