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Operation Fish Rescue

by Craig Lemon
Hackettstown Hatchery Superintendent, and
Ed Washuta
Freshwater Fisheries Pathologist
May, 2005

Unusually heavy rains this spring caused an unforeseen problem in several of our lakes. On the week of April 11, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries received a report from Swartswood State Park rangers concerning walleyes stranded in the spillway below the Swartswood Lake Dam. In a cooperative effort between the two Divisions (Parks and Forestry & Fish and Wildlife), 72 large adult walleyes were collected by electrofishing and transported back into Swartswood Lake.

The following week, similar reports were received from the Knee Deep Club concerning Lake Hopatcong and from Muskies Inc. Chapter 22 concerning Greenwood Lake.

On the morning of April 21, Fish and Wildlife personnel were joined by members of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Knee Deep Club and Hopatcong State Park rangers in an electrofishing effort on the Musconetcong River immediately below the Lake Hopatcong dam. Swift currents and deep holes made fish capture challenging, but rewarding. A total of 40 large adult walleyes were captured and returned to Lake Hopatcong.

Volunteer with rescued muskellunge
Chuck Graf of Muskies, Inc.,
with a Greenwood Lake muskellunge

Click to enlarge

Immediately following the effort at Lake Hopatcong, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries electrofishing crew headed north to Greenwood Lake where muskies and walleyes had washed over the dam into the Wanaque River. With the help of Muskies Inc. volunteers, the crew was able to rescue 300 large adult walleyes by electrofishing and eight large muskies by seining. Six of the eight muskies exceeded 40 inches in length and a majority of the walleyes were in the 20 to 28 inch range.

A follow-up report led the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries crew back to the Wanaque River for a second collection effort. On April 28, the crew electrofished another 98 walleyes from the river and returned them back to Greenwood Lake with the help of a few generous trout fishermen who gave up their fishing time and fishing hole.

In all, over 500 walleye and eight muskies were returned to favorable habitat where they will be available to fishermen throughout the year. Many of these fish would have otherwise fallen victim to infection over the next couple of weeks due to lack of food supply and stress from warm water temperatures. It is a great example of what a few concerned and dedicated people and organizations can accomplish in a day.

Photos from the operations are linked from the thumbnail photos below - click to enlarge. Photos are courtesy of Bill Clark (Lake Hopatcong Commission), Gordon Campbell (Muskies Inc.) and Bruce Rufner (Muskies Inc.).
View from Greenwood Lk. spillway
View from Greenwood Lk. spillway.
Seining below Greenwood Lk. spillway
Seining pool below Greenwood Lake spillway
Electofishing Wanaque River
Electrofishing Wanaque River below spillway
Greenwood Lake walleyes
Muskies, Inc. volunteer with Greenwood Lake walleyes
Lk. Hopatcong Commission volunteers
Lake Hopatcong Commission volunteers below spillway
Lk. Hopatcong Commission volunteer in river
Lake Hopatcong Commission volunteers in river
Rescue crew at work
Craig Lemon, left, and rescue crew

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2005
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: May 9, 2005