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Aliens at Union Lake?

by Chris Smith
Assistant Biologist, Freshwater Fisheries
June, 2005

Aliens have landed at Union Lake...well not really, but curious neighbors peer out their windows at night as Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries biologists electrofish the perimeter of the lake. What appears to be a UFO is actually a electrofishing boat operated by Fisheries Biologist Chris Smith and seasonal employee Ginger Young.

Electrofishing, where fish are temporarily stunned with a mild electrical current and then netted, is an efficient sampling method to collect the data necessary to evaluate the status of Union Lake’s fishery. A fisheries management plan will be prepared upon completion of field sampling, which will conclude in fall 2005.

Union Lake is located in Millville, Cumberland County, and the state's largest Wildlife Management Area lake at 898 acres. The Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries last inventoried Union Lake in 1995, at which time recommendations were made to stock smallmouth bass. Since then the Division of Fish and Wildlife has initiated an intensive stocking effort to establish smallmouth bass in Union Lake. South Jersey has limited smallmouth bass habitat and the developing smallmouth bass fishery is a treat for anglers.

Author with two largemouth bass
Author with largemouth bass
Click to enlarge
Evaluating the smallmouth bass population is only one goal of the bureau's sampling efforts. In addition to evaluating the developing smallmouth bass fishery we will scrutinize the largemouth bass fishery.
Angler with nice smallmouth bass
Union Lake smallmouth bass
Click to enlarge

The site of many bass fishing tournaments, Union Lake is intensively utilized by anglers almost 365 days a year. It supports a diverse fishery which provides anglers in South Jersey opportunities not available anywhere else in the area. Previous sampling efforts and angler fishing reports indicate excellent populations of sunfish, yellow and white perch, black crappie, channel catfish and the occasional striped bass. Yes, you read right! Union Lake has one of the few land-locked populations of striped bass. On the night of June 6, 2005, a monster 42" striped bass was collected.

The lake management plan (available in fall, 2006) will allow the Bureau to more effectively and efficiently manage the fisheries of Union Lake to provide the best fishing opportunities possible for anglers.

So if you hear of lights moving on Union Lake, or of large fish being caught, chances are it isn't the presence of aliens or fanciful stories, it's your fishing license dollars at work. Get out to Union Lake and see what the excitement is really about!

Union Lake WMA Map (pdf, 520kb)

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Last Updated: June 13, 2005