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Freshwater Fisheries Project Highlights

Fishing Regulations New Jersey Freshwater Fishing

North Jersey Fisheries Forum

January 19, 2019; 10 a.m., Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery

South Jersey Fisheries Forum

February 23, 2019; 10 a.m.,
Batsto Village Visitor’s Center in Wharton State Forest

Trout Meeting

March 2, 2019; 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 njfwfish@dep.nj.gov. 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.

Introduction

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries is responsible for the protection and management of our state freshwater fisheries resources. The bureau’s responsibilities are multi-faceted and include the culture and management of wild and stocked fish populations, protection and enhancement of their habitats and public education about the fisheries resources. On average, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries conducts over 200 fisheries surveys annually, gathering information on over 40,000 individual fish representing more than 70 species.

Featured below are highlights of select fisheries projects currently underway. For more information on any of the 200 annual surveys conducted by the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries, go to www.NJFishandWildlife.com/bfwf_highlights.htm.

Columbia Lake Dam Removal

The Columbia Lake dam was located 1/4 mile upstream of the Paulins Kill River’s confluence with the Delaware River in Knowlton Township, Warren County. The dam impounded a 43-acre lake, stretching more than 1.5 miles upstream. Since its 1909 construction, the 18-foot high, 330-foot long dam formed a barrier to fish passage, severing New Jersey’s third largest tributary to the Delaware River from its watershed.

This obstruction blocked American shad access to their historic spawning grounds and impeded the movement of American eel. Dam removal in 2018 restored fish passage to over 10 miles of river, restored a natural flow regime and reclaimed 1.5 miles of stream habitat.

Rinehart Brook — Brook Trout Restoration Project

A brook trout restoration project was initiated in 2017 on Rinehart Brook, a tributary to the Black River within Hacklebarney State Park. This restoration project, the first of its kind in New Jersey, was designed to assist the recovery of a struggling brook trout population by removing interspecific competition exerted by non-native brown trout, the dominant species in Rinehart Brook.

Initially, 93 percent of trout in this stream were brown trout. Fish and Wildlife biologists removed more than 1,100 brown trout by electrofishing approximately 2 miles of stream eleven times. These efforts caused a dramatic shift in species composition, and by early October 2018, zero brown trout were found for the first time in the study! In that time the brook trout population has more than doubled. These initial results are very encouraging. The brook trout population has more than doubled, comprising nearly 100 percent of all trout present in Rinehart Brook.

In addition, there was no evidence of a successful brown trout spawn during the fall of 2017, as no young-of-the-year browns were found during sampling the following spring. Biologists will continue to remove brown trout and monitor the brook trout population through electrofishing.

Stocked Trout Movement Study in the Big Flat Brook / Flat Brook Catch and Release Area

A two-year trout movement study in the Big Flat Brook Catch and Release area was initiated in the spring of 2017 to help determine the cause of a low number of stocked trout found during the summer months despite heavy stocking, a no harvest regulation along with adequate temperatures and habitat.

Biologists surgically implanted a tracking transmitter into the body cavity of 80 trout. The transmitters allowed biologists to track individual stocked trout to determine if they were leaving the catch and release area. It was revealed that predators play the biggest role in the limited number of trout. Several transmitters were found among the boney remnants of partially consumed trout, near dens or animal runs. A couple of transmitters were tracked back to a great blue heron rookery.

Stream Temperature Monitoring

Initiated in 2012 to monitor stream temperature in several major trout stocked rivers and a few trout production streams, the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries expanded its network in 2018 to include 78 sites, making New Jersey’s program one of the largest stream temperature monitoring efforts in the northeast.

The continuous temperature monitoring program is designed to closely monitor stream temperature in areas that have marginal thermal habitat for trout stocking, to understand thermal regimes in our major river systems and to monitor trout production streams. The monitoring of Trout Production streams allows biologists to gain a deeper understanding of stream temperature’s role on the life cycle of New Jersey’s wild trout and to assist in guiding management of these streams, especially under the forces of a warming climate.

Native Species Management

Several native freshwater fish species are in decline throughout their ranges due to a combination of factors not limited to: habitat alteration and stream fragmentation, diminished water quality and competition from non-native species. Any loss of New Jersey’s native species could have a severe adverse impact on the ecology and health of the environment. Steps must be taken to conserve these native species.

Fish population surveys provide valuable information on these species allowing Fish and Wildlife biologists to map species distributions, assess their status and identify threats to native fishes. Continued fisheries inventories, regulations and implementation of specific management strategies are necessary to protect and enhance these vulnerable species.

Invasive Species Assessments

Introductions of invasive, non-native fish and aquatic plants are a growing concern of natural resource managers in New Jersey and nationwide because of the potential to dominate and destroy aquatic ecosystems causing irreversible economic and cultural damage. In New Jersey, 10 species of fish (Asian swamp eel, bighead carp, grass carp (diploid) and silver carp, brook stickleback, green sunfish, flathead catfish, oriental weatherfish, snakehead and warmouth have been identified as having the potential to become a significant threat to indigenous animals, the environment or to become a public safety hazard.

Regulated as potentially dangerous fish, possession and/or release of live specimens of these species is prohibited. When these species are encountered while angling, they must be destroyed. (See also Potentially Dangerous Fish, Summary of Fishing Regulations and Aquatic Invasive Species)

The northern snakehead is the most recently introduced and frequently discussed of these potentially dangerous species. It is widely distributed within the Delaware River Basin and often sought by anglers. Fish and Wildlife is actively monitoring locations along the Delaware River to remove snakeheads and to assess their effects on game and native fish species.