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The Missing Record Sea Run Trout

by Mark Boriek
Principal Fisheries Biologist
November, 2004

There's something missing on the State Freshwater Record Fish List:

New Jersey Record Trout
Species Lbs. Oz. Year Angler Where Caught
Trout, brook 7 3 1995 Andrew DuJack Rockaway River
Trout, brown 21 6 1995 Lenny Saccente Round Valley Reservoir
Trout, brown sea run **Vacant** (Minimum Weight 5 Lbs.)
Trout, lake 32 8 2002 Gregory Young Round Valley Reservoir
Trout, rainbow 13 0 1988 Gene Rutkoski Lake Hopatcong

Kind of stands out, doesn't it? The absence of an outstanding record sea run brown trout? The actual fish and angler are also outstanding: Strong, wary, one of the most difficult fish in the world to catch and the dedicated, tightlipped anglers that pursue them, usually for neither fame or glory.

Zane Grey, the great storyteller of the American West, once said, "The fight of a sea trout is thus stronger than that of a brown trout and, if possible, even more active and full of quick turns ... I prefer a good fresh run sea trout, of three or four pounds, in a river on a single-handed rod and fine tackle to anything else." Fine praise indeed from a man who spent every spare minute fishing throughout the world.

Catches, Near Catches -- Anonymous Anglers' Accounts & Tips

While a few sea runs have been reported (112), it is our opinion that many more are being caught but not reported. Sea run anglers tend to be a secretive bunch, and as stated above, "one of the most difficult fish in the world to catch." With some prodding I was able to get a few to open up regarding their passion for sea run browns, but only under conditions of anonymity. Here are their stories:

Sea run brown trout "I lost one on a spinner behind Allaire State Park in January '04. I'm guessing it was at least 5 lbs. I fish with 4 lb. test so the fight didn't last long, but I got a good look at it though and it was definitely a sea run. It looked like a steelhead. I am switching to Fireline with a 10 lb. leader and I will use live bait. Later in the winter I will switch back to artificials. I like using lures because I can cover more water."

"The time is now to catch 'em...Browns spawn in the fall and they are up in the Manasquan River...heading down early sat morning...bringing both spinning and fly rod...with tons of shrimp imitations and Clouser minnows...talked to a buddy of mine said he was down there last weekend and caught one sea-run 18 inches on a sandworm...and a load of decent stockers..."

"A guide I was talking to last year suggested getting out into the channel of the Manasquan River at Lightning Jack's Marina, either on a regular boat or even a canoe/kayak. There is little boat traffic there this time of year. He said find the channel and put your bait on the drop off, and there are trout sitting there. The big ones use the structure just like the other species that frequent the area."

"I was in my boat with a friend, fishing for weakfish in shallow water at the turn to the Glimmer Glass (an embayment of the Manasquan R.). Using a Storm soft bait with a teaser I hooked what I at first thought was a weakfish. Upon landing it, I realized that it was a sea run brown trout - silvery on top and kind of golden on the sides, twenty four inches long and probably about 4 lbs. My friend then hooked a similar sized, strong fish but lost it. I then released the sea run."

Questions and Answers

Below are some questions that were posed to Paul Hopwood. He fishes at night for sea run browns in the United Kingdom (www.seatroutfishing.net) and hopes that his site will be informative to all sea trout anglers from all over the world.

Q. A lot of anglers think that sea run brown trout in the Manasquan River are bogus. Some refer to sea trout there as "Nessy" (Loch Ness Monster). Do you agree?
A. THEY ARE SO ELUSIVE AT TIMES I THINK THEY ARE LIKE NESSY - THEY ARE THERE 1 MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT!

Q. How much more difficult is it to catch a sea trout than a freshwater brown trout?
A. TOTALLY DIFFERENT - BROWN TROUT FEED - SEA TROUT DON'T REALLY FEED - THEY ARE LIKE THE SALMON - HOWEVER THEY DO TEND TO TAKE MORE FREELY THAN OUR SALMON. TACTICALLY YOU CAN FISH FOR SEA TROUT AS YOU DO FOR BROWN TROUT - THE SAME METHODS SHOULD TAKE (THEY ARE GENETICALLY THE SAME FISH) HOWEVER THEY ARE FAR SHYER AND ARE NOT INCLINED TO TAKE A BAIT IN THE WAY A BROWNIE WOULD!

Q. I don't think that Manasquan River anglers can comprehend how hard it is to catch these fish. How many do you catch in a season for how many hours fished?
A. THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION - ON A GOOD SEASON I WOULD EXPECT TO CATCH A FISH NEARLY EVERY VISIT IF THE CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT - HOWEVER I WOULD SAY 1 FISH EVERY 24 HOURS IS ABOUT THE NORM - TAKEN OVER A SEASON - SOME NIGHTS I WILL CATCH 6-10 OTHERS NOTHING.

Q. What would you consider a good catch rate - the number of sea trout caught divided by number of hours fished?
A. I COULDN'T BE EXACT - I KNOW THE MAN-HOURS TO CATCH AN ATLANTIC SALMON IN THE UK IS 1 FISH PER 3000 HOURS FISHED! SEA TROUT ARE FUNNY. AS I'VE SAID, SOME NIGHTS ARE HARD - OTHERS ARE BRILLIANT! I WILL TRY TO BE MORE PRECISE IN THE NEAR FUTURE - BUT REALISTICALLY I HAVE A LOT OF BLANK NIGHTS.

Q. How many years have you been fishing for sea runs?
A. ABOUT 17 YEARS

Q. How many have you landed in total?
A. I WOULD SAY ABOUT 250 - 300 I DON'T KEEP RUNNING TOTALS.

Q. What was your largest?
A. 8.5lbs., BUT I'VE LOST MANY BIGGER FISH!!!!

Q. What would you say is a good catch rate for a novice, someone who has caught freshwater brown trout but only read about sea trout?
A. IT TOOK ME 3 YEARS TO CATCH MY FIRST FISH - BUT WHEN I DID I WAS HOOKED FOR LIFE! IF A NOVICE HAD 1 IN A SEASON THAT WOULD BE GOOD! BUT IT MAY BE THAT THEY CATCH 50 IN THEIR FIRST SEASON - SEA TROUT ARE SUCH THAT THEY DON'T GO BY THE RULES.

HOPE THIS IS OF SOME HELP - IT ISN'T GOOD READING FOR THE NOVICE - BUT WHEN THEY DO CATCH ONE THEY WON'T FISH FOR ANYTHING ELSE!

Reporting Fish

There have been reports of 112 sea run trout being caught from 1998 through October 2004. Ninety-four (94), or 89%, of these were caught from the Squankum Dam through the Manasquan River Wildlife Management Area (pdf, 490kb). Seventeen (17), or 15%, of these sea runs reportedly weighed from 5 to 13 pounds and would have qualified as the NJ State Record.

The most successful Manasquan River angler has caught about 40 sea run trout from 1996 through 2003. If the angler has the time, skills and luck to hook and land one of these rare creatures that is 5 lbs. or greater, maybe the experience and memory is enough.

Because this recreational fishery is so secretive, we have reason to believe that more of these fish are being caught but not reported.

Please report any sea run trout catches to Mark Boriek at the Lebanon Fisheries Lab at 908-236-2118. You can also contact Mark via email at mark.boriek@earthlink.net Take photos!

Manasquan R. Sea Run Trout Reported Caught 1998 - Oct. 2004 by Month Sea run catch by month

Note: In the below graph an additional 7 sea run trout were reportedly caught at the following locations: Manasquan R. at Route 35 Bridge; Manasquan R. at Route 70 Bridge; Point Pleasant Canal; Stockton Lake; The Glimmer Glass off of the Manasquan R.; Route 9 Bridge at Oyster Creek; Atlantic Ocean off of Shark River.

Manasquan R. Sea Run Trout Reported Caught 1998 - Oct. 2004 by Location
Sea run catch by location

RELATED PAGES

Sea Run Brown Trout Program
Sea Run Brown Trout Program 2003 Update
Sea Run Brown Trout Program Yields Results - 2002
Paul Ripperger's Sea Run Browns - 2000
New Jersey's Most Wanted Fish - 1998
The First Verified Sea Run Brown Trout Returned to the Division - 1998
New Jersey State Record Fish Program

Sea Trout Fishing References

Sea Trout Fishing - Hugh Falkus
Successful Sea Trout Angling - Harris and Morgan
Sea Trout How to Catch Them - Charles Bingham
Sea Trout and Occasional Salmon - Jeffery Bluett
River Fishing for Sea Trout - F. W Holiday

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Last Updated: November 24, 2004