The 75-acre acre Hammonton Lake in Atlantic County proves an anomaly, and a challenge, to bass fishing enthusiasts, yet is a swim that New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife southern region senior fisheries biologist Eric Boehm succinctly describes “As a good place to go have fun catching a variety fish.”
Hammonton boasts a wide open menu – largemouth, chain pickerel, crappies, yellow perch, sunfish and catfish, and rainbow trout stocked four times during the spring and once in October make for a year-round shallow water fishery sans any ice cover.
If there is a downside, it’s that bankside access is at a bit of a premium, relegated to several hundred yards of shoreline starting at the boat ramp on the upper end and then around the Hammonton Lake Canoe Club facility, then again to the right and down along a bulkhead to the rear of a cove. There is access through the brush and up again along the shoreline to a point where private property begins. There is also an open area on the lower section along Route 30 (White Horse Pike). All told, figure 400 to 500 yards of terra firma fishing ground around the venue, maybe a bit more.
The corollary is that this is an ideal venue for those with a platform, from bass boat to kayak. Power is restricted to electric-only. The concrete ramp is located in the park proper located off Sports Drive on the outskirts of town, and there is ample space for trailers.
Hammonton has a maximum depth of 10 feet with an average reach half that. The pH hovers a mark below the 7 neutral demarcation, coming in around 6 or so, still plenty fertile enough. The forage base consists of golden shiners, creek chubsuckers, young of the year panfish, and small bullheads. Both subsurface and surface vegetation (bladderwort, lily pads, and reeds) provide decent cover, as do the many docks and periodic laydowns along the shoreline. The channel extends from the left of the boat ramp up along that entire side of the impoundment. The opposite portion of the lake is primarily flats that are hot spots for bass during the spring and again as September melds to October.
The swim’s largemouth situation is vexing, for sure, as both Boehm and local bass sharpie Layne Ell, long time president of the South Jersey Kayak Bass Fishing Club and accomplished tournament competitor, agree. “For whatever reason, there’s a lack of bass in the 3- to 5-pound range. The ‘middle class’ is missing and it’s puzzling,” Ell said, adding “But if you put in the time, there are some big bass to be caught in Hammonton. They’re there, but you really have to figure them out.”
The last electro-fishing survey in ‘18 revealed solid numbers of bass in the 10- to 13-inch class, some longer, but very few in the coveted 3- to 5-pound plus area. Anecdotal catch reports of fish over the 5-pound mark exist, and Ell’s pair of personal bests tipped the scales at 6 pounds 4 ounces, and 7 pounds 2 ounces. Should you want to test your big bass skills, it’s here. And, if you want to enjoy a day lifting largemouth, this is the place.
Top offerings include wacky rigged Senko-type worms, Ned rigs and Texas rigged worms, and spinnerbaits armed with trailers like the Keitech Swing Impact and the Reaction Innovations Little Dipper. Ell swears by Chatterbait-style swim jigs tipped with the latter trailers especially after the shallow Hammonton does the rain stain. Not to overlooked are shallow running minnow-shaped crankbaits in silver/blue and silver/black. Some hot topwater implosions can be had with poppers, buzzbaits and, over the pads, frogs.
Chainsides get lengthy here, with fish in the 24- to 27-inch and over class not uncommon. They’ll ambush any lure meant for bass, and are wont to inhale a live shiner exercised under a bobber or live lined along the channel edges. Hammonton also has a healthy crappie population, and these will frequent the lake’s deeper holes. Hair jigs, Crappie Magnets, and the Mr. Twister Sassy Stingum have all put calicos on the fillet board. Ditto small a small shiner or minnow (killie). Yellow perch? See above.
A total of 1,900 rainbows, including a couple of dozen breeders to 20-plus inches were stocked in Hammonton in late March through April 25. As this is a put-and-take fishery, have no qualms about keeping any. Berkley PowerBait and Nuggets, and Gulp! Dough baits on a slip sinker rig are proven as are meal worms and garden worms, and small minnies under a float. We found a semi weed beater in the Nos. 1 and 2 Mepps Comet Combo spinners. Hammonton ‘bows hammer the pink/pink, and silver/white spinner/grub combinations.