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August 16, 2001

2002 FISH CODE PROPOSED

For more information contact:
Bob Soldwedel at 609-292-8642

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council has scheduled a public hearing for the proposed 2002 Fish Code at 7:30 p.m., September 11, at the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Assunpink Conservation Center on Eldridge Road in Robbinsville, Monmouth County.

"All New Jersey anglers are encouraged to attend and actively take part in shaping the future of their sport," said Division Director Bob McDowell.

The Fish Code describes the legal angling methods, season dates, size/catch limits and trout stocked waters for freshwater fishing in New Jersey. The regulations are reviewed annually and revised based on biological findings and changing situations, then proposed for the next year's code.

Anglers should note the following proposed changes:

The regulations for the "Ken Lockwood Gorge" stretch of the South Branch of the Raritan River will be changed from "fly-fishing only" to those of a year-round trout conservation area to increase the number of available trout throughout the year. As a year-round trout conservation area, anglers will no longer be restricted to the use of flies and will, instead, be allowed to use any type of artificial lure. The size limit for trout will be increased from 7 to 15-inches and the daily creel limit for trout will be reduced from six to one. Currently, this stretch is regulated as a fly-fishing only area with an eight-day period in April beginning on the opening day of trout season when the fly-fishing only limitation does not apply and the area is subject to the regular statewide trout fishing regulations with no tackle restrictions. As a year-round trout conservation area, this eight-day exception would be eliminated.

The "no kill" stretch of the Musconetcong River at Hackettstown will be discontinued and replaced by a seasonal trout conservation area on the Musconetcong River at Port Murray. In a seasonal trout conservation area, the general statewide trout fishing regulations will apply for a six-week period following opening day, after which the regulations for a year-round trout conservation area will apply. Currently, as the name implies, trout can only be caught and released in the "no-kill" stretch and fishing is limited to fly-fishing.

The use of cast nets no greater than eight feet in diameter will be allowed for taking baitfish except in trout stocked waters and special trout regulation areas.

To protect blueback herring and alewife stocks from over harvest, the baitfishing permit will be limited for use in lakes of 250 acres or more. Currently, the permit can be obtained for any freshwater body of the State and allows the permitee to take an unlimited number of these species while those without a permit are limited to 35 per day. The prime time for harvesting these fish is during their spring spawning run at which time they congregate at "choke points" in rivers (near obstructions, bridges, etc.). At this time, they are extremely vulnerable.

The striped bass season is closed during the months of April and May in the Delaware River between the Route 1 bridge in Trenton and the Commodore Barry Bridge. Exceptionally large stripers move into this area at this time to spawn. Although the season is closed, an increasing number of anglers have been targeting these spawning striped bass. While this is technically illegal, the striped bass are all being released, so there is no proof of an intent to catch them. The problem is that the method that is being used to catch them results in a very high hooking mortality of the hooked and released fish. To reduce this mortality rate, it is proposed that anglers be limited to the use and possession of non-offset circle hooks of size 2 or larger while fishing with any natural bait in this section of the river during the closed season. Recent research findings found that if circle hooks are used in place of regular hooks, hooking mortality can be reduced. The regulation would not apply to smaller hooks, such as those used to catch white perch.

To obtain a copy of the proposed 2002 Fish Code, send a self-addressed, stamped (two stamps) 11" x 14" envelope to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 400, Trenton, NJ 08625-0400, Attn: Fish Code. Written comments regarding the code should be submitted by September 19 to Director Bob McDowell at the same address.