Lunker Lakers Lurk Below
by Shawn Crouse
Assistant Fisheries Biologist
you love to fish for trout and you’re looking for an alternative to stream/river
fishing, try to drop your line at Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County.
Why? Because you might just hook into a bona fide trophy fish - a Lunker Laker!
October/November since 1978, Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists have slapped
on the foul-weather gear to venture out on Round
Valley Reservoir to survey the status of a true trophy fishery...Lunker Laker
trout (Salvelinus namaycush), reared at the Hackettstown
Hatchery, were stocked in this deep reservoir (maximum depth 160 feet) from
1977 until 1995. In 1985, evidence that natural reproduction was occurring within
the reservoir was documented. By 1995, it was determined that the population was
capable of maintaining itself by natural reproduction, thus stocking was discontinued.
Each fall gill nets are set overnight to capture lake trout of varying size
to document fish condition, diet, and natural reproduction. This year, netting
began on October 26 and continued until November 9. Eight experimental gillnets,
each having three different small mesh size openings, were used to capture a range
of lake trout from juveniles to sub-adults. Eight large-mesh gillnets (6" stretch
mesh) are set near the reservoir’s north and south dams to capture mature adult
lake trout as they begin congregating to spawn over the rocky substrate at the
north and south dams.
captured in the nets were measured and weighed to assess their physical condition
(relative weight analysis). In addition, sex, finclips and sexual development
information were also recorded. Stomachs of dying fish were examined and the majority
contained amphipods and chironomids (small aquatic invertebrates).
identifiable fish remains were found in any of the stomach contents, indicating
the alewife population is scarce. Normandeau
Associates, Inc. is currently conducting a multi-year nutrient and plankton
study to determine if productivity is at or near critical values and if Round
Valley Reservoir can support a sufficient alewife population.
This year, a total of 92 lake trout were captured, ranging in size from 10 to
40.75 inches. The largest lake trout captured was a 25.5 lbs. male. Since 2000,
25 of the 226 lakers (11%) caught with the large-mesh gillnets exceeded the 20
In addition to Round Valley, good size lakers can be found in Merrill
Creek Reservoir in Warren County. Many anglers are successful at catching
lakers from a boat throughout the year. (Just a reminder…there is a catch-and-release
only season for lake trout which began on September 16 and continues through November
30. Harvest will reopen on December 1.)
lake trout, Round Valley Reservoir has a 1 fish, 20-inch size limit, while Merrill
Creek Reservoir has a 2 fish, 15-inch size limit. See the Freshwater
Fishing Digest for other regulations.
for lakers can take many forms, however the most popular and probably the simplest
method is to drift live herring. A beginner may want to fish at various depths,
anywhere from 40 to 80 feet deep. When fishing at the shallower end of the spectrum
you may hook into brown or rainbow trout as well.
recent years, we’ve seen a tremendous number of big lakers being caught by anglers.
For me, part of the excitement of fishing is knowing that I have the potential
to hook into the fish of a lifetime like the current
state record lake trout which was caught at Round Valley Reservoir in May,
2002 - it weighed 32 lbs., 8 oz! If trophy trout interest you, Round Valley is
the place to be! Next time you get the urge to try your luck, consider fishing
in a boat at Round Valley Reservoir. As you can see from the photos on this page,
the lunkers are there!