New Jersey Freshwater Fishing
2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, established in 1892. Our rich history is filled with wildlife success stories surrounding beaver, deer, turkey and more recently, bald eagles with 120 active nests and almost 200 fledged young in a single year. Fish and Wildlife’s land management efforts—beginning with an initial purchase of 135 acres for public shooting grounds in 1932—today encompasses over 350,000 acres statewide that benefit not only hunting but a wide array of wildlife-associated recreation. Perhaps most fitting for celebrating over 100 years of conservation efforts is the completion of the state’s newly revised State Wildlife Action Plan, a plan that will help guide future protection and management efforts for 107 species representing six taxa.
Organized fisheries management activities in New Jersey actually predates the formation of a fish and wildlife agency by more than twenty years. In 1870, a Board of Fish Commissioners was created; the wildlife component did not follow until 1892. After the Board’s formation, on March 15, 1871 Governor Theodore F. Randolph signed into law an act creating the position of fish warden. Nine fish wardens were hired—one for each county bordering the Delaware River—thus beginning the official, organized enforcement of wildlife law in New Jersey.
Fish stocking would soon follow in response to a devastating drought in 1875. From 1879 through 1881, a total of 416,000 fingerling brook trout were distributed to restock the state’s natural trout streams. Trout were transported by train, then by horse and buggy, to be distributed along some of today’s still-popular trout streams such as the Big Flat Brook and the Musconetcong River. Our agency retains the original inked pen records of these early stocking efforts. By 1909 the Commission was purchasing 100,000 trout for distribution but the following year recommended the construction of the state fish hatchery which began operations in 1912. Surprisingly, the first fishing license was not required for three more years (1915) followed by a nearly 40-year gap before trout stamps became mandatory (1953).
In the realm of fisheries management, 1918 marked the first intensive effort of stream sampling for trout management. While the next few decades focused on hatchery operations, important legislation in 1950 paved the way for increased efforts in the protection and management of the state’s fisheries resources. Similar to federal legislation passed in 1937 for wildlife management restoration, the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid to Sport Fish Restoration Act passed in 1950 providing essential funding and spurring forward New Jersey’s fisheries management efforts.
This funding enabled the construction of a freshwater fisheries laboratory which still houses the majority of our state’s freshwater fisheries biologists today. It is here that I began my career over 36 years ago as a seasonal employee sampling New Jersey lakes and streams. Behind the cinderblock walls of the lab, the state’s stream classification system was developed, becoming the forefront of protection for high-quality coldwater habitats still in use today.
Sport Fish Restoration Program funds are responsible for several highly successful stocking programs for muskellunge, northern pike, walleye and hybrid striped bass, species for which angling opportunities were nonexistent in New Jersey prior to these efforts. The Program recently funded a three-year assessment of these fish populations as well as an assessment of the state’s designated Wild Trout Streams. Today, management efforts continue with over 200 fisheries surveys now conducted annually thanks to the legislation that designated federal aid towards fisheries management 67 years ago.
Be sure to check out the Division’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries’ newly updated webpages to read more on these and other ongoing freshwater management efforts at http://www.NJFishandWildlife.com/bfwfhome.htm as well as New Jersey’s State Wildlife Action Plan’s focal species at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/wap/wap_comment-focalspecies.htm.
January 21, 2017; 10 a.m.,
Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery
February 18, 2017; 10 a.m.,
Batsto Village Visitor’s Center in
Wharton State Forest
February 25, 2017; 10 a.m.,
Pequest Trout Hatchery
Come and share your views and recommendations for the future of freshwater fisheries in New Jersey and learn about current research, management and fish culture activities!
The forum at Hackettstown will include a tour of the fish production facilities.
For more information or to pre-register (helpful, but not required) please call (908) 236-2118 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mails should include name, address, phone number and number of people attending.
Presented by NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.