Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ice Fishing Largemouth Bass: The Best Time of the Ice Season to Go




Black Ice for the Best Winter Bass Bite


          Many years ago, an older friend and I ice fished two consecutive days on the newly formed “black” ice of a six-acre private pond in Mercer County we had permission to fish. Bright, sunny skies prevailed, the ice clear as a pane of glass, water underneath pure as if from a well. Tip-up flags sprang constantly both days. Oddly, half the largemouths took the shiner, ran four or five yards and dropped the bait.

          The third day, we arrived upon a transformed environment. Snow fell overnight, four inches covering the ice. Clouds remained overhead. Since we could not find previously cut holes, each of us whacked new openings for tip-ups with our splitting bars, and then we waited and waited. We fished for hours, enjoying no more action than three flags.

          This got us thinking and theorizing. Correct or not, we concluded that bass in clear water, under clear ice with lots of sun penetrating through, strike in reaction just as they do during warmer months of open water. If you’ve ever noticed a silver shiner’s scales catching sunlight, you may have felt astonished at the pulse of reflected light. We believe such pulses provoke bass to hit. And some bass may drop shiners they initially strike, not interested in eating.

          It’s a story that makes sense, whether or not it’s true. Ice fishermen everywhere tend to agree that first ice is best ice, so some reason or other must exist. As the ice fishing season deepens, ice develops milky-colored surface layers of melted and re-frozen snow. Towards the end in February or March, ice can feature water flowing between a thinly frozen surface and the body of thick ice beneath, or present a mess while melting under slushy snow or half a foot of water. First ice—that “black” ice illusion you see from a distance—is remarkably clean and simple by comparison. It invites an ice fisherman out for a pure experience of the frigid new season and the bass may respond with frisky bites.

          If you are new to ice fishing, I recommend finding someone introducing you. If you know of no one who ice fishes, you can find at least one guide service in New Jersey for ice fishing. Otherwise, the local activities of a lake community, such as encountered on Lake Hopatcong, will give you clear indication of whether or not the ice is safe. I was taught that three inches of hard clear ice is safe, although I would never recommend this measure to anyone venturing out on his own for the first time.

          There are reasons. Large lakes and reservoirs freeze unevenly. Round Valley Reservoir, for example, froze 18 inches thick by March, 2014, and yet about 25% of the water in the reservoir remained open all winter. Other lakes never freeze evenly—coves freeze first, main lake points last as a general rule. Ponds of few acres do freeze evenly, unless a little cove or two is protected from prevailing wind and freezes first. An entire book on ice conditions could be written by whoever goes to the trouble of cataloguing dozens of variations found on lakes, reservoirs, ponds and rivers, but for our discussion: clear, hard, safe ice is the concern.

           Fish clear water underneath, choose a sunny afternoon if you can, and stay out until dusk. The magic hour near sunset until a half hour or so thereafter always has the potential of lunker bass feeding. Nevertheless, in my experience, the most direct sun rays possible make for the fastest first-ice fishing, the most flags tripped.

          Shallow lakes and ponds may prove best. A deep lake offers bass the opportunity to escape brilliant light by settling deeper. If you set a shiner 25 feet deep, it will not reflect light sharply as it will in 10 feet of water or even shallower. If you fish Lake Hopatcong, for example, notorious for its main lake points dropping off into 40 feet of water or more, try River Styx shallows or the State Park flats instead.

          The best kept secret for first-ice fishing is ponds, by virtue of the fact that many ice fishermen don’t care to hear about the success, habituated instead to lakes and reservoirs with the fanfare they draw. Shallow ponds freeze to safe thickness before protected coves freeze safely on lakes and reservoirs. Snow may fall before ice is safe on any lake or reservoir, yet a day or two exists with a relative few ice anglers catching bass in shallow, clear ponds before black ice opportunity is ruined.

          Whether lake, pond or reservoir, know the water before it freezes to reduce the random element when setting tip-ups. Bass frequent many of the same sorts of habitat during winter as during the warmer months, although in ponds, for example, you will catch plenty in the deepest water of perhaps 10 feet, if most get caught hugging shorelines in the summer and fall. Any cover in the water—whether of lake, pond or reservoir—should have tip-ups set close as possible to it without the shiner getting entangled. Often cover is situated in relatively shallow water. Set a tip-up in the deepest water possible that remains in close relation to the shallower cover, whether submerged brush, boulders, a sunken dock or anything else that may draw forage and bass to it.

           Residual weeds remain remarkably thick during winter in some waters and bass inhabit them. Not every weedy situation involves an outside edge adjacent to deeper water, where bass frequent in search of forage. Flats comprise many acres of reduced weed mass with enough tendrils and leafy greens remaining to hold lots of fish. Tip-ups can be spread over a flat, set by best guesses, and tended. Check on every tip-up to make sure the shiner doesn’t entangle in weeds. Occasionally lifting a tip-up to check on it also helps ensure that a shiner remains active on the hook.

          A light wire, plain shank size 6 hook is all you need for each tip-up. The light weight isn’t a burden for lively bait to carry. Crimp a medium split-shot about 15 inches ahead of the hook to a three-foot fluorocarbon leader—15-pound test if pickerel are present—and lower the rig to bottom until the dacron main line goes limp. Turn dacron back onto the tip-up spool as you lower the spool to the water surface, until the line comes taut with the split-shot directly on bottom and your index finger and thumb holding the line at the surface. Now turn seven loops of dacron onto the spool and set the tip-up in the hole. The shiner will swim slightly suspended above bottom.

          And to have a tip-up set to wait is a satisfying feeling. A flag sprung is pure joy.   


Civilization's Coming Transformation: An Answer to Last Night's Post


Suffering one of my typical attempts to sleep last night, the insomnia keeping me lucid for an hour-and-a-half after covering myself with sheets, I reflected upon the post I'd written, among many other things. Even after taking Ambien, I never felt the relief that comes of crazy interruptions in my train of thinking, the relief of those harbingers of dreams below the threshold of wakefulness, not for a long time.

I thought of guys taking issue with how I ended my spiel, and felt my eagerness to answer. To begin with, everyone knows the industrialism that tore this state apart, leaving it behind like a facsimile of hell--all you have to do is Google about New Jersey's many Superfund sites--everyone knows that industrialism drove a thriving economy, compared to now.

Accept this--it's gone. It is not coming back.

Some of us have realized this long ago already. A showman con artist can't change our minds about the facts.

What is possible? Given what is, what is to become? What might become is more than ancillary to the inevitable, because it's really up to us, but my habit of thinking assumes an unshakeable optimism, so I always begin with the assumption that the best will be.

This is fundamentally an attitude of more than personal predilection, because grounded in first cause deeper than anything I may derive. I wrote that a flourishing environment means a flourishing society. I heard the imagined protest of someone I know point out that it was for the cave man, too. I thought awhile, and then responded, "Yes, in fact it was."

And I continued, "We're not cave men, and we won't be."

My knowledge of the transformation our civilization hurtles towards, while admittedly, day to day and year to year, we witness change at a slow pace, given economic difficulties persistent, my knowledge lacks, but I know this, as far flung as I seem: Arthur C. Clarke's prediction of science and technology indistinguishable from magic, (A.C. Clarke author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) combined with naturalist E. O. Wilson's belief that we can create paradise on earth, involves more than restoring natural balance; it involves our participation in an artistic, scientific, and technological transformation of given nature. We have stream "restorations" in New Jersey that really amount to creative streamscaping, a humble beginning, but nothing at all to denigrate. I've seen beautiful results and have fished them.

Long ago now, in the 1980's, I read about the shift from industrial to super-industrial civilization...and we want the 1950's back? 

Read Einstein! The 1950's exist. But only exactly as they are. You can't get them back, but we can get the happiness back we really wish for.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Leadership in Wildlife Conservation: Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Honors for Women

I'm especially taken by this press release below, which I received from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, because Tanya Sulikowski is among the award recipients. Five or six years ago, I interviewed Tanya for an article I hoped to write on Schiff Nature Preserve in Mendham, when she served as Director there. She was wonderful to work with. Kind, very bright, fully present, and generous with information. I never forget the key motive in my seeking her out: what I felt to be a revolution in New Jersey concerning the environment.

Ostensibly, the article was to represent Schiff, and with her help, no doubt it would have proved to be a very good one, but I did not fail to speak of this issue of a change in the state's modus operandi in favor of the environment. Deep down, Schiff symbolized a larger whole for me, though Schiff itself is a wonderful acreage with valuable programs. The organization is also important in keeping intact the homestead of the father of the Boy Scouts of America, Baden Powell.

I could write for hours, days, weeks on the shift in New Jersey from industrial cauldron to environmental transformation, but I'll finish by pointing out that environmentalism today has come to recognize--and I think where it hasn't yet, it should--that the state's geography and the planet exists in the people's interest. I remember the scripts from the late 1960's. All about how evil man is. Now we learn that a flourishing environment means a flourishing society. 






Three New Jersey Women to be Honored for Leadership in Wildlife Conservation on Nov. 30 at Duke Farms

in Hillsborough



Gov. Florio keynote speaker at Women & Wildlife event

featuring silent auction, Awards Ceremony, and live bird of prey



Hillsborough, NJ – The nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) will present their 11th annual Women & Wildlife Awards on Wednesday, November 30 at the Coach Barn at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Former New Jersey Governor James J. Florio will serve as the keynote speaker, and the event will also include a silent auction and a live bird of prey.



The Women & Wildlife Awards recognize special individuals for their achievements, the advances they have made for women in their professions, their efforts to increase awareness of rare species and the habitats they depend on, and their contributions to New Jersey's wildlife.



“Wildlife conservation efforts have benefited from a strong core of female scientists, educators, advocates, researchers, and rehabilitators who serve as role models for the next generation,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “Thanks to our Women & Wildlife honorees, today’s young girls can feel confident in pursuing science and conservation as careers with limitless and exciting possibilities.”





Event sponsors include PSE&G, Eric Sambol, Bob and Maureen Coleman, Renzi Bernardi Suarez & Co., Dr. Barbara, Brummer, Dewberry, James Fiorentino, Glenn Insurance, Inc., Amy S. Greene Environmental Consultants, Inc., Grumpys Tackle, Mercer County Wildlife Center, Merrill G. & Emita E. Hastings Foundation, New Jersey Education Association, Pinelands Nursery, Rick Weiman, and Your Part Time Controller.



The 2016 honorees are:



Martha Maxwell-Doyle - Inspiration

With over three decades of dedication to resource management, hazardous materials, and environmental protection, Ms. Maxwell-Doyle has proved to be a powerful force behind habitat restoration and protection. Currently working at the Barnegat Bay Partnership as a project coordinator for estuary protection and restoration, Ms. Maxwell-Doyle's years of experience at multiple national estuary programs has made it second nature for her to implement conservation and management plans. Ms. Maxwell-Doyle’s enthusiasm for life and the environment drives her to do as much as possible to repair New Jersey's wildlife habitats while teaching others that a difference can be made.



Wendy Walsh - Leadership

As a Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Ms. Walsh has proven herself invaluable in the endangered species field for her work with wildlife such as the piping plover, swamp pink, and seabeach amaranth. Her most notable work is with the red knot, a declining species for which Ms. Walsh took the species lead in the federal listing process. Her tireless efforts coordinating, analyzing and interpreting data, particularly detailing the effects of changing climate on these long-distance migrant shorebirds has made her work widely acclaimed as the final rule. Ms. Walsh's open-mindedness to others' expertise makes for effective planning and implementation of her vision to one day recover all threatened and endangered species.



Tanya Sulikowski - Education

A champion in environmental education, Ms. Sulikowski is currently the Manager of Programs at Duke Farms where she hosts hands-on creative projects that include bird banding and monitoring, as well as rain gardens and barrels just to name a few. Ms. Sulikowski considers her creation of the Teen Action and Leadership Opportunities for Nature program to be her greatest professional achievement, since it inspires urban students to make lifestyle changes that incorporate their newly discovered love of nature. Her reach has extended statewide through her various roles within the Alliance for NJ Environmental Educators, where she currently serves as Vice President.


For more information on the 2016 Women & Wildlife Awards, please visit
www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org/getinvolved/event/women/. To learn more about CWF, please visit www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org.





###



Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has worked to protect rare wildlife in New Jersey and beyond for over two decades. CWF biologists and educators utilize field science, habitat restoration, environmental education, public engagement, and volunteer stewardship to ensure our most vulnerable wildlife species can continue to call New Jersey home. Our dedicated and innovative scientists have helped many species recover and thrive again in our densely populated state.

CWF's wildlife webcams, Story Maps, live webcasts, and e-books help bring wildlife directly to the screens of tens of thousands of people, while our public events and volunteer projects give people of all generations the opportunity to experience the wonders of wildlife up close. Our educators utilize art and essay contests, educational field trips, summer camps, afterschool programs, technology initiatives, classroom presentations, and wildlife-based curriculum and lesson plans that meet the latest educational standards in helping kids grow in STEAM - or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. More information can be found at
www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving


May the sword of justice bring peace, prosperity, and gratitude to you on, or perhaps let's say after, this Thanksgiving, sometime, since things may take time and patience to work out.

I always find each American holiday--including worldwide Christmas--to feel quite different. Ever since I caught crappies in the Delaware and Raritan Canal on Thanksgiving way back in the late 1980's to contribute to our meal, this holiday has never recovered from that foray. Which is really to say that little jaunt, though I knew the spot and how to catch the crappies, that little jaunt I would have too easily evaded, and yet I had no predilection to evade it, did it, and ever since I've felt this day with a depth of solemnity that isn't stuffed and contrived at all. We only do that to the turkey. All it took for me was an hour of crappie fishing, which isn't to say the holiday hadn't any substance before, just that I feel so much more ever since that dabble. 

So gratitude to all my readers throughout the year. And if you can only feel it on Thanksgiving, or perhaps not even feel it, but honor it as you know you should feel it, you're missing out. And if you accept life day to day with an open embrace, I know you're probably reading my blog with appreciation,. 

Delaware River at Interstate 80 and Delaware Water Gap


A sudden cold snap typically puts fish off from feeding, but we've had cold weather here in New Jersey for days now, and though I hoped the stable quality of the weather might mean some fish feeding despite cold water, the Delaware River seemed completely deserted. Thirty nine-degree water clear as a bell, bottom visible 12 feet down, current slow with low water as severe drought persists; we never sighted a fish of any species, and the structure near the pillars of Interstate 80's gateway into Pennsylvania proved to be less of a fish attractor than I had hoped. I'll explain this in a moment.

We bought 2-cycle oil in Chester for Mike's untried 3 1/2-horse outboard many years old, and then gas in Flanders, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan after I had switched off WQXR classical music to play "Shake for Me," my hybrid striped bass theme song from May when we trolled for these lightning streaks. Nothing shakes on the line like a hybrid bass. Conversation had just got started back in Bedminster and for more than seven hours total, never quite ceased. The music played under what we had to say.

At 13 State Route 183, Stanhope Bait and Boat--13 my favorite number and not surprisingly the name of a Door's album--we found the shop closed and surmised that Diane, think that's the proprietor's name, must have left for a Thanksgiving destination along with the many others crowding the highways. I shot a photo of Lake Musconetcong covered by skim ice from aside her shop.

So we continued north on 183 to connect with U.S. Highway 206, drove through Andover and stopped at a shop chiefly advertising guns and ammo. I muttered my bewilderment about live bait; Mike quickly pointed a sign to my left advertising it. So we stepped inside to immediately witness a man trying out an AK-15, I think Mike said it was. Not firing it, but peering through the sights. I better liked the shotgun typically used for hunting that I might have noticed in passing as another man examined the weapon. The woman proprietor was one of the many kinds I like--steely backbone, fit to deal with tough customers, attractive, and friendly in no way obnoxious. As she scooped our three dozen shiners, I asked her of any fishing report. She told me Aeroflex is down 15 feet, salmon coming over the gunnels. I told her we were after walleye on the Delaware and before she said more, the two gun prospectors chimed in to confirm that now's the time for those fish.

It is and isn't. I didn't say that, but of course that's what I thought. When the river warms by as little as less than a degree or two, on those unusually mild days as we enjoyed here in New Jersey just days ago--temperatures above 70--or maybe when it's considerably cooler than that but warming the water--walleye get caught on plugs in the shallows as sunset approaches during winter. Otherwise, it's jigging pretty deep and possibly tipping those jigs with live shiners, or just using a plain shank size 6 hook and a medium-size or large split shot. Shiners tempt a take or two more likely than lures, or maybe half a dozen hits rather than one or two, as back in the 1970's I fished down river at Bull's Island with my brother Rick and we caught that many walleye on a chilly December day. My coldwater history on the Delaware doesn't encompass much experience, but I have caught smallmouth bass while wading the river in December, also. How I managed to keep my feet from going numb involved standing on rocks above water level. Those were boot-foot waders I used, but not of high quality. I've fished the river enough in the cold to have rich memories.

I began succumbing to fantasies of doing what Mike and I did today about 10 years ago. In December 2004 or 2005, my son and I fished the river below Carpentersville from shore on a December 7th, trudging through a foot of snow. We rode out to Phillipsburg and cast plugs in February sometime around 2006. All well and nice, but not in a boat like that time with one of my brothers. I dreamed and dreamed of just a 12 or 14-foot boat with a 9.9-horse outboard. Artistic temperaments like mine have chemistries more potent than hallucinogenic drugs which only mimic what comes natural to us, at least if any of us has such chemistry to the pronounced degree I experience, which isn't to say I suffered my dreams of the Delaware, but enjoyed them deeply. Of course, I imagined some pretty great fish, though I knew the likelihood of getting skunked if I ever were to get out on the river, rather than fish it from shore, since after all, you can't rent a raft to float downriver in November, and I knew the unlikelihood of ever affording a boat, given my chronic financial straits. The truth is, years after the deepest of these dreams, I spent more money on camera equipment than to have paid for that 14-foot boat and outboard, minus the charges of storage space, since condo association rules where we live prohibit trailers in the lots. Finally, I had a solution after experimenting with an inflatable for a few years. The squareback canoe I keep hidden behind bushes flush against a wall of our unit.

Mike's outboard failed us today, but my 55-pound thrust electric got us way upriver without any problems. Those pillars in the photo below create eddies that I know hold bass during the warm months, since my son and I have done well wading and fishing those closest to the Jersey bank. We fished eddies only a few feet deeper mid-river, seemingly great for relieving bass and walleye from fighting cold current, but I don't think any fish were present at all. We fished very methodically, thoroughly, and then began to poke our way back downstream with the sonar graph on, finding that the same depth of about 10 feet extends some 400 yards down below the bridge before water deepens to about 12 feet for at least another 400 yards, before finally deepening to about 16...until reaching 28 feet deep across the river from the ramp at least a half mile below the bridge. So fish that must have some relation to deeper water--55 feet deep at most further downstream--don't have much structure in the form of rocky edges and deep water rising to those relatively shallow pillars, which would draw and guide them to and fro. The bottom we could plainly see beneath us is featureless and uniform. Just hand-size rocks for the most part, leading nowhere. I had hoped for a hole of about 20 feet deep just downstream of the bridge, assuming depths would increase on downward. Well, a long way downward.

And we fished those depths way downward, drifting with slow river current, keeping shiners at bottom. We came upon another boat, two anglers complaining of catching nothing, as they said they often do catch bass in the cold, though they didn't manage to find a bait shop open for the shiners they wanted, and fished jigs instead. Not that hair jigs, or jigs with plastics, don't work at all in the cold.

Always important to get out. I forgot everything else, and a lot of what is otherwise becomes very stressful and not rewarding of much pay, not that I don't recognize it's more important. It's just that it's more important yet--to forget what's important.
  



Monday, November 21, 2016

Round Valley Reservoir at Lowest Levels since 1982


Round Valley Reservoir reached its lowest level since November 28, 1982, on Thursday, November 3rd. I'm sure more than one individual stood at the edge when the mark fell, baiting rainbow trout and celebrating this fall's phenomenal fishing. At approximately 67% capacity at that mark, maybe catches this fall like none previous signify the difference measured in billions of gallons of water in terms of trout with less space to evade the hook. Whatever it is, I've missed out, as I said in the previous post, but I'm feeling better since I got over there this morning for some photography and talk with Dave Deluca for 20 minutes or so. It's not even December, and he's caught about 350 rainbows since the trout came ashore late in September, all but about 10 of them released. He goes just about every day, but even so, this is consistent action like I've never seen since I began fishing shoreline trout during the cold season in 2006.

Still thinking of giving the fishing a try some morning soon. My generic Ambien comes in the mail soon. I'm putting in the hours, since my son goes away to university next fall, but though it's difficult to cheat on a regular schedule--I was exhausted at work today and I got up at 9:00 a.m.--knowing how much I need to get out, I'll probably do it. Zolpidem helps. I didn't really sleep until 1:30 a.m. last night without the drug.

I'm hoping for ice this winter. Plan on hitting Budd Lake first, as soon as three or four inches thick. But I'm nervous that ice fishing might conflict with getting over here to try for lake trout in January. So little time.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Round Valley Reservoir Trout Abundance: An Answer I Never Came for


Feeling it awesome I caught this rainbow four years ago on December 5th. In the post of mine from which I stole the photo below featuring Albert Camus, if not some of the words of this philosopher-hero of the working man, certainly significant allusion signifies my association with him as meaningful to where I've come from that time, and where we've come, because whatever Donald Trump is--I once joked that he's an occasion like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the movie Ghostbusters--working men seem to have largely comprised the equation of his election. Somehow or other--it strikes me as mysterious--I found Camus's Notebooks: 1942-1951 at JFK Airport, 2012. I don't remember if enroute to the Florida Keys or Europe. Other books for sale didn't carry the intellectual importance. I read the book that fall and winter fishing Round Valley Reservoir from shore while I worked in a job I had come to love, just as Camus wrote of the way beyond despair, my taking conscientious stock of his words some six or seven years before I came to appreciate this job so deeply--thanks to Albert.

I'm feeling deeply disappointed for not making it to these same shores this fall--just down further where water used to be, as the reservoir is at record low level. I came once with Oliver for fly fishing about a month ago on an extremely windy morning, the reservoir lonesome besides the two of us. Going on two weeks, I've felt the guilt for not being there as I used to come two or three times a week, though three or four visits since late September might have satisfied this year. You can ask Mike Maxwell the Trout Assassin; he's heard my gripes masked by enthusiasm. He told me Horhey here in our neighborhood swung in with two big rainbows in his trunk recently. Fish of about 22 inches fairly typical this year. Nevertheless, the numbers and size of trout, though I don't deny the excitement and that this is what I feel disappointed about along with my not seeing friends I made there, the numbers and size could never replace the exquisite experiences of appreciation I've experienced for many more lonesome years at the reservoir and write about in a section of nearly a hundred pages in my coming memoir.

Just back from Round Valley Trout Association's meeting, I got some more details on the news a lot of people seem aware of this year. Mike Roman said, "We've never had numbers of 21, 22-inch rainbows like this before." Zach Merchant, the most famous shore angler of the host, said, "It's dropped off a little bit. Guys are still catching fish, but it's not as good as two, three weeks ago."

Behr's Bait and Tackle is closed twice weekly all winter. Word from Behr's quarter speaks of low customer turnout. News I offer in this post comes late, but that's just as well by me, since I don't care to seem responsible for high turnout for the trout. It's just that I do like to see individual men and women who get outside and develop personal appreciations which effectively embrace this world, thus hallowing this worldly presence infinitely more complex than any mind can grasp, and yet vulnerable because we are vulnerable. Let me further plug in this very important point. The natural world is quite indifferent to us. When it seems benevolent, when it answers us, it does so as an echo of our own affirmation. Not necessarily a weakened echo, but a return instead of perhaps more potency than we offered. And it does work both ways. Positive or negative. Energy is subtle, and ultimately where it matters most is human consciousness, not just the gas tank. We matter. If we destroy ourselves, that's all we do, besides taking whatever species to demise and death with us. The natural world as such will simply go on in whatever affected form we leave it. And where we go in spirit--who's to say? No one. Believe what you will. We do know energy is almost infinitely subtle. We do know that we don't know all the possibilities. And I do not want to leave this world in a bad way.

RVTA plans on stocking another 200 undersize brown trout this year. Last year's batch may easily be legal size now, but if you catch a brown trout you can legally keep, I only ask that you please put it back. The state hasn't stocked any of 15, 16 inches you might catch, and the intent of the club is observe these browns growing to trophy size.