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Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery - 2008 Broodstock Collection

by Craig Lemon
Hatchery Superintendent
June, 2008


The 2008 spring trapnetting season began on March 12 when a crew from the Hackettstown Hatchery set four trapnets in Spruce Run Reservoir to collect northern pike broodfish. A productive trap netting season on Spruce Run Reservoir in 2007 convinced the hatchery crew to return with nets and try to repeat last years results. The trap nets were fished in Spruce Run Reservoir from March 12-March 24.

A total of 13 northern pike were captured and transported back to the hatchery for spawning. This number was a disappointment from the 37 total captured over a period of 13 days in 2007. Water temperatures ranged from 39 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit over this period. The 7 male pike ranged in length from 21.6 - 29.6 inches and weighed an average of 2.93 pounds. The 2 females ranged in size from 24.2 - 28.8 inches and weighed an average of 5.65 pounds.

With the first couple of days at Spruce Run Reservoir being unproductive, the Hackettstown crew set three trap nets in the old northern pike stand-by, Budd Lake. Trap nets were fished from March 14th - March 25th. Over the eleven-day netting period in Budd Lake, the crew captured a total of 166 northern pike of which 117 were males and 35 were females.

Employee with pike
Seasonal employee Linda Morschauser with a 10.35 - pound female northern pike captured in Budd Lake.
Click to enlarge
Staff with two pike
Seasonal employees Tyler Tressler and Ryan Votta holding a pair of nice northern pike females trapnetted from Budd Lake.
Click to enlarge

Towards the end of the spawning period only female pike were brought back to the hatchery. This is a significant increase from the 2007 harvest of 64. Male pike ranged in length from 19.2 - 29.6 inches and weighed an average of 2.9 pounds. Female pike were considerably larger at 21.4 - 38.8 inches and averaged 6.73 pounds. Water temps ranged from 38 - 44 degrees.

Eggs were collected from both Spruce Run Reservoir and Budd Lake northern females. The total egg production for 2008 was 690,778 of which 59.0%, or 405,251, hatched. The hatch rate is comparable to the long-term rate of approximately 65%. Over the next two-month period, the number of pike will be culled down to the 25,000 top-quality six to seven-inch fingerlings for stocking in New Jersey lakes.

The Hackettstown crew began their walleye broodstock collection season on March 26th when they set one Pennsylvania and one South Dakota-style trapnet in the mouth of Neldon Brook at Swartswood Lake. The second highest season total of 326 adult walleyes were captured just below the old record set in 2007 of 352.

Male walleyes ranged in size from 13.8 - 22 inches, weighing .85 - 4.45 pounds. Females ranged from 17.4 - 28.7 inches in length and 2.25 - 11.2 pounds in weight. The average Swartswood Lake walleye was 20.2 inches long, exceeding the minimum size limit of 18 inches, and weighed 3.6 pounds. A remarkable 65 females weighing over 5 pounds made up 20% of the overall catch!

Seasonal worker Nick Healy displaying an 11.2-pound female walleye from Swartswood Lake.
Click to enlarge

The catch was composed of 205 males and 115 females. Ninety-eight females were spawned to produce 10.6 million eggs, an average of 108,163 eggs per female. The netting crew hit the peak of the walleye spawning season perfectly, as 98 of the 115 females (85%) were running ripe with eggs at the time of capture.

Swartswood Lake Walleye Broodfish
Average Sizes from 2000-2008
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Average Weight
2.39 2.7 2.65 2.95 2.9 3.77 3.39 3.41 3.6
Average Length
18 18.4 18.8 19.1 18.9 20.4 19.6 19.8 20.2
Walleyes Over 10 Pounds Trapnetted From Swartswood Lake Since 2000
  Date Trapnetted Sex Weight (lbs.) Length (Inches) Condition
1 3/29/2004 Female 13.58 29.8 Unripe
2 3/28/2004 Female 12.32 29 Ripe
3 3/28/2002 Female 11.7 29 Unripe
4 4/6/2005 Female 11.58 28.6 Ripe
5 3/27/2002 Female 11.38 27.8 Ripe
6 4/2/2008 Female 11.2 28.7 Ripe
7 4/6/2005 Female 11 29 Ripe
8 4/3/2007 Female 10.7 28.8 Unripe
9 4/9/2007 Female 10.4 28 Ripe
10 4/6/2001 Female 10.3 29 Unripe
11 3/27/2004 Female 10.16 27 Unripe
12 4/2/2006 Female 10.06 29.2 Spent
13 4/6/2005 Female 10.04 28.8 Ripe

About 1.2 million 3-day old fry were set up in hatchery ponds for growout and another 1.1 million fry were stocked in the Delaware River between Poxono and Belvidere. The expected hatchery pond production of walleye fingerlings is about 300,000 two-inchers and 35,000 four-inchers.

On April 8th, the Hackettstown Hatchery trapnetting crew moved their operations north to Greenwood Lake in search of muskellunge broodstock. The trapnetters were successful, capturing a total of 35 muskies, the highest total since 37 were captured in 1999.

The Greenwood catch consisted of 23 males and 11 females. The males ranged in length from 30.2 - 44 inches and weighed from 7.25 - 20.8 pounds. The females ranged from 37.2 - 48.5 inches and weighed from 13.75 - 36 pounds. The 36-pound 48.5-inch female captured on April 8th was the heaviest muskie the hatchery has captured since it started broodstock collection efforts in 1996. She was captured running ripe with eggs and the crew spawned 113,829 eggs from her that afternoon.

The final 2008 broodstock collection lake was Echo Lake Reservoir, part of the Newark Watershed Reservoir System. Four trapnets were set and fished between April 14th and April 23rd. In just over a week, the crew captured 36 muskies, the highest number ever, surpassing 2004's mark of 26.

Another important fact was that of the 19 females captured, 12 of them came into the hatchery running ripe with eggs. The males ranged in size from 33.2 - 41.6 inches and weighed between 8.75 - 15.9 pounds. The females ranged from 34.4 - 46.5 inches and weighed between 9.25 - 25.75 pounds.

Greenwood Lake Muskie Tag Information
Tag # Capture Date Sex Weight Length
133 4/22/2007 Male 14.5 41
4/8/2008 14.95 41
158 4/19/2007 Male 9.9 33.8
4/13/2008 11.8 35.8
218 4/19/2007 Male 15.65 38.8
4/10/2008 15.8 38.8
Number and Largest Muskie Trapnetted in Echo Lake Reservoir (1998-2008)
Year Total Catch Sex Weight (lbs) Length
1998 19 Female 24.2 45.7
1999 14 Female 25.3 47.4
2000 No Trapnets Set Due To Low Water Levels
2001 4 Female 31.1 48.5
2002 No Trapnets Set Due To Low Water Levels
2003 20 Female 30.9 49
2004 26 Female 31.5 50.4
2005 13 Female 28.9 49
2006 20 Female 23.5 45.4
2007 18 Female 19.9 44.3
2008 36 Female 25.8 46.5

Large muskie
Seasonal employee Steve Jeffries holding a 25.8-pound Leech Lake strain muskie from Echo Lake Reservoir.
Click to enlarge

In all, 18 female muskies produced a total of 1,173,592 eggs, an average of 65,200 eggs per female. The eggs hatched at a rate of about 51%, which is comparable to other years. Muskie fry will be raised to 10-inch advanced fingerlings in hatchery tanks and ponds at which time they will be stocked.

On top of the 18 female muskies used to produce the million purebred muskie eggs to be utilized in State, eleven other females were also spawned with 30 male northern pike captured from Budd Lake earlier in the collection season to produce 427,000 tiger muskie eggs. Over the past two seasons, the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation has requested the Division's Hackettstown Hatchery to supply them with 100,000 swimup tiger muskie fry. Prior to the fish trade and movement restrictions that have been placed on many of the Great Lake States, New York was able to acquire these fry from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Echo Lake Reservoir Tag Information
Tag # Capture Date Sex Weight Length
167 4/3/2007 Female 16.2 42.5
4/14/2008 15.9 43
102 4/29/2007 Female 18 43.3
4/23/2008 19 43
170 4/20/2006 Female 20.8 43.8
4/14/2008 25.5 45.8
203 4/25/2006 Male 6.05 29.6
4/14/2008 11.6 37.1
187 4/23/2006 Male 12.55 38.8
4/15/2008 13.45 40
186 4/20/2006 Male 14.9 40
4/23/2008 13.45 40
44 4/18/2005 Male 12.34 37.8
4/25/2007 13.75 39.2
4/23/2008 14.05 40
185 4/20/2006 Male 14.05 39
4/14/2008 15.25 40.1

Stripping walleye eggs
Hatchery Technician Jim Oross spawning one of the many large female walleyes captured during 2008 trapnetting at Swartswood Lake.
Click to enlarge

All broodstock collected for use in the hatchery programs were transported to the hatchery where the spawn taking operations are performed by hatchery personnel. Within a week of spawning the fish are returned to the waters where they were collected.

All adult muskies handled at the hatchery over the past several years have been tagged with orange streamer tags inserted near the base of the dorsal fin. The tags bear the message "CALL HACKETTSTOWN HATCHERY (908) 852-4950" along with a tag number. Anglers who call in to report catching a tagged fish will be told when the fish was tagged, and its length and weight at the time of tagging. Three previously tagged fish from Greenwood Lake and eight from Echo Lake were captured during the 2008 broodstock collection.

The purpose of the Hackettstown Hatchery's broodstock program is to provide the eggs from which fish are raised at the hatchery. All fish raised at the Hackettstown Hatchery are stocked in public waters throughout the state to provide recreational fishing for licensed anglers and their families.

In coordination with State fisheries biologists, the Hackettstown Hatchery is raising the following numbers of muskellunge, tiger muskies, and walleyes to meet the state's needs for for 2008:

24,520 northern pike fingerlings for stocking in:
Cranberry Lake (Sussex County); Pompton Lake and Pompton River (Passaic County); Spruce Run Reservoir (Hunterdon County); Budd Lake (Morris County); Farrington Lake (Middlesex County); Deal Lake (Monmouth County); Millstone River and the Passaic River.

11,111 muskellunge for stocking in:
Greenwood Lake, Monksville Reservoir and Echo Lake Reservoir (Passaic County); Lake Hopatcong (Morris and Sussex Counties), D&R Canal 10-mile stretch (Somerset and Mercer Counties); Manasquan Reservoir (Monmouth County); Carnegie Lake and Mercer Lake (Mercer County); Mountain Lake and Furnace Lake (Warren County); Shenandoah Lake (Ocean County); Little Swartswood Lake (Sussex County); and Cooper River Park Lake (Camden County).

207,950 walleyes for stocking in:
Lake Hopatcong (Morris County), Swartswood Lake (Sussex County), Greenwood Lake (Passaic County), Canistear Reservoir (Sussex County), and Monksville Reservoir (Passaic County).

The hatchery also raises 13 other species of fish for waters throughout the state - see the Hackettstown Hatchery Production and Stocking Summaries for details.

Below are summary tables of fish collected in spring, 2008.

BUDD LAKE 12 166 25.4 38.8 3.78 13.9
SPRUCE RUN RESERVOIR 13 13 25.2 29.6 3.53 6.1

ECHO LAKE RESERVOIR 10 36 40.6 46.5 16.3 25.8
GREENWOOD LAKE 12 35 36.9 48.5 13.0 36.0

SWARTSWOOD LAKE 8 326 20.2 28.7 3.6 11.2

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Last Updated: June 10, 2008