Lake Ashroe - The Fisherman

Lake Ashroe

2018 12 Lake Ashroe
Now officially part of the Stokes State Forest, Lake Ashroe provides ample opportunity and access throughout the year, with its mean depth of 4 feet and max reach around 12 feet making it ideal for winter ice fishing. Chart image care of MapCarta (

A recent addition in 2017 to the 16,447-acre Stokes State Forest is Lake Ashroe, and the newcomer is delivering, as it had in the past under private ownership, excellent open water angling. This jumps a notch since the 44-acre impoundment, now under the auspices of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, is open to ice fishing, thus transforming the venue into a year-round rod bender.

Ashroe joins the Stokes tandem of trout-stuffed lakes Ocquittunk (8 acres) and Stony (15 acres).  Because of its size and hospitable habitat and forage base, Ashroe promises to deliver much in the way of big largemouth bass and specimen chain pickerel.  The yellow perch and crappies aren’t shorties either, and neither are the bluegill, the pumpkinseed sunfish, or the lariat-worthy bullheads.

Formerly part of the Kittatinny Boy Scout Reservation, Ashroe will prove a quick hit this winter if safe ice prevails. It certainly will add to the Sussex County roster of publicly-owned waters open to ice fishing, and the size fills the lineup between Lake Ocquittunk and the 494-acre Big Swartswood Lake.

Physically, the impoundment is in three sections, and save for a tiny cut out here and there, bankside access on all three is precluded by the heavy tree and brush cover that pretty much goes to water’s edge. As such, the only practical and productive way to fish Ashroe is from a canoe or kayak. Currently, the upper 2- to 3-acre chunk is reached by dropping a ‘yak or canoe over a guard rail on the right side of the Struble Road dividing line. The similar-sized middle portion can be reached via a short trail from the parking lot and, in order to reach the main body, requires a short, quick drag over a spit of land to either side of a footbridge.  No yak?  One can be rented from the Stokes State Forest by calling 973-948-3820.

Future plans include the construction of a gravel car-topper ramp with room for three to four vehicles, but this may not be in place until 2020.  Wading is at your own peril. Trust me on this one. Ashroe’s complexion is predicated on the season, ranging from crystal clear to stained, the bottom an amalgam of sand, muck, gravel, rocks and bigger rocks, with segments of long-fallen/sunken trees still in evidence. If wading is desired, by all means don polarized glasses and employ a wading staff, even if a young buck with lightning reflexes, sturdy knees and elasticized hips.

Weed cover is heavy by mid-spring and dominates through early autumn, receding as November progresses. There are flats, dips and drop-offs. The mean depth is approximately 4 feet, with the maximum reach in the neighborhood of 12 feet.  The diner-size menu forage base includes golden shiners, young-of-the-year and older sunfish, yellow perch and crappies, crayfish, salamanders, frogs and aquatic insect forms such as dragonfly nymphs and, from July into October, the adult dragons themselves.

The Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries conducted a token electro-shocking survey back in 1998, with the results showing a mixed neighborhood populace of largemouth bass, chain pickerel, brown bullheads, yellow perch, crappies, and bluegill and pumpkinseed sunnies. As the lake continued to be privately owned, there was no further population exploration.

However, rod and reel prospecting by knowledgeable locals as well as frequent visitors reveal a warmwater fishery that has three of the four bases covered, crossing home plate being up to a decision by the Bureau.

Bass are Ashroe’s heavy hitters, followed closely by chain pickerel. Largemouths to 2-1/2-plus pounds can be expected here, with pickerel to 25 inches or better not uncommon. Both provide good-to-excellent angling from late March through a mild November.

The kittie clan is well represented by the multitude of full-handed bullheads, but Ashroe is prime territory for channel cats to roam. Sources assure that there are enough channels being raised to legal possession (12-inches and longer) stocking size at the Hackettstown Hatchery facility to go around, and there would be whiskers available for the new Stokes swim. No doubt the forage bounty would add inches and girth quickly to this aggressive multi-level predator, the bonus being it also gloms offerings dangled through the ice.  Not to be ignored are the crappies and yellow perch to 12 inches and both breeds of palm-stretching sunfish, outstanding sport on ultralight tackle.

Lake Ashroe is quickly reached via Route 206 North (either from the Route 15 North/Jefferson exit or the Route 206 North/Newton exit, both off Route 80 West). Follow through Branchville, past the Stokes State Forest office (on the right), then making the first left onto Struble Road. Follow less than a mile, and the big “Lake Ashroe” sign and parking lot will be on the left.



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