The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has announced that fish survey data from Merrill Creek Reservoir suggests that it may no longer be necessary to stock lake trout since there may be enough natural reproduction to sustain the fishery without supplemental stocking. This year's stocking in early December of 1,330 yearlings averaging nine inches is 60% fewer than the normal allocation. Lake trout stocking will be discontinued after this year and the fishery will be monitored to assess the population's ability to sustain itself through natural reproduction.
Lakers have been stocked annually in this 650-acre reservoir since 1988, when it filled with water following construction. Since 1989, each year class of lake trout stocked have been marked by clipping a specific fin prior to stocking. The fin clip, which rotates among five possible fins, aids biologists in tracking the growth of individual year classes of fish. The absence of a fin clip can also aid in distinguishing hatchery-reared lakers from wild, naturally reproduced ones.
Fish survey data from recent years shows an increasing prevalence of lake trout that do not have an identifying fin clip. These fish are too small to be attributed to the first year class of fish stocked in 1988 (that were not fin-clipped) indicating they are the product of natural reproduction.
Jim Mershon, Merrill Creek Reservoir On-site Coordinator, with lake trout
Photo by Charles Dix, Normandeau Associates
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