New Jersey Freshwater Fishing
In this Digest there are important changes regarding how we will manage our native brook trout streams and streams producing wild browns and rainbows. These new regulations will protect our native brookies from over-fishing, from genetic dilution from inter-breeding with stocked brook trout, and reduce competition from other trout species. Additionally, waters producing impressive wild browns have adjusted size limits designed to maximize their potential. These regulations are a result of two years of discussions among DFW fisheries biologists, anglers and Fish and Game Council members. Each year the Division and the Council’s fish committee host three meetings (the North and South Jersey Fish Forums and the annual trout meeting). Staff present fisheries research and management updates, exchange ideas, discuss proposed changes in regulations and answer anglers’ questions.
I am always impressed with the content, the angler turnout and the exchange of ideas at these meetings. Over the past two years, I have been particularly impressed with the thoughts and attitudes of the fishermen and women regarding protecting our native and wild trout. We all go through phases and in the case of hunting, several researchers have described the behavioral progression of hunters through their lifetime. Beginning hunters are happy just to shoot, and then progress to concentrating on “limiting out”, later progressing to concentrating on the “trophy”, and eventually may find more enjoyment in perfecting certain methodologies, or tools. Finally expressing the most satisfaction by enjoying the overall experience, whether or not a limit or trophy is acquired. As a hunter and fisherman I can tell you that I enjoy bringing home the occasional “limit” to share with my family. There is no right or wrong stage to be in, often time we adjust our behavior and satisfaction to the season, the occasion and the circumstances. Although I am not aware of any research documenting the behavioral stages of anglers, we often see the same progression.
Therefore, it was heartening to hear the overwhelming sentiment expressed by anglers at these meetings. They were in favor of adopting “catch and release” regulations for our native brook trout, and restrictions on size and bag to preserve our wild brown and rainbow populations. Anglers expressed that catching just one smart little native brookie or wild trout was a trophy experience, perhaps heightened by mastering the use of artificial flies or lures. And if at the end of the day they were unsuccessful, the quiet and solitude of fishing these little used and beautiful streams was satisfaction enough. Once again New Jersey’s sportsmen and women choose the right path in order to conserve and protect our valuable wildlife resource knowing that they can enjoy the fruits of their efforts on many different levels.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that the information base to make these decisions is a result of three years of stream sampling and research by our biologists, technician and seasonal workers. Equally impressive is the work of our hatchery staff who provided over 600,000 rainbow trout including some breeders like the one I hold above from the Pequest Trout Hatchery. At the Hackettstown hatchery staff raised and distributed a record 5 million fish encompassing 16 species each year, most of which are stocked at fingerling size. These fish are doing so well that we have raised the size-limit for muskellunge from 36 to 40 inches and increased it to 44 inches in trophy waters. How about that New Jersey! And my final shout-out goes to you, the fishermen and women (fishers) who make all this possible through your license purchases and the excise tax collected on your fishing equipment. All of which contributes to this amazing story.