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2008 Trout Fishing Outlook

By Pat Hamilton
Principal Fisheries Biologist
March 14, 2008

As spring approaches, so too, does the opening day of New Jersey's trout season. Many anglers have already marked their calendars for the big day, Saturday, April 5 at 8 a.m. This day is the single, most eagerly anticipated, day of the year for anglers who like to wet their lines for trout. Fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family and friends. Fishing is easy! All the information you need to get started trout fishing in New Jersey is right here.

This spring over 570,000 brook, brown, and rainbow trout reared at the Pequest Trout Hatchery will be stocked into 89 streams and 90 ponds and lakes throughout New Jersey. Nearly 1/3 of these trout (181,800) will be stocked prior to opening day. Most of the spring-stocked trout will average 10½ inches, but there's always a chance of hooking one of the big broodstock trout that are also stocked each spring. I'm betting that more than just a few of the 14 -16" long trout stocked last fall or winter are alive and well, just waiting to be caught this spring. Since every county has waters that are stocked with trout, trout fishing opportunities are never too far away.

Here are a few highlights that will be of particular interest to trout anglers this year. The statewide minimum size on trout has been increased from 7 to 9 inches. The lake trout regulation at Round Valley Reservoir has also changed significantly - see page 20 of the Freshwater Digest.

Two new waters have been added to the stocking program this year (Manny's Pond and Mountain Farm Pond in Hunterdon County). and stocking has been expanded on two streams (Rahway River, Essex County and Hohokus Brook, Bergen County). Trout stocking resumes at Dahnert's Lake in Garfield, Bergen County, and has been temporarily suspended in two waters (Mill Pond, Bergen County and Harrisonville Lake, Salem County). Two waters have been permanently dropped from the stocking program (Barkers Mill Brook, Warren County, and Bostwick Lake, Cumberland County) The spring trout allocations for most waters have changed little from last year, with several exceptions (Hohokus Brook, Rahway River, Wanaque River, and Swartswood Lake), Nine waters will be stocked with bonus broodstock trout.

Anglers with bonus broodstock
Hook's Creek Lake was one location for bonus broodstock in 2007.
Click to enlarge
Photo courtesy Jim Velcheck - WCC volunteer

As of mid-March stream flows look good and everything is a "go" in terms of trout stocking. The stocking trucks start rolling on Monday, March 17 and most waters will be amply stocked with trout by opening day. The in-season stocking schedule does change from year to year, so you may want to double-check this year's schedule to learn when your favorite water will be stocked after opening day. Any deviations from the stocking schedule will be noted on the linked page and on the 24/7 Trout Hotline (609-633-6765).

While springtime is generally considered to be the best time of the year to fish for trout, it certainly isn't the only time. Anglers can enjoy great trout fishing year round in the Garden State. Fish and Wildlife also stocks trout in the fall and winter, and these 2-year old trout are much bigger than the yearling trout stocked in the spring. You can also try your luck fishing for wild, naturally reproduced trout that were born in the stream and not in the hatchery. Landlocked salmon, lake trout, and sea-run brown trout round out New Jersey's repertoire of coldwater sportfish.

The outlook for trout fishing in New Jersey is GREAT! Provided below is a rundown, complete with details, on what's new and in store for trout anglers in 2008, as well as other helpful information.

Minimum Size Increased to 9 Inches

Anglers are advised that the size limit for brook, brown and rainbow trout has increased from seven to nine inches. This change is not anticipated to impact anglers fishing for stocked trout, which typically exceed nine inches. However, anglers fishing waters with reproducing trout populations may encounter wild trout that are smaller than the new minimum size. The 9-inch size limit will protect these smaller, naturally reproduced trout from over-harvest. This new size limit is in effect statewide and also applies to designated wild trout streams and holdover trout lakes.

New Lake Trout Regulation for Round Valley Reservoir
In recent years the growth of lake trout in Round Valley has slowed down because of declining numbers of alewife (herring), their preferred food. As a result, small lakers (less than 20 inches) far outnumber the larger ones. The new regulation is designed to restore a more balanced and desirable population size structure by reducing the number of small lake trout.

Anglers will play a key role in improving the quality of the reservoir's trout fishery by harvesting 3 lakers between 15 and 20 inches. Lakers in this size range are excellent table fare and a delicious recipe for smoked trout can be found on page 30 of the Freshwater Digest. Anglers may also keep 1 large laker (over 24 inches). All lake trout caught that measure 20 - 24 inches must be immediately released. For more information concerning recent management activities, read the article Spotlight on Round Valley Reservoir.

  Tempting Places to Trout Fish Before Opening Day (March 19 - April 4)

Most trout-stocked waters are closed to fishing during the 3 weeks leading up to opening day March 17 - April 5 at 8 a.m.). But during this time there are waters that remain open for trout fishing. Here are some great options to consider.
Round Valley brown trout
A holdover brown trout caught from shore at Round Valley Reservoir in February, 2008
Click to enlarge
Trout Conservation Areas (TCA's)
On March 17, all the Seasonal and Year Round TCA's are stocked with trout (except the Claremont stretch on the S/Br. Raritan River, where trout reproduce and stocking is not warranted). It's catch & release fishing at its best, but only artificial lures & flies may be used during this period. See page 19 of the Freshwater Digest for regulation details and driving directions.

Holdover and Trophy Trout Lakes
These special regulation lakes are open for fishing year round. During the three week period before opening day, trout can be harvested from the Trophy Trout Lakes (Merrill Creek & Round Valley Reservoirs), at the Holdover Trout Lakes while at the Holdover Trout Lakes it's catch and release for trout. Shoreline fishing at Round Valley really heats up during this period, so even if you don't have a boat, you can do quite well fishing from shore. As noted above, the lake trout regulation has changed at Round Valley Reservoir.

Anglers should take note that Swartswood Lake is no longer be regulated as a Holdover Trout Lake. Now the lake is more appropriately being managed as a seasonal, rather than year round trout fishery. As in the past, Swartswood Lake will remain open to fishing during the three week pre-season stocking closure, however, all trout caught must be released.

Page 20 of the Freshwater Digest lists all the Holdover and Trophy Trout Lakes and applicable regulations.

Wild Trout Streams
You have your pick of 36 designated WTS scattered across northern tier of the state, where your biggest prize of the day might be a 8 or 9-inch wild and wily trout. The minimum size on trout has been increased from 7 to 9 inches on the Wild Trout Streams this year (note that several streams have a higher size limit on brown trout).

Also new to the program is a four-mile stretch of the Wanaque River, from the Wanaque Reservoir dam downstream to the Wanaque Avenue Bridge. This section of the Wanaque has a proven ability to produce brown trout in excess of 12 inches, with some fish exceeding 20 inches. A 12-inch minimum size is in effect for brown trout, and for brook and rainbow trout the new 9-inch size limit applies. As a result of the Wild Trout designation, this section (which includes Back Beach Park) will no longer be stocked with trout.

A Wild Trout Stream can be fished all year long, and artificial lure and flies must be used at all times. Two trout (species combined) may be kept starting April 5 at 8 a.m. through September 15. At other times of the year all trout caught must be promptly returned to the water (catch & release only)

See page 20 of the Freshwater Digest for a list of all Wild Trout Streams and applicable regulations.

New Waters Stocked with Trout

Manny's Pond and Mountain Farm Pond, located in two Hunterdon County Parks, are new additions to the spring stocking program this year. Manny's Pond is in Hoffmans Park and Mountain Farm Pond is in the Teetertown Preserve. Most of the trout-stocked waters in Hunterdon County are streams, which can be challenging for young anglers to fish. These small ponds are great places to take the family fishing for trout.

Spring Trout Allocations & Changes to Individual Waters

The spring allocations have been generated using our computerized database which takes into account a variety of characteristics, including waterbody size, access, seasonal or year round trout fishery, etc. The weekly allocations (and the day of the week stocked) for each trout-stocked water can be found at www.njfishandwildlife.com/trt_allocation08_dates.htm. Significant changes from last year's allocations are as follows:

Trout stocking opportunities have been expanded in two waters - Hohokus Brook (Bergen County) and the Rahway River (Essex County). The trout stocked section of Hohokus Brook has been extended from Whites Pond to the confluence of the Saddle River. The trout stocked section of the Rahway River is extended from Union up into the West Branch of the Rahway River in Essex County, from Campbell's Pond to Glen Avenue. These new stetches will increase trout fishing opportunities on these streams by 1½ miles, and the number of trout stocked in these waters will be increased accordingly.

Trout stocking resumes at Dahnert's Lake in Garfield, Bergen County. The restoration project on this 3-acre lake has been completed and the lake is now suitable for trout stocking. The lake will receive a total of 790 trout this spring. Dahnert's is also a Bonus Broodstock Water, and so it will also receive an extra allotment of large broodstock in time for opening day.

Stocking has been temporarily suspended in two waters that are not suitable for stocking this spring because of ongoing dam repairs (Mill Pond, Bergen County, and Harrisonvile Lake, Cumberland County). Stocking has been permanently discontinued in Barker's Mill Brook (Warren County) due to concerns with the impact of cultured trout on the wild brook trout population in this small stream. The dam at Bostwick Lake (a municipally owned lake in Gloucester County) which suddenly failed in 2000, has not been repaired so trout stocking has been discontinued at this lake as well.

Fewer trout will be stocked in the lower Wanaque River (since the section now regulated as a Wild Trout Stream will no longer be stocked) and in Swartswood Lake. This Sussex County lake is now being managed for a seasonal put-and-take trout fishery rather than a year round trout fishery. With this change the lake will receive fewer trout than in the past, and will be stocked earlier during the seven-week in-season period (during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Weeks following Opening Day). This scheduling change will give anglers a longer opportunity to catch the stocked trout before the onset of summer and warmer water temperatures. Brook and rainbow trout will be stocked in addition to brown trout, and the lake will also begin receiving a helping of larger broodstock trout. As in the past, Swartswood Lake will remain open to fishing during the three weeks prior to opening day to give anglers a chance to fish for other popular fish species, especially walleyes. During this period all trout caught must be immediately released.

Trout Plentiful for Opening Day - 181,000 Freshly Stocked Trout Await Anglers

Over 181,000 trout will be stocked during the 3 weeks leading up to opening day. Last year water conditions were great on opening day, especially on the streams, and angler turn out was high.

The action was generally spotty on large streams, while some ponds were real hotspots according to our opening day angler counts and surveys. Fish and Wildlife staff and Wildlife Conservation Corps volunteers conduct these informal surveys, so don't be surprised if someone approaches you the morning to record your fishing success.

Where Are the Trout-stocked Waters?

Trout-stocked waters are listed by county in the Freshwater Digest on pages 16-17 (those with no in-season stocking closures) closed and page 18 (those having in-season stocking closures). Finding these waters, including specific access locations along streams, has never been easier. Check the access links below.

 

Happy young anglers
Kids enjoy opening day 2007.
Click to enlarge

When are Waters Stocked with Trout, and How Many Will Be Stocked?

The weekly spring allocations and the day of stocking for each trout-stocked water are conveniently summarized in a 6-page handout. Or you may call the Trout Hotline 609-633-6878 to learn the stocking schedule for the week of your choosing. The schedule does change from year to year, so it is a good idea to check this year's schedule before heading out to fish to avoid disappointment.

The week by week in-season stocking schedule can be found at www.njfishandwildlife.com/trtstk08.htm.

The BIG Ones - Where Are They?

Nine ponds and lakes will receive Bonus Broodstock this year. Each year a different set of waters is selected statewide, and there's bound to be an opportunity near to you. These 9 waterbodies generally receive 30 - 50 of these big trout that are 14 - 19" and weigh upwards of 5 pounds. The odds of catching a big one are in your favor if you try one of these waters. Anglers had a blast last year catching these lunkers at Hook's Creek Lake (photo at top).

Don't worry if you can't get to one of these nine waters, Broodstock troutare also sprinkled in with the loads of 10-11 inch trout that go out before opening day to all waters (except the smallest of streams that can't accommodate these big fish, and the Holdover/Trophy Trout Lakes, where the regular- sized stocked trout can grow big on their own).

In the fall and winter, Fish and Wildlife stocks big, 14 -16" trout. Some of them, maybe a lot of them, are still waiting to be caught.

Bonus Broodstock Ponds and Lakes

Raritan River trout
The Raritan River is a favorite of trout anglers.
Click to enlarge

"Hook-a-Winner" With a New Twist

For the 10th year in a row, Fish and Wildlife will place "Hook-a-Winner" jaw-tags on trout that are stocked in the spring. As in the past, 1,000 brook trout will be tagged and stocked before opening day. Anglers who catch a Hook-a-Winner trout can claim their prize (a certificate and pin) by contacting the Pequest Trout Hatchery and they will be automatically entered into a special contest sponsored by the State Council of Trout Unlimited.The tradition of awarding rod and reel combos to 12 lucky anglers will continue this year.

Hook-a-Winner Program

Landlocked Salmon - This Could Be the Year

Since 2006, yearling (7") salmon have been annually stocked each May in Lake Aeroflex and Lake Wawayanda. Some of these salmon should be legal size (12 inches) this year. More salmon will be stocked this spring and Fish and Wildlife will continue to monitor this unique, developing fishery and keep anglers apprised.

Landlocked Salmon in New Jersey

Fall & Winter-stocked Trout - the Big Ones Are Here to Stay!

Fish and Wildlife will continue to stock 14-16" trout under the fall and winter trout stocking programs. The responses we received from anglers who went fishing for the trout stocked last fall and winter were overwhelming positive. More of the same is in store for anglers later this year. The trout allocations and stocking schedule will be announced later on in the year.

Getting Started Fishing for Trout - Techniques & Tips

Helpful tips for beginners and seasoned anglers can be found in the Trout Fishing Facts & Information document linked below. Many tips are found in the 2007 Freshwater Digest on pages 42-43. Don't forget to purchase a fishing license and trout stamp if you are 16 years or older. Children under 16 and New Jersey residents 70 years and older can fish for free. Licenses and stamps may be obtained through one of the many license agents statewide, or online.

Trout Fishing Facts & Information (When, Where, How) (pdf, 18kb)

ADDITIONAL LINKS

arrow Spring 2008 Trout Fishing Information
arrow Spring 2008 Trout Allocations with Day Stocked
arrow Weekly Stocking Schedules
arrow Bonus Broodstock Ponds and Lakes
arrow Fishing Access to NJ Trout Waters - Alphabetical Listing
arrow Fishing Access to NJ Trout Waters - Listed by County
arrow Places to Fish - Streams
arrow Places to Fish - Ponds
arrow "Hook-a-Winner" Program
arrow Trout Fishing Facts & Information (When, Where, How) (pdf, 18kb)
arrow Sea Run Brown Trout
arrow 2008 Trout Regulations (pdf, 175kb)
arrow License Information
arrow General Fishing Regulations
 
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Last Updated: March 14, 2008