Mountain Lake - The Fisherman

Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake map image
Mountain Lake map image courtesy of Navionics

Mountain Lake gets its name from Jenny Jump Mountain overlooking its glacial 122 acres. Located in Liberty Township, Warren County, its maximum depth is 38 feet, mean depth 17 feet. Although trout get stocked once in the spring prior to opening day, any holdovers are unlikely because the lake becomes anoxic in the depths during summer, no oxygen present below the thermocline.

Known mostly for muskies, the lake is also a largemouth bass hotspot, and according to Pat Hamilton, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist, Pequest River watershed, black crappies here are well-established. Pickerel are present among the flourishing varieties of aquatic vegetation, too.

For now, muskies don’t grow quite as large here as elsewhere. Hamilton said, “Scott Collenburg, another biologist, sampled all the lakes we stock muskies in. The muskies are smaller and more numerous in Mountain Lake.” She added, “We’ve been overstocking the lake. It’s close to the hatchery, so it tends to be the recipient of surplus. We’ve dropped the stocking rate on muskies from two fish per acre to one fish per acre.” Since fewer muskies are getting stocked now, bigger may be likely in the future.

Hamilton noted that during recent electroshock samplings, sunfish—a musky forage staple—are lacking in number and small. No yellow perch turned up during these efforts, either, though historically they have existed here. Since the hatchery doesn’t raise them, Hamilton hopes they “get them from another water body and move them.” Suckers exist in the lake as likely forage, however, and soon the state will stock golden shiners.

Hamilton says samplings don’t assess alewife herring populations, but she believes from reports they are present. She says muskies might feed on them among weeds where herring spawn during spring. Hamilton also suggested muskies feed on stocked trout, but more important, she’s working with Muskies Inc., planning on installing log/timber crib structures within the coming year. They will provide cover for sunfish and should bolster that population.

Mountain Lake chart image
Mountain Lake chart image courtesy of Navionics Boating app.

Most anglers in New Jersey abide by an unwritten law of catch and release for muskies, but in any case, Mountain Lake does have a March 20 to May 20 closure on harvest. “It’s kind of a relic from when we initiated our stocking program,” Hamilton said, “It was more related to us using lakes, where we have the muskies, as our broodstock lakes. And they do use an anesthetic called Tricane.” A 21-day withdraw period exists after a musky affected by the drug is released during this closure period. Hamilton says this means the public is protected against ingesting Tricane, technically named MS222, although Mountain Lake isn’t used for broodstock.

Muskies get caught year ‘round, whether from weedbeds and along deep edges of weedlines during warm months, or through the ice. Outsize plugs and spinners prove effective, and Hamilton pointed out that some use trout for bait when ice fishing. Shoreline stretches on both sides of the lake feature steep weedy drop-offs where muskies take refuge along the bottom edge of the green stuff, possibly snatching a sucker on occasion, and rushing up from below upon sunfish highlighted above. The steepest is to the left of the launch ramp.

Largemouths and crappies position among weeds, too, and especially the flats of the lake’s two ends can be productive for bass this time of year. Topwater plugs tempt very good-size bass in weed pockets around sunrise and sunset. During the fall, these flats remain productive, and as the weeds die off in October, action while casting spinnerbaits can be arm-yanking any time of day.

The hardcore contingent who fish bass or muskies in the cold of November and later should not overlook that steepest shoreline. Gamefish like to move along the steepest drop-offs in cold water, where they don’t have to burn many calories to rise from depths to shallows if a rise in temperatures occasions some activity. Jigs or slow-rolled spinnerbaits work for bass, and deep-diving crankbaits might be a choice for muskies. Try breaking up retrieves by long pauses to mimic sunfish when using suspending varieties.

During April when most anglers at Mountain Lake are interested in trout, the possibility of catching the biggest bass might interest you. Cast large in-line spinners over residual weeds, or during a calm evening after a warm day, tease bass by subtly twitching a Senko rigged Wacky.

A $5 fee is due at a well-constructed ramp for boats limited to electric power. The lake is worth more than the price.



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