Saturday, April 4, 2015

Where are the Trout?

Three consecutive Opening Days at Locatong Creek felt deeply satisfying, but I find I move on in life before something or other begins to feel old. This way, I keep youth alive despite having outwardly clocked 54 years. Until Thursday, I figured we would forgo Opening Day this year. My family had plans to eat at the Ship Inn in Milford and hike to the Ice Cave, an abandoned iron mine just north of Phillipsburg. We got a family invitation for Easter, plans changed, and desire stirred to fish little Hakiokake Creek. I had an amazing experience fishing here Opening Day 1975.

In Milford, two creeks meet. The larger is designated Hakiokake. I'm not sure of the smaller creek's name, the creek photographed above where friends and I enjoyed trout fishing 1975 and times since. My son and I got out of the car. He walked upstream, I went downstream. Neither of us sighted any trout nor any Fish & Wildlife notices up. I may get around to checking online the stocking schedule to see if two creeks in Milford and Holland Township are listed.

We stopped at the public park beside the slightly larger creek. Here perhaps half a dozen people fished at about 11:00 a.m. I got word of 20 trout caught just upstream at a bridge, but I didn't care to fish. For me, it was a matter of revisiting my 1975 experience or else passing on fishing today. Matt's an aloof 16 and hadn't any outward insistence on trying.

We drove off, Wickecheochee Creek in mind to visit on a roundabout way home. I realized I had left my fishing license at home with stuff I need to sort. Matt's forgetful mind is like mine, so naturally he forgot his license too, now new to being licensed. No fishing for us today, but we would have a look at the Creek near Stockton I so admire.

We got as far as the green bridge, driving west from Route 29. Someone intending to fish pulled in behind. Here it is Opening Day, no one around, Fish & Wildlife notices up. I dropped three salmon eggs from atop the bridge while wearing polarized sunglasses, water below not perfectly clear, but clear enough to watch the eggs descend about five feet to no takers. I could only guess that if any trout had been stocked, they're very few. A few years back the situation here felt much the same. The few who fished reported nothing.

Meanwhile, my son had walked downstream. I watched with apprehensive eagerness as he attempted to cross the fairly wide Creek by hopping rocks. He got wet almost to his knees. And he persisted, looking in the water closely as he continued to walk. Suddenly he raised both hands to signal the size of a very big fish and waved me down.

Some must have been stocked. He guessed the trout to have been about 20 inches, darting upstream and out of sight through very shallow riffles. Surprising.

We rode on a mile or two to the Covered Bridge. We sighted one angler fishing. I noticed a few more Fish & Wildlife designations along the way. It's as if everyone has given up on trout fishing the Wickeocheochee, certainly not because it's an unsightly place.

Some years ago, I took Matt to Locatong Creek and very few trout seemed to have been stocked. Quite a number of people tried; very few reported any catches.

Where are the trout? If Fish & Wildlife designates a creek to be stocked, it should be. Where are the voices? I'm typing mine. Fish & Wildlife holds a public meeting concerning trout stocking in February at Pequest Hatchery.

Creeks offer fine trout fishing. I think some of the very finest, since close, intimate settings allow particularity of experience big name streams, lakes and ponds can't provide.

The word from Fish & Wildlife is that nearly 600,000 trout will be stocked this spring.



  1. You got down toward my neck of the woods..... i am across the river from Stockton. For no particular reason i also have not been out on the past few opening days. Interesting comments about the level of stocking. If you are correct that there are good places being omitted, I hope the voices are heard.

    1. I think I saw stocking numbers the state publishes, so possibly there's comparisons that can be drawn. If they publish specific pre-Opening Day numbers, that could be helpful. At any rate, I'm not the only one who's noticed fewer fish in the creeks. It's also sort of odd that no Fish & Wildlife signs are posted along the second Milford stream, which used to offer such fine fishing.


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