The train keeps a rollin’ – the New Jersey rainbow trout train, that is.
The October and November Rainbow Express will arrive before you know it, and it looks to be yet another banner fall (October) and winter (November) of trout fishing in the Garden State into the New Year.
With summer rapidly waning, and the roots of the autumn fishing and hunting bounties about to take root, there’s an eagerly awaited event on the sweet water side of the table that promises to sate the appetites of the trout fishing fraternity.
The October Trout Stocking!
This two-week top to almost bottom of the state release of 2-year-old robust rainbows (started in 2006) averaging 15 to 16 inches in length – in addition to a scattering of spent breeders in excess of 5 pounds – has become entrenched as one of most popular programs undertaken by the DEP’s bureau of freshwater fisheries. And then barely a month after the final stocking in October, another round of rainbow releases, albeit far less extensive but no less popular, takes place during the November stocking efforts.
Ed Conley, the superintendent of the Pequest Trout Hatchery, is pumped for the fall and winter programs. He and the crew, after a successful spring stocking season that saw close to 600,000 standard size 10.5-inch ‘bows, in addition to thousands of breeders to 6-plus pounds liberated in some 170 waters statewide, are, at press time readying for the Autumn Express.
“The 2-year old rainbows and the thousand or so breeders for the fall stocking are in great shape! Beautiful color and getting heavier by the day,” Conley said excitedly when we spoke back in August. “The same goes for the rainbows for the November stocking. I expect some great trout fishing to happen,” he added.
Indeed, from novice, to casual to expert rainbow rider, all will have reason to be on the stream or lakeside during this October and November salmonid-stuffed stretch of late season.
The Growth Cycle
This season’s stockies began life approximately 2 years ago. The cocks and hens have been carefully hand inspected and selected so as to assure full fins, best color and other ancillary indicators as to prime genetics. After being spawned and hatched, the offspring survived in the nursery building on self-supplied yolk sac provender for approximately two weeks. Then, it was a mash meal schedule for another three to four weeks, with the diameter of the feed gradually increasing during the next few months. They’ll be in the intensive (inside) culture until in the 2-1/2-inch range.
Once the pre-season and April stocking schedules commence, the baby rainbow trout are moved out of the nursery building and into the extensive culture scenario in the form of raceways, available once last spring’s rainbows were moved out. It’s now that the pellet feed size increases, gradually building to the 3-millimeter size. They’re shifted from raceway to raceway as they grow, and by 11 inches, the pellet size has grown to 5 millimeters, where it will remain until they are loaded in to the stocking trucks for October and November.
Meanwhile, the moves continue, granting the ‘bows more space for less stress, better growth, the majority in the 15- to 16-inch class, some a smidge shorter, some a bit longer, but all thick of shoulder, meaty and with an overall eye-popping appearance.
Scheduled For Release
The October stocking lists includes 36 venues in 20 of the Garden State’s 21 counties. The lone exception is Cape May County, which is generously addressed via its Ponderlodge Pond swim during the November winter program. At press time, a total of 20,670 rainbows (though it could be more), including the bonus breeders, will be loosed between Tuesday, October 10 and Wednesday, October 18. There are no closed waters, meaning one can cast and catch even while the breeders are being unleashed.
It’s a significant tone down for the November (winter) schedule. Started in ‘99 at the suggestion and thrust of principal freshwater fisheries biologist and long retired Bob “Pappy” Papson who recognized the possibility of prime family trout fishing time during the Thanksgiving week and weekend, select still waters around New Jersey would be the recipients of bonus ‘bows. These fish are also part of the production that provide the October numbers, but the fact that they have an extra month to grow is yet another plus.
An avid hardwater angler, Papson recognized the potential of said stocked waters, as per local regulation, as prime time ice fishing venues. Of course there was some tweaking, the most significant being moving the original stocking month and, in 2006, reducing the numbers and going with the two-year fish. The program is now firing on all cylinders!
Come November, 4,380 rainbows will be stocked in 18 waters in nine counties. This will take place the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. Thanksgiving weekend and beyond rod bending opportunities abound, especially in the southern tier county swims. Sans skim ice, these ‘bows will be biting their heads off well into the New Year. We’ve enjoyed pick ‘n pluck trouting through February, as water temps allow the fish to holdover, and they are constantly on the prowl, especially in the lakes and ponds. What’s more, in the northern waters where (hopefully) there will be safe ice next winter, these October and November rainbows offer through-the-hole-action.
North to south, east to west, it’s prime time for New Jersey trout from fall into winter; just keep in mind that the daily limit is four at the statewide 9-inch minimum.