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The New Jersey Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife has embarked on an exciting new program to introduce a trophy sportsfish into the saltwater portions of the Manasquan River. Brown trout raised at the Pequest State Fish Hatchery will be stocked into the tidal parts of the river in an attempt to establish a Sea-Run Brown Trout fishery. These fish will be stocked in the fall at around eight inches (1/5 pound), grow for several years using available natural forage in the river, and return in several years at around 4-6 pounds. Growth, survival, and acceptance by fishermen will be evaluated for five years. If a successful trophy fishery develops further stocking will be considered by the Fish and Game Council.
The Manasquan River was selected because of its location and history of occasionally producing sea-run browns. The Manasquan is a major stream along the coast of New Jersey that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. The freshwater portion is a very popular trout fishing area and has been stocked by the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife for more than 70 years. All three species (brook, brown and rainbow) of trout normally stocked by the Pequest Trout Hatchery have been stocked in the Manasquan River. Occasional catches of sea-run trout by sport and commercial fishermen along the north Jersey coast and by sport anglers in the Manasquan River have been reported over the years.
Young brown trout may, after a period of freshwater residence, migrate to a salt water estuary and/or ocean to grow and mature. After one or two years these fish return to their natal rivers to spawn. In June of 1997 the Pequest Trout Hatchery began to raise surplus brown trout fingerlings at an accelerated rate. Two saltwater tolerance tests were conducted during the summer to find out if these fingerlings could survive and thrive in salt water. The tests showed that the fingerlings could tolerate higher salinity than would normally be found in the Manasquan inlet for extended periods. In October, 1997, 16,000 eight-inch brown trout were stocked in the lower freshwater tidal and brackish Manasquan River.
Some experts believe that there are no true sea-run brown trout populations, typical of Europe, existing in North America. And since the Manasquan River's designation is "trout maintenance" rather than "trout production", it is doubtful that these fish will reproduce naturally. What is anticipated, however, is that these brown trout will migrate out into the estuary to take advantage of the abundant forage, grow to a size of 2-4 pounds or larger and then return to the freshwater Manasquan River on their "spawning run" to create an exciting new fishery for New Jersey sportsmen and women.
Sea-run brown trout have an overall silvery coloration masking most of the spotting on the body but with numerous small spots remaining on the head. Anglers are asked to report all catches of brown trout in tidal water to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at either (908) 637-4173, (908) 236-2118 or (609) 292-8642.
Two brown trout from the 1997 stocking have been caught in salt or brackish water and reported to the Division so far this year. The first fish, caught by Mike Paras, was 13 1/4 inches long and weighed 1.3 pounds. Mike was fishing in the Point Pleasant Canal for 22 - 26 pound stripers when the brown was hooked. It was caught at 5:45 p.m. on an incoming tide using a 5 3/4-inch lure. Mike reports " Trout put up a great fight !!!." The second fish was caught near the outlet of Wreck Pond and was reported to be 9.5 inches long and around 1/2 pound. This fish was hooked at 6:30 p.m. with a gold hook while fishing for herring at low tide. This fisherman stated " It was the first trout I caught in ten years !) Both fish show superior growth and weight gain for a 6-7 month period over the winter. These catches show considerable promise for the future of this program.
Fishermen are asked to report all catches of brown trout in the tidal Manasquan River or in the vicinity of the Manasquan Inlet. These fish will have normal brown trout coloration (dark spots on a light brown or yellowish background on the body and head). The spots and background will become more silvery the longer the fish are in the river. The adipose fin (the small fin on the back just in front of the tail fin) has been removed for identification. Fishermen should be able to see where this fin has been clipped. This program is a cooperative effort between the New Jersey fishermen and the Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife. It will only be continued if fish are being caught and reported.
Fishermen are asked to supply the following information:
The future success of this program depends on sea run-brown trout being caught and reported.