DIVISION STOCKS MORE THAN 1.8 MILLION COOLWATER AND WARMWATER FISH IN NJ WATERS IN 2003
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife has stocked more than 1.8 million coolwater and warmwater fish in selected ponds, lakes, rivers and reservoirs throughout the state so far this season, with another 100,000 fish slated for stocking this fall. The stockings are part of the Division's new and improved coolwater and warmwater fisheries program, which is starting to pay dividends from several years of extensive renovations to the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery.
"The Hackettstown Hatchery is now a state-of-the-art facility comparable to the Pequest State Trout Hatchery," said Division Director Martin J. McHugh. "Coolwater and warmwater fish that were previously raised in small indoor tanks are now raised in large modern tanks inside a newly constructed aquaculture building that includes a complex system of pumps, filters, heat exchangers and water temperature control systems."
The Division annually hatches more than 3 million coolwater and warmwater fish at the Hackettstown hatchery with approximately 2 million fry, fingerlings and advanced fingerlings being released in New Jersey's lakes, ponds and reservoirs throughout the year. Last year alone, the facility reared and released record numbers of game fish including 322,940 walleye, 37,100 tiger muskies and purebred muskies, 40,800 pike and 63,300 smallmouth, largemouth and hybrid striped bass.
The new aquaculture building at Hackettstown allows the Division to raise fish that are healthier and larger in the same amount of time it took using the old facilities. For example, tiger muskies raised at Hackettstown in 1999 were eight inches when stocked, while tigers raised in the new facility beginning in 2000 were 25-35 percent larger (10-11 inches) when they were stocked. Stocking larger fish means more fish in the future for Garden State anglers because the size at stocking is a key factor in how many fish will survive and mature into adults.
Although the renovation of the rearing facilities at the Hackettstown Hatchery is recent, the Division's expansion of its coolwater and warmwater fish program has taken place over the last 20 years. This has resulted in the establishment of five new game fish populations that include tiger muskies, pure strain muskies, northern pike, walleye and hybrid striped bass. The improvements at Hackettstown promise to make the excellent coolwater and warmwater fishing opportunities the Division has already established statewide even better in the near future.
Tiger muskie, a hybrid resulting from the cross of a pure-strain muskellunge and a northern pike, were experimentally reared and stocked by the Division in 1978 to learn the hatchery-rearing techniques for large esocids like the tiger's parents, and to gauge how pike and muskies would fare in New Jersey waters. The introduction was successful and over the years tiger muskies have been stocked in 11 water bodies in New Jersey and annual stockings continue to maintain this fishery. The best chances for tangling with trophy tigers are in the northern half of the Delaware River, at Furnace Lake in Warren County, Lake Hopatcong in Morris County, Rancocas Creek (North and South Branches) in Burlington County and Greenwood Lake in Passaic County. Tigers were stocked in the Manasquan Reservoir in Monmouth County in 1996 and a quality fishery has developed with reports of 45 to 47-inch fish being caught.
The northern pike program was initiated in 1981 with the stocking of Spruce Run Reservoir and Budd Lake. A total of 15 waters have been stocked between 1981 and 1996. A number of these waters were stocked only once as "surplus production releases." Currently nine waters (six lakes and three rivers) are stocked on a regular basis. Waters that are currently stocked with northerns are Spruce Run Reservoir, Budd Lake, Farrington Lake, Deal Lake, Pompton Lake, Cranberry Lake, Pompton River, Millstone River and the Passaic River. Fisheries have developed in all of these waters with Spruce Run Reservoir, Farrington and Budd lakes being the most consistent for numbers caught and chances for a large pike over 15 pounds. A 22-pound pike was captured by fisheries staff in a trapnet at Budd Lake in the spring of 2000. Cranberry Lake, Pompton Lake, Pompton River and the Passaic River between Two Bridges and Dundee Dam are gaining popularity as northern hot spots.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife's pure strain muskellunge rearing and stocking program began in 1993 following the successful introduction of tiger muskies and northern pike. There are currently seven muskellunge fisheries in the state: Echo Lake Reservoir, Greenwood Lake, Lake Hopatcong, Mercer Lake, Monksville Reservoir, Mountain Lake, and the Delaware River. Hatchery technicians trapnetted a 51-inch muskie from Greenwood Lake during the 2002 spawning season. Muskellunge in the 50-inch range are being caught in Echo, Greenwood and Monksville. Good numbers of fish in the 44 to 47-inch range are being reported from Lake Hopatcong, Mercer Lake and Mountain Lake.
The construction of Monksville Reservoir in Passaic County in the late 1980's was the catalyst for developing New Jersey's walleye rearing and stocking program. It was determined early in the developmental stage that the reservoir would provide excellent habitat and water quality for developing a walleye fishery. Walleye fingerlings stocked in 1988 survived and grew at an excellent rate. Over 2.7 million fingerlings (2") and 350,000 advanced fingerlings (4") have been stocked there to date resulting in a good population of walleyes in the reservoir. Population estimates conducted by a mark-recapture study in 1995 and 1996 gave a population estimate of 3,000 adult walleyes averaging 2.5 pounds in weight. A hatchery crew at Monksville Reservoir trapped a walleye weighing over 10 pounds and walleyes up to eight pounds have been reported caught by anglers.
Through an aggressive stocking program, the Division has expanded the number of walleye lakes from one in 1990 at Monksville to include four others today: Swartswood Lake, Greenwood Lake, Canistear Reservoir and Lake Hopatcong. Interest in walleye fishing has greatly increased in the last several years especially at Lake Hopatcong and Swartswood Lake where reports of angler success are routine and fish weighing up to eight pounds are common. Division hatchery staff also caught two 11+ pound walleyes in trap nets at Swartswood last spring while collecting females that provide the eggs for the stocking program. A total of 466,000 walleye fingerlings were stocked in the Delaware River from 1995 to the present helping to seed a terrific walleye fishery for future angling generations to enjoy.
The hybrid striped bass, the cross of striped bass and white bass, was introduced by the Division in 1984 to fill a niche in deep, open-water lakes that have large populations of alewife herring and gizzard shad. The first waters stocked were Assunpink Lake (Monmouth), Cranberry Lake (Sussex) and Union Lake (Cumberland). Under the current management program, the Division annually stocks 47,000 of these hard fighting hybrids in Lake Hopatcong (Morris), Spruce Run Reservoir (Hunterdon) and most recently, the Manasquan Reservoir (Monmouth).
For further information about New Jersey's coolwater and warmwater fisheries programs, visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's website at: www.njfishandwildlife.com.