Angler Stories: Can You Relate?
New Jersey Freshwater Fishing
We can relate! In the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries, although we may serve as a conservation biologist, a habitat specialist, a stocking coordinator or a fishing educator, we never lose sight of what initially inspired us to pursue our career: a deep appreciation of being outdoors enjoying the woods and waters. Whether it is camping and hiking, birdwatching, hunting or fishing, we all have our favorite memories.
Anglers were invited to share a memorable day while fishing in the Garden State.
Can you relate to their excitement?
The best part about living and fishing in New Jersey is the opportunity to target so many different species. I purposely use techniques and strategies that target multiple species, depending on the lake and season.
This fish is a great example. We were targeting lake trout — and catching many nice ones — when I caught this smallmouth bass. The anticipation of nice-sized bass joining the party was in the back of our minds, adding to the excitement of the great lake trout fishing. The variety of species and high potential for a surprise trophy catch is my single, favorite aspect of New Jersey fishing.
I do love to travel to fish for the species that New Jersey doesn’t have, but as a multi-species angler, I can’t think of a better fishing “home base” than the northern half of New Jersey!
In early April I was fishing with my buddy, Capt. Dave V, on a small northern lake. While most fisherman were trout fishing, Dave was casting for muskies. Due to a work-related injury, I set my sights on a nice, pre-spawn bass.
When the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife trout stocking truck arrived, a few boats made a bee-line towards it. Instead, we headed for deeper water where I made my first cast with a 3/4 oz. XR-50 Rattle bait.
Letting it sink for a count of four, I tightened the line and made a sharp pull, yo-yoing the bait. On the second pull the rod bounced, then it felt like I was snagged… in 18 feet of open water? No, I was hooked into a pre-spawn muskie — and a big one at that!
Playing her to the boat, I loosened the drag slightly and led her towards the net. After a quick netting we were jumping and high-fiving! The unexpected female was huge: 46 inches and between 28–30 pounds. The kicker was that four months later, I caught another, smaller muskie using the same, exact set up!
On Mother’s Day 2019, I took my 86-year-old mother fishing at my childhood pond. She had never been fishing and caught 15 bluegills! I will never forget it. My dad, who is deceased, taught me how to fish at this same pond.
For his third birthday in January of 2019, my youngest son Tyler received his first fishing pole. When warmer weather arrived, he was very excited to use it for the first time. He practiced — both indoors and out — casting and reeling. I took him out early one April morning when he quickly caught his first fish on the new pole.
By his smile you can see how proud he is. This photo is one of my favorites as it shows the joy we can have by simply getting outdoors and enjoying what New Jersey has to offer. I take pride in passing down fishing and hunting to my children, just as my father did for my brothers and me.
This is my daughter Lily’s first fish. She came out on a very cold morning (Her Disney Frozen attire was appropriate) for Opening Day of Trout Season. She was determined, stayed focused and eventually was able to land this beauty.
It’s special to experience, with my children, the outdoor recreation New Jersey provides, the same way my father did with me. She was so proud of this catch and still is today. The framed photo is still proudly displayed next to her bed.
When my 4-year-old grandson Vinny caught his first fish on June 23, 2019, a bluegill sunfish, he became a fifth-generation sport fisherman in our family, a tradition now spanning three centuries. My two grandfathers, both born in the 1890s, were avid New Jersey fishermen since their early years. My dad’s father taught him to fish; both grandfathers, along with my dad, taught my brother and me.
Like Vinny, I was 4 when I caught my first fish — with my grandfather’s help. When I had twin boys of my own (and a daughter), born in the 1990s, I taught them. I was thrilled to help Vinny catch his first fish! Our family fishing tradition continues. I hope to be around to see a sixth generation New Jersey fisherman in our family.
I want to thank the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife for the outstanding job you are all doing to establish and maintain the pike fishing in the Passaic River. I’m 43 years old and have been fishing in New Jersey since I was 6. I’m an avid fisherman and have fished all over North America, Canada and the Caribbean. I travel often to the Adirondacks for smallmouth and pike fishing.
I can’t believe how incredible the pike fishing is here in my own backyard. I started fishing the Passaic River just this summer and I am completely blown away by this amazing pike fishery. I’m literally in disbelief at the numbers and size of fish I’m catching. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of catching pike like this. When I travel to the Adirondacks, I’m lucky if I catch a few of these beautiful fish over the course of several days.
This is absolutely a world class fishery that the Division of Fish and Wildlife has established, and I (as well as all New Jersey anglers) am so grateful for the work you are doing. I can only hope that your pike stocking program continues like this for years to come as I plan to introduce my son to the thrill of catching one of these incredible fish.