Saturday, September 13, 2014

Millstone River for Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike

Millstone River for smallmouth bass, northern pike

          The Millstone River originates in western Monmouth County, flows through a section of Middlesex County into Mercer County and Princeton, and enters Carnegie Lake near the mid-point. The water spilling over the lake’s dam and flowing north and east is the Millstone River, although Stony Brook is a sizeable small river where it enters the lake’s head. The Millstone begins and ends as a Piedmont Plain, mostly mud bottomed river, but Stony Brook is the state’s southernmost predominantly freestone stream. Three miles further south, the Shipietaukin Creek runs over gravelly slates and broken rock for a mile or two of its longer length, yet most of Stony Brook flows through the hilly region of Mercer, and the swift water flowing over rocks at least used to hold excellent smallmouth bass populations.

          Virtually none of these bass make their way into Carnegie Lake (good for largemouths). But the Millstone has smallmouths despite lack of many rocks and gravel. The bass both run upstream from the Raritan River and make their way from Beden’s Brook—another Mercer County freestone stream—which flows into the Millstone at Rocky Hill. Northern pike and pickerel are more common than smallmouths, as are largemouths, but one spot in particular may hold a number of smallmouths willing to hit on a given afternoon.

          This is the first time I’ve divulged a very specific location in more than three years’ column writing. I hope I’m not burning anyone else’s favorite spot and don’t believe I am, since I’ve passed over the Wilhousky Street Bridge every other day for the past five years. In all this time, I’ve never seen anyone fishing the Weston Causeway Dam race in clear view as I pass over.

          My son, Matt, was seven when we parked near the Manville bridge in Somerset County to fish the area of the dam. This was August 2006, and for a couple of months Matt had been excited about fishing this piece of the Millstone for muskies. I had read and discussed with him a peculiar article I liked in The Fisherman magazine which recommends this spot for just that species, and while it isn’t impossible—muskies are stocked in the Delaware and Raritan Canal and find their way into the Raritan River and then into the Millstone—northern pike are much more likely caught, since thousands have been stocked in the Millstone by the state over the years. One other unlikely catch is walleye. The same article featured a photograph of a walleye apparently caught in the Millstone at Wilhousky. They’re not stocked in the canal or the river. They make their way into the Raritan from the Delaware, by way of the canal. State Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Game personnel reportedly tallied electroshock recovery samples from the Millstone last year, and these included one large walleye.

          Of course, Matt and I caught no muskies or walleyes. We caught no northern pike or largemouth bass either, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience catching three smallmouth bass, which slammed our small spinnerbaits as the blades pulsed through the fast water below the dam. Two bass were very good size, weighing more than a pound-and-a-half. Obviously, a little fast water combined with rock-like concrete is a smallmouth bass magnet. I suppose any walleye in the area would frequent the fast water also. Walleye have been caught on occasion in the canal for decades—always at any one of the nine locks in fast water. You may have to fish all nine locks at least nine times each to hook a walleye, but these are the places where they take residence. Smallmouths at Wilhousky are an easier catch.

          They won’t be for long, since the Weston Causeway Dam is slated for removal soon, probably next summer. This is why I can tell you about this spot in good conscience. It deserves some honor.

          Dams are removed for good reason, since rivers liberated improve ecologically and fisheries increase. Once the two Millstone dams go, shad and herring may swim as far upstream as Carnegie Lake dam. More smallmouth bass will rise from the Raritan too, since at present the Weston Causeway Dam stops bass from swimming further, although some fishermen surely release bass on the upstream side.

          I guess an interesting project for the Millstone would be the introduction of tons of rock and gravel on the stream bed, but I’m only dreaming. Besides, it’s got current sluices, eddies, and especially downed trees and brush making excellent pike, pickerel, and largemouth habitat. It’s a river for kayakers and canoers, and will be safer without temptation to go over a dam and get submerged in the circular current below.        


  1. Hello, has the dam been removed yet? Just found your blog, and am loving it (been a resident of Montgomery Twp for over 2 decades). Feel free to get back to me via email, Would love to talk spots with you

    1. Dam is still there. They're talking about removing it in 2018. I will email you in a few days.

    2. David,

      I tried to send you an email tonight. Did not go through to that email address....... Bruce Sorry it took me so long.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Bruce, apologies for the delayed response; I had an issue finding this post again (I don't get any notifications), but I have it bookmarked now.

    In any event, that's odd it didn't go through -- that's definitely my correct email address.
    (dave not david & zero-two, not oh-two)

    If you make another attempt and it still doesn't work for whatever reason, you can shoot me a text message to my cell @ (908) 698-9152, or reply to this with your email address.

    Looking forward to speaking with you soon in some capacity!

    1. David,

      Just resent it. My email: I was going to try sending to you again tonight, so it's a good thing you caught up to me, because I had forgotten my earlier intention. Busy, busy, but getting in touch with people makes all that easier anyway.

  3. From what I understand the dam has been removed. I used to fish this spot daily as a kid for smallmouths with minnows. Excellent action all the time. Right on the corner of the concrete landing water's edge, the fish would school together. Once saw a man fishing with a 9-10 foot sea rod and a bucket full of nice sized smallmouth.. sad.

    The royce brook runs into the river right near the damn and slightly up the brook (behind Rhythm's) was great for largemouth and carp. In the Valley across from Rhythm's was loaded with giant Carp. Our best was 35 pounds.The bait shop in Millstone used to stock 100 brown or brook trout in the royce brook too. They'd run to the small waterfall at the boat launch and we'd see them trying to jump up.

    At one point when the dam was removed the boat launch behind Krauser's was dried up nearly 90%. I heard of some guys launching the other day so I assume the water levels have risen. The confluence of the raritan and millstone was a much better fishing location. Especially for giant catfish.

    1. I love this story. To think of a bait shop stocking Royce Brook, and this is the first time I've heard of it. Didn't notice when there, but I did notice the slough behind Rhythm's. Is that still full? Wonder if largemouths still there.

      I didn't hate to see this dam go, but something in my gut sure did resist, and gone now, a place that was full feels lonely. You can just look at the photo, above, and know this is the truth.

      I have thought. Most of the Millstone is muddy. But smallmouths swim up from the Raritan, and they also swim down and into the Millstone from Beden's Brook near Princeton. Wouldn't it be a fine thing if NJ DF&W had boulders and stones dumped into the river at spots? Or am I mistaken...more there than I know, as is?

      We mustn't ask for too much. Because to depend on pubic money is not a good idea. But I wonder. Given what fishing license money is spent on...would it ever be possible to be creative enough within that parameter?

      Just a thought.

    2. Look what these guys do...if Trout Scapes web address will copy here.


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