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Highlights of Proposed 2014-2015 Fish Code Regulation Changes

September 13, 2013

New Jersey's Fish and Game Council, and the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is proposing amendments to the 2014 - 2015 Fish Code. The proposed amendments will be published in the September 16, 2013 New Jersey Register, initiating the sixty day public comment period which will end on November 15, 2013. (See the Notice of Rule Proposal at for a link to the full proposal.) The Fish Code governs when, by what means, at which locations, in what numbers, and at what sizes, fish may be pursued, caught, killed, or possessed in fresh waters of the state.

Since the turn of the century, the Fish Code has provided a system for the protection, propagation, introduction and conservation of freshwater fish in this State and for their use and development for public recreation and food supply. Biennial revisions of season dates, creel limits and other regulations based on scientific investigation and research ensures the greatest likelihood of success in reaching these goals.

A public hearing concerning the proposed amendments will be held on October 8, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at:

NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife - Central Region Office
East Branch - Eldridge Road
Assunpink Wildlife Management Area
Robbinsville, NJ 08691

Submit written comments electronically beginning September 16, 2013 and by November 15, 2013 at

The Fish and Game Council (Council) encourages electronic submittal of comments. In the alternative, comments may be submitted on paper to:

Gary J. Brower, Esq.
ATTN: 05-13-08
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
Mail Code 401-04L; PO Box 402
401 East State Street, 4th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Highlights of the proposed regulation changes appear below. For a more complete summary of the proposed rule changes please refer to the DEP Notice of Rule Proposal or the September 16, 2013, New Jersey Register N.J.A.C. 7:25-6.

Currently the 4.2-mile section of the Big Flat Brook is regulated as a fly fishing water except during the first nine days of the season when both spin and fly fishing gear may be used, bait and artificial lures other than flies are permitted, except for the Blewett Tract where anglers are restricted to fly fishing at all times. Until recently it was believed that the Blewett property was deed-restricted for this fly fishing regulation. However, a copy of the deed (obtained by Trout Unlimited) revealed that no such deed restriction exists.

Although the stretch has gear restrictions, it carries a liberal harvest limit of six trout, minimum size is 9 inches, per day from Opening Day to May 31, and 4 trout at all other times. Fishing is not permitted during the three-week pre-season period. In addition, the stream is closed to fishing on the seven Fridays after Opening Day (from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m) when trout are stocked.

In 2010 Trout Unlimited proposed a change in regulations for the lowermost 1.3 miles, from the top of the Blewett Tract downstream to the Roy bridge (Table 1), to a Year Round Trout Conservation Area. At the time the Division lacked sufficient data to either support or oppose the recommendation. The Division believed additional information was required in order to determine if the proposal as presented would benefit both the resource and the majority of anglers fishing the Flat Brook.

Additional data collected by the Division included; On-site angler creel survey (2011), Electrofishing Surveys (2012/2013), Trout Angler Surveys (Telephone (app. 1,300) and On-line (app. 1,700)), Angler Log Books (2012), and Water Temperature (initiated Aug 2012).

Electrofishing surveys conducted during the summer of 2007, 2012 and 2013 indicate very few trout remaining by mid-summer. The low number of trout may be a result of one or more factors, including significant harvest by anglers and/or a variety of ecological conditions.

To determine the role harvest plays in limited trout availability, the Council proposes year round catch and release regulations for the 4.2 mile stretch, from the Route 206 stretch downstream to the Roy bridge. The regulations should result in an increase in trout abundance, improve catch rates, and ultimately enhanced angler satisfaction. As hooking mortality is higher with live bait than with artificial lures and flies, the possession or use of bait is proposed to be prohibited at all times. For similar reasons, artificially enhanced substances are also proposed to be prohibited. A 2012 Trout Angler Survey indicate that 11% of anglers who fish the first nine days of the season in the fly stretch use bait. The current gear restriction for fly fishing is also proposed to be amended to allow spin fishing and artificial lures and flies for the entire 4.2 mile stretch, including the Blewett Tract. The Division will continue to monitor the fisheries population in response to any regulatory change.

Electrofishing surveys of the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River indicate an increasing wild population of brook, brown and rainbow trout. This 2.5-mile stretch is currently regulated as a Year Round Trout Conservation Area with a 15-inch minimum size, one trout per day limit. 99.5 percent of trout captured during the surveys are less than the 15-inch minimum size indicating the harvest of these larger trout may be preventing the fishery to fully develop to its potential. Angler catch records provide further evidence of the low occurrence of larger trout, with 96 percent of the 1,197 reportedly caught, measuring less than fifteen inches. The catch and release only regulations will provide protection to the fishery and lead to the availability of larger fish for anglers, resulting in enhanced angling success and satisfaction. This section of the South Branch is already restricted to the use of artificial lures and flies.

The Council proposes to remove catch and release regulations for largemouth and smallmouth bass in Lake Audrey (Cumberland) and establish a 15 inch minimum size limit and a daily creel and possession limit of three for largemouth and smallmouth bass in the lake. Lake Audrey is a 120 acre borrow pit acquired by the Department in 2004. The low pH waters were neutralized with 136 tons of lime and then subsequently stocked by the Division with a variety of warmwater species including smallmouth bass.

In 2010, catch and release regulations for bass were instituted to protect the developing smallmouth bass fishery unique to South Jersey waters. The current catch and release regulations have not provided the intended results of a trophy fishery for smallmouth bass due to the illegal harvest of smallmouth bass, angler introduction of largemouth bass and unstable pH levels. Electrofishing surveys completed from 2007 to 2012 show a decrease in the smallmouth bass population and an increasing largemouth population. The pH levels initially stabilized by liming have also dropped with levels as low as 4.5 documented. These low pH levels are not conducive to supporting a reproducing smallmouth bass population. Meanwhile largemouth bass continue to demonstrate good growth rates.

Managing Lake Audrey under more liberal bass regulations will continue to provide protection of the lake's existing fish population, while providing anglers with more opportunity to utilize the lake. Due to the restrictive catch and release regulations few anglers have utilized the lake since the fish population deteriorated in 2011.

Franklin Lake (Monmouth) - Franklin Lake(15 acres), located just three miles away in West Long Branch, is proposed to be added in place of Lake Takanasee to the Division's trout stocking program. Franklin Lake is publically accessible with 75% of its shoreline open to angling. It has adequate parking, and its addition will maintain trout stocking opportunities within the local area. If approved, Franklin Lake would receive approximately 1,170 trout and would be stocked once pre-season, and three times in-season.

Manalapan Lake (Middlesex) - Manalapan Lake is a 45 acre impoundment located in Thompson County Park. The lake conditions are desirable for a put and take seasonal trout fishery, including 70% of its shoreline accessible for fishing, minimal shoreline vegetation, and a car top boat launch. Plans are underway for construction of a formal boat launch in 2013/2014. The lake is limited to electric motors only. There are only four trout stocked waters within 10 miles of Manalapan Lake. If added Manalapan Lake would receive app. 1,870 trout, and would be stocked pre-season and three times in-season.
Note: Located within 6 miles from Farrington Lake, proposed to be dropped from the Division trout stocking program, Manalapan Lake offers local anglers an alternative trout stocking location with better access and an increased stocking density.

Mountain Lake (Warren) - Mountain Lake was removed from the Division's trout stocking program in 2006 due to the lake's large size and limited public access which resulted in poor angler turnout. Since that time, Liberty Township has acquired property along the shoreline which has improved public access. The Council proposes reinstating trout stocking to acknowledge the Township's efforts towards improving angling access. Mountain Lake would be stocked pre-season only. Due to the presence of other early season fisheries such as muskellunge the Council also proposes to exempt Mountain Lake from the pre-season stocking closure to allow muskellunge fishing to continue during the three week closure. All trout caught during the pre-season closure period would have to be immediately released.

Nomahegan Park Pond (Union) - Nomahegan Park Pond is located within the 95 acre Nomahegan Park in Cranford. The pond is currently being dredged and is scheduled to be completed at the end of this year. 100% of the shoreline is accessible for fishing and offers excellent opportunities for local anglers. Although there are 11other trout stocked waterbodies within a ten mile radius the surrounding urban area results in high angler participation in nearby waters. Opening day angler counts at Lower Echo Park Pond, located only 1.2 miles away, demonstrates the high angler use in the area with 88 to 111 anglers on opening day.

Farrington Lake (Middlesex) - Large lakes, such as Farrington Lake, yield lower return rates for trout resulting in low angler success and interest comparative to their size. Due to the large size of the lake and the limited number of trout raised by the State, the trout allocation formula allocates less than 3 trout/acre, which is significantly less than smaller waterbodies that can be stocked at higher densities and often result in higher angler catch rates. To improve their success, the majority of anglers fish the stream that feeds Farrington Lake at the base of the next upstream dam. This upstream reach is actually part of Lawrence Brook which is currently stocked by the Division below the lake. The Council proposes to no longer stock Farrington Lake, from the Church Lane bridge downstream to the Farrington Lake dam, but plans to continue to stock upstream of the Church Lane bridge up to Davidson's Mill Pond dam as part of Lawrence Brook (see redefined boundary delineation for Lawrence Brook). Farrington Lake supports a variety of warmwater fish species and will continue to provide excellent fishing opportunities for species other than trout.

Shadow Lake (Monmouth) - was re-instated to the Division's trout stocking program in 1996 in the anticipation of planned improvements by the county that would greatly improve public access. Although certain aspects of the project have occurred, they have not resulted in significant improvement in public access and future improvements appear unlikely. Due to limited public access angler participation is low indicated by opening day angler counts in 2005 (15 anglers), 2006 (7 anglers), 2011 (16 anglers) and in 2013 (18 anglers) with only six trout caught.

Lake Takanasee (Monmouth) - The bulkhead at Takanassee Lake, 14 acre lake in Long Branch, was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy resulting in draining of the lake. The timeframe for completing bulkhead repairs and refilling the lake is uncertain. The lake is immediately adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and periodic saltwater intrusion has impacted the lake's freshwater fisheries including the viability of stocked trout.
Note: Franklin Lake (15 acres), located just three miles away in West Long Branch, is proposed to be added in place of Lake Takanasee to the Division's trout stocking program.

The Council proposes to extend the upstream boundary of the trout-stocked section of Lawrence Brook upstream to the Davidson's Mill Pond dam. Although trout are currently stocked from the base of Davidson's Mill Pond dam downstream to Farrington Lake, this area is not delineated as trout stocked and therefore fishing during the pre-season closure is not prohibited. This proposed change would properly identify the brook's upstream boundary and extend the pre-season fishing closure an additional one-half mile. The Council also proposes to continue to allow anglers to fish for early season fisheries such as northern pike from Davidson's Mill Road bridge downstream to Farrington Lake by exempting this portion of Lawrence Brook from the pre-season stocking closure.

Tilcon Lake is approximately an 88 acre lake located within Allamuchy Mountain State Park. The lake is approximately 53 feet deep. Dissolved oxygen/temperature profiles completed in 2007 and 2008 indicate the lake has 26-28 feet of trout supporting water. Although not currently stocked with trout under the Division's trout stocking program it has been stocked with fingerling surplus trout from the Pequest Trout Hatchery. Tilcon is being considered for the introduction of landlocked salmon. The establishment of a landlocked salmon fishery in Tilcon Lake would enhance recreational fishing opportunities for this unique species in our state. Tilcon Lake would be the 3rd water stocked with salmon (in addition to lake Aeroflex and Lake Wawayanda). By designating Tilcon Lake to as a Holdover Trout Lakes will institute a 12" minimum size limit, with a daily creel of 2 salmon per day.

Although there are significant concerns regarding migratory and coastal stocks of herring, landlocked alewife populations in lakes are considered stable. As such, the Council proposes in to increase the daily creel of landlocked alewife herring, for personal use, from 10 to 35 in freshwater lakes in Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties and Spruce Run Reservoir in Hunterdon. Landlocked herring taken from lakes within these counties may only be used on the lake from which they were taken. Due to the difficulty of distinguishing between landlocked and migratory species of herring, any unused herring must be returned to the waterbody upon the conclusion of the angler's fishing trip. They may not be transported away from the shoreline of the lake by any mechanism. This change is consistent with the Emergency Closure Notice issued by the Fish and Game Council, in March 2012, and with requirements contained within ASMFC approved fishery management plans.

The Council proposes that an ice fishing device be limited to a single line. As more creative devices, both commercially manufactured and personally devised, are being used by anglers, the Council deems it necessary to restrict ice supported tip-ups, fishing rods and hand lines to a single line per device. The restriction would prevent anglers from attaching multiple lines to each device which would circumvent the original intent of the five device limit.

The Council proposes to require that traps for the taking of snapping turtles be set so that the topmost two inches of the trap remains exposed above the surface of the water and that flotation devices in the traps be designed to maintain the trap afloat for 24 hours. Turtle harvesters are currently required to check their traps every 24 hours. These amendments will provide definitive, enforceable standards that will ensure the survival of both targeted and untargeted turtle species that need to reach the surface to breathe.

The Council also proposes that the harvest of snapping turtles be prohibited from waters that are subject to a Department of Environmental Protection (Department) fish consumption advisory, for the general population, for any fish species of "do not harvest," "do not eat," or "no more than one meal per year." These advisories are updated regularly and published in the Department's Fish Smart, Eat Smart publication and can be found at

Snapping turtles are harvested for the sole purpose of human consumption. Currently, the Department lacks data on contaminant levels of dioxins, PCB's or mercury in snapping turtle tissue. Bioaccumulation of these contaminants is known to occur through the food chain. As snapping turtles are a long lived, top level predator to many of the fish species currently tested by the Department, the Council proposes to use the established advisories for fish to prohibit the harvest of snapping turtles in waters that warrant the most serious fish consumption advisories.

Fish consumption advisories are developed through a scientific process that includes collecting samples of fish from waters throughout the State and analyzing them for various chemical contaminants, such as dioxin, PCBs and mercury. The contaminant levels in the fish are then evaluated using Federal guidelines for protecting human health.

In March 2012, the Fish and Game Council issued an Emergency Closure Notice, under N.J.A.C. 7:25-6.17, for all migratory alewife and blueback herring fisheries to comply with requirements contained within fishery management plans approved by the ASMFC. These plans prohibit both the recreational and commercial harvest of river herring in waters of states, such as New Jersey, that have not been proven to have sustainable herring fisheries. In order to comply with the required fishery closure for migratory herring, while still allowing landlocked fisheries to remain open the Fish and Game Council in coordination with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, issued the following Emergency Notice:

1. The possession, take, attempt to take, sale or purchase of alewife or blueback herring from any freshwater stream or river is prohibited.

2. Up to ten alewife or blueback herring, no greater than six inches in length, may be taken for personal use, from freshwater lakes in Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties, and from Spruce Run Reservoir, located in Hunterdon County. Landlocked herring taken from lakes within these counties may only be used on the lake from which they were taken. Any unused herring must be returned to the waterbody upon the conclusion of the angler's fishing trip. They may not be transported away from the shoreline of the lake by any mechanism. They may not be sold.

3. For all other freshwater lakes, regardless of ownership (public or private) only purchased herring, no greater than six inches in length, may be possessed for up to seven days from date of purchase, when accompanied by a receipt. The receipt must list the name, address and telephone number of the place of purchase, date of purchase, and quantity purchased. This receipt must be without erasures or alterations of any kind and must have a control number.

The closure prohibits the possession, take or sale of alewife or blueback herring from any freshwater stream or river. The Council proposes to reflect this closure in the State Fish Code as part of this proposal, as well as proposing to increase the daily limit, for personal use, on landlocked herring from ten to 35 per day in freshwater lakes within counties specified above.

In March 2013, the Fish and Game Council issued an Emergency Closure Notice, under N.J.A.C. 7:25-6.17, to close all State waters American shad fisheries (both commercial and recreational), with the exception of the Delaware Bay, and Delaware River and its tributaries to comply with requirements contained within fishery management plans approved by the ASMFC. The Council proposes to reflect this closure in the State Fish Code. Angling regulations remain unchanged for the Delaware River and its tributaries, with three fish allowed per day.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: September 13, 2013