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Swartswood Lake Walleye Run Best Ever!

by Craig Lemon
Hackettstown Hatchery Superintendent
April 25, 2014

Every spring staff from the Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery collect adult fish from northern New Jersey lakes to serve as broodstock for the Division's stocking programs. Species collected include muskellunge, northern pike and walleye.

In 2014, a very late ice out, heavy snow melt and a couple of days of rain all may have contributed to a great run of adult walleyes in Neldon Brook, the main feeder stream in Swartswood Lake. Keeping in daily contact with Swartswood State Park staff and area Conservation Officers, hatchery staff learned that the lake had opened up from a long winter of ice on Thursday, April 3. In the middle of a slow northern pike spawn in Farrington Lake and Budd Lake, staff decided Friday afternoon to make a run with boat and get a net in the water for the weekend.

And what a weekend it was! The single Pennsylvania-style trapnet captured a single-day record 244 walleyes just Friday night alone. Upon return to the hatchery Saturday afternoon, the crew spawned 50 female walleyes, also the highest number ever. Those 50 females produced four million eggs. The eggs will hatch in 15 days and the fry moved to earthen ponds to grow at the hatchery.

Ryan Votta and Nick Healy with trophy size walleyes
Ryan Votta and Nick Healy with trophy size walleyes.
Click to enlarge

Fin clipped female walleye
Fin clip identifies this as an 8-10 year-old stocked fish.
Click to enlarge
Saturday night and Sunday night captures were 151 and 186 fish, respectively. In all, a total of 581 walleyes were captured over the 3-day netting operation, eclipsing the old mark of 352 over a 9-day period in 2007. After spawning, all fish were returned to the lake in healthy condition.

The female walleyes averaged 4.45 pounds and 21.1 inches, while the males averaged 2.74 pounds and 19.2 inches. The largest fish captured was a female weighing 10.54 pounds and was 28 inches long. She was the first fish over 10 pounds since two females broke the mark in 2010.

An interesting fact about this large fish was that it had a left pelvic fin clip. This tells us it was stocked as a 4-inch fingerling in 2004 or 2006, making her 8-10 years old. Fin clips are a management tool used to track growth and age of a particular year class of fish. The specific fin clipped corresponds with the particular year a fish was stocked. Between 2003 and present, Swartswood Lake has been stocked with approximately 100,000 four-inch fingerlings. (See the Hackettstown Stocking Summaries for details.)

Anglers are reminded that except for the Delaware River, all walleyes caught from March 1 to April 30 must be released immediately, and unharmed.

Be sure to look for the complete 2014 broodstock collection information in the upcoming weeks!

Ryan Votta holds a gorgeous breeder.
Fish like this mean a bright future for walleye in NJ.
Click to enlarge

Walleye Information
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Last Updated: April 25, 2014