Everything from garden worms to Woolly Buggers will be cast into our state's streams and lakes as the opening of a new season begins next month. Here are eight places you should try!
Members of the Garden State fishing clan will be treated to another good spring of trout stockings during the 2005 season. Once again, the state-of-the-art Pequest Trout Hatchery has produced another bumper crop of rainbow, brown and brook trout. And thanks to the excellent production record of the hatchery and its staff, trout production has remained consistent for the last five years. Around 575,050 trout will be stocked this year.
The Pequest Trout Hatchery continues to consistently produce some 575,000 trout for New Jersey anglers each year. That's a lot of fish! Photo by J.B. Kasper.
Stocking numbers in the state’s 16 top trout streams, which have closed stocking dates, have remained just about the same for the past five years. As per the last several years, the Raritan River (North and South branches and the main river) will be the most heavily stocked stream in the state. The No. 2 stream will once again be the Musconetcong River, followed by the Flat Brook, Pequest and Rockaway rivers.
Thanks to good water levels and high survival rates, trout anglers will also have plenty of carryover trout from the 2004 fall and winter stockings. Better than 100,000 trout (including 2,000 breeders and 50,000-plus surplus trout) were stocked during the fall stocking program. In addition, 13,170 trout were stocked in November of 2004 as part of the winter trout-stocking program. Now here are some of our top picks for the 2005 season.
The “Muskie,” as the Garden State trout fishing clan knows it, has a rich history. It flows through valleys and farmlands. The numerous old mills and their dams provide scenic backdrops for some of the better trout pools. Stone railroad trestles and bridges are reflected in the river’s waters and are all part of the aura and mystique that the Musconetcong River possesses.
The water of the Musconetcong River begins below the dam of Lake Hopatcong and flows southwest into the lake. Both Hopatcong and Musconetcong lakes are stocked with trout. After the river leaves the lake, it flows through Furnace Pond and runs west along the Sussex/Morris county border. It then flows under U.S. Route 206, which is another access point. Flowing westward, the next access point is Kays Road, which parallels a railroad bridge. These areas are traditionally heavily stocked, since they are close to the towns of Netcong and Stanhope.
The river then flows through Waterloo Lakes and under Interstate 80. The section between I-80 and Kinney Road is another area of the stream that is a favorite of local trout fishermen. Waterloo Road parallels the river past Saxton Falls, through Stephens State Park on into the town of Hackettstown, where it meets state Route (SR) 57, and provides anglers with ample access along the way. Flowing southwest, the river widens in several places as it makes its way to Saxton Falls. This area is one of the most heavily stocked sections on the river and is also one of the most heavily fished. Its picturesque falls and pools have always been a favorite of trout fishermen and have graced many a calendar and magazine.
As the river enters Hackettstown, it passes through the portion of the Charles O’Hayford hatchery, known as the east hatchery, and then flows under U.S. Route 46. The portion of the stream that passes alongside of Hackettstown is heavily stocked and has ample access for the angler.
As the river makes its way from Hackettstown, it parallels SR 57 west as far as Port Murray. This stretch offers the best angler access, as there are several crossroads that lead to the river. Most of the bridges over the river on these crossroads are stocked, providing anglers with the chance to hop from bridge to bridge to check out the fishing.
Bridges are both access and stocking points. Many of the bridges are old stone structures with excellent pools located below them. There are plenty of quiet stretches with riffles that are ideal for dry-fly fishing. Some of the better areas are at the old dam site, downstream from the fire- house and the old mill pool in Stephensburg. The river and SR 57 split near Penwell; Penwell Road runs along the river for a short distance, which gives you access to the old milldam at Penwell. This area is a Seasonal Trout Conservation Area, which is a 1.2-mile stretch from the Penwell Road Bridge to the Mountain Road Bridge.
Another good stretch of river to fish lies along Musconetcong River Road, which is county Route 645. Musconetcong River Road runs parallel to the river from Mowder Road. The river is stocked at the four bridges that cross the stream here and also directly from the road in several places.
The last section of the river to mention flows between Warren Glen and the Delaware River. It is one of the better sections of river and is stocked heavily. The main access road to the river in this section is county Route 627, which parallels the river from SR 579 down to near Mt. Joy on the Delaware River. This stretch of river contains a smorgasbord of trout-holding structure. It contains a blend of eddies, small pools, undercut trees and runs with long, quiet stretches, deep pools, bridges and a dam.
Pohatcong Creek, from its head- waters in Washington Township to its confluence with the Delaware River, passes through some of the most pristine country settings of any stream in the state. Likewise, it also comes in contact with bastions of modern civilization like the busy town of Washington and Interstate Route 78, and routes 57, 31 and 519, all of which give you access to its waters.
Although Pohatcong Creek does not get all the hoopla that some of the more famous streams in the state receive, it surely is on a par with such streams as the South Branch, Musconetcong and Flat Brook. Pohatcong’s waters are supplied by a variety of streams and cold, clear springs, giving it a cool, clear water supply throughout the year. Another reason the stream’s water remains cool year ’round is that it flows through deep ravines and tree-shaded areas. Pohatcong Creek even flows through the mountains in two places via tunnels.
Some of the areas that are stocked along the uppermost stretch of the stream include the SR 31 bridge, along with Valley and Belvidere roads. If you like out-of-the-way trout fishing, the section that lies below the SR 31 bridge is one of the most secluded stretches on the river.
Once you reach the town of Washington, the stream begins to shrink in size and takes on the appearance of a small brook. In a lot of places along this stretch, the stream will flow along a flat, rocky bottom and be very shallow in nature. And then all of a sudden it’ll plummet into a deep hole. The stream is stocked at the SR 57 bridge, plus Edison Road and near the town of Broadway. Another good section is the portion of the creek that runs from Willow Grove Road through Stewartsville to SR 173.
Between routes 173 and 519 lies one of the most picturesque stretches on any stream in New Jersey; the creek flows through two tunnels and a good-sized gorge. It is stocked in numerous areas and Ravine Road is the access to its waters. Pohatcong Creek in this stretch offers some excellent fishing during times of poor weather, due to the high wall of the ravine and the sheltered nature of the creek in this section. Some of the deepest holes along the creek are found in this section and good-sized holdover trout are common here.
THE MANASQUAN RIVER
The Manasquan River is the state’s best-known middle state trout stream and is the home of Jersey’s Sea Run Brown Trout Program. As part of this program, the Division of Fish and Game has stocked better than 100,000 sea-run brown trout (30,000-plus a year) in the Manasquan River. Couple this with the river’s normal stocking and you have the most heavily stocked trout steam in the middle part of the state. In addition, the Manasquan Reservoir is also located on the river and is stocked with over 11,000 trout every year.
The Manasquan is stocked from the SR 9 bridge to the Manasquan Wildlife Management Area (WMA). One of the best stretches of the stream is located in the Manasquan River WMA. Access to the stream is along SR 524 from the north of Ramshorn Drive. This section is one of the wider stretches on the stream and is a favorite of fly- and spin-fishermen.
The river below the Hospital Road Bridge is another prime spot for trout anglers. This area is accented by undercut banks, overhanging vegetation and small pools. Wading is difficult here because of the soft bottom; however, shoreline access is good during the spring. Mealworms and garden hackle work best in this area.
The dam by the water works off Interstate 195 by the Allaire exit is another personal favorite. The pools above and below the dam are always well stocked and are very accessible. Both pools are good holdover waters and the river above and below the dam is easily waded and accessible from the shoreline. The river here has a sizable stretch that is full of small pools, runs and swifter water. Below the dam the river is more like a small mountain stream, except for its softer bottom.
Last, but not least, is the stretch that runs through Allaire State Park. Here, too, hoofing it is a prerequisite for fishing the stream, and most fishermen who fish the river on a regular basis prefer to wade into this section. Plenty of small runs shaded by over-hanging vegetation highlight this section.
SOME TOP SMALL STREAMS
The Black River is one of the state’s top small streams. Located in the north-central part of the state (on the border of Hunterdon and Somerset counties), the Black River annually receives 5,960 trout each spring. Another favorite of the fly-fishing clan, it possesses excellent spring-fed water. A typical freestone brook, it is prone to excellent bug hatches.
The most popular section of the stream is that which is located within Hacklebarney State Park, which gives the trout fishermen plenty of shaded pools, ripples and eddies to fish. This area requires a little hoofing to fish the better pools and runs, but the fishing is well worth the walk.
Lockatong Creek is located in Hunterdon County. Lockatong Creek is a fast-flowing brook that has plenty of small springs feeding into it. These springs provide pockets of cold water that hold trout through the year. Even though this creek is only stocked in the spring (with 3,500 fish), trout are still taken during the winter months, which lends credence to the fact that its waters stay cool enough to support trout through the summer.
Some of the top sections on the creek are the waters by the SR 519 bridge on the creek’s northern reaches. Another good spot is the section of water by the old mill located on Strimples Mill Road and the portion of the creek between Idell and the stream’s confluence with the D&R Canal. This section is part of the Wescott Nature Preserve. Just for your information, Lockatong Creek also contains a decent smallmouth population. Ripples, deep holes and shaded pools highlight this portion of the steam.
Anyone who is a serious trout fisherman in New Jersey is no stranger to the Capoolong Creek. Located in Hunterdon County by Pittstown, most of the creek is part of the Capoolong Creek WMA. A typical rocky brook, its cool waters flow into the South Branch of the Raritan River. A limited native trout reproduction has been documented in the stream. If you enjoy small-stream trout fishing, you’ll find good angling here on salmon eggs. The stream is also a fly- fisherman’s delight with plenty of bug hatches year ’round. Capoolong Creek receives 3,500 trout each spring.
Some of the better places to fish on the creek are the section that lies between SR 597 and White Bridge, the water around the SR 617 bridge and the old railroad trestle just up from the confluence of the creek and the South Branch.
This Mercer County brook is another one that is very much over- looked by the state’s trout-fishing fraternity, except for local anglers. Its waters are stocked from Woodsville off SR 31 to Port Mercer. Stony Brook eventually empties into Carnegie Lake.
A good variety of trout-holding structure can be found in the creek. During an average year, the creek’s spring-fed waters will support trout throughout the summer. One of the best stretches on the creek is located below the old dam site in Pennington. Another good spot is the water between Princeton Pike and Port Mercer on the creek’s lower section.
Delaware & Raritan Canal
Although not a stream, the D&R Canal is one waterway that traditionally receives a large helping of trout during the spring. It also receives the largest number of trout placed in a waterway without a closed date being in effect. Since the canal and the shoreline along both of its banks are a state park, it offers anglers unlimited access; this is one of the reasons why it is, and will continue to be, well stocked.
There you have it, a rundown of some of New Jersey’s best trout fishing waters to try. Is one or more of these picks near you?