November 15, 2002
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, recent rains in Monmouth County have attracted sea run brown trout to move into the freshwater Manasquan River. These brown trout usually remain in the lower brackish river near freshwater seeps until a pulse of freshwater draws them upriver. This migration occurs more frequently in the fall, which is the brown trout's spawning season.
An angler fished the river after a recent October rain as it was dropping to a near normal level and becoming less muddy (ideal fishing conditions). He hooked and landed a 4 pound, 16-inch sea run brown trout as well as two additional 16-inch fish and a 12-incher. All of the fish were silvery in color and had been fin-clipped. The fish were caught on a jig with a chartreuse twister tail near the Parkway Bridge and at the Squankum dam.
To increase their chances of catching a sea run brown trout, anglers should note that as fall and winter approach, it is a good idea to check the Manasquan River gauge at Squankum Dam (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/dv/?site_no=01408000&PARAmeter_cd=00060,00065) for a sharp increase in river discharge. Fish the river as it is dropping, becoming less muddy and approaching near normal levels. These sea run brown trout mostly feed and migrate in the evening into the night. Sea run trout have been caught on a variety of lures and bait including white wooly bugger flies, spinners, spoons, night crawlers, garden worms and mealworms. The majority of the reported catches, including the largest at nine pounds, have been caught on bait with nightcrawlers winning out. However, when these fish first return to freshwater (the above mentioned catches), baits that mimic prey consumed in the estuary, such as shrimp and baitfish are productive. Although October and November are the prime months for spawning activities, these fish have been caught throughout the year.
In New Jersey, the Manasquan River is one of the few streams stocked with brown trout during the trout season where stocking occurs relatively close to the point where saltwater meets freshwater. Young brown trout migrate from the streams to the saline estuaries and open saltwater to take advantage of abundant marine food sources. Here they grow quickly and within several years are 4-6 pounds when they return to the freshwater river of their origin to spawn. Less wary at this time, they are more vulnerable to angling. These brown trout will seek out gravel bar areas where there is an upwelling of oxygenated water especially after a rain. Females become aware of these conditions during their movement upstream and select preferred areas for spawning often located at the head of a riffle or the tail of pools where the gravel slopes gently upwards and sedimentation has less effect.
Reports of occasional catches of sea run trout by sport and commercial fishermen along the Jersey coast and by sport anglers in the Manasquan River were an indication that the brown trout stocked there were finding their way to and surviving in saltwater habitats. Seeing the opportunity to develop a new and exciting sport fishery in the Manasquan, 16,000 8-inch brown trout raised at the Pequest Hatchery were stocked in the tidal portions of the river in 1997. To date, 174,000 surplus brown trout (including 34,000 stocked in October 2002) have been stocked here in the fall in an effort to jump-start this trout angling novelty.
This program is a cooperative effort between the Division of Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited. Program costs have been kept to a minimum, as the trout that are stocked in the fall are surplus spring hatchery fish. Trout Unlimited Chapters have provided financial assistance to feed the fish during the summer and also supply volunteer labor for fin-clipping.
Evaluating the success and determining the future of this program relies almost exclusively on fish being reported when caught. Silvery and deep bodied in appearance these brown trout have a clipped adipose or left pelvic fin. Fishermen should be able to see where fins have been clipped. Anglers are asked to report all catches of brown trout in tidal water to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at (908) 236-2118 or (908) 637-4173.