Frenchtown Cliffs of Nishisakawick Creek
Expect a full stocking schedule this spring
Last year, New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife's Pequest Hatchery stocked rivers, streams, ponds and lakes in our region with 180,000 rainbow trout before Opening Day, Saturday, April 4th. Much the same awaits us this year for Saturday, April 9th, and on into the season. Nearly 600,000 rainbow trout will be stocked by the end of May. Since rainbows have proved to be resistant to furunculosis, don’t expect any brown or brook trout for an uncertain length of time.
Most of us remember the disease debacle a couple of years ago, and I’m sure a lot of us hope to see brookies and browns again in the future. I didn’t attend the Pequest Hatchery meeting at the end of last month, and I’ve regretted this, mostly because I would have liked to have asked about the stocking of my favorite Hunterdon County streams, and possibly other little creeks of which I don’t know about the stocking slack. Last year, Fish & Wildlife signs got posted with few or any trout associated with them stocked in the Wickecheoke Creek near Stockton, and I’d like to know the reasons for the demise of the Hakihokake Creek in Milford and Nishisakawick Creek at Frenchtown, both of these streams true New Jersey gems, the former reputedly serving the reproduction of wild browns but perhaps fallen victim to the complaints of property owners. As far as I know, the land bordering the Hakihokake is no more developed than during the 1970’s, but have social attitudes ever changed since then. However, the Nishisakawick is wild and wonderful between Frenchtown and CR 519 miles upstream, so property issues don't seem to be the reason. Otherwise, I’m sure that issue—brookies and browns in our future—got discussed two months ago, but I just haven’t heard.
The Highlands region is all about the state’s water resources and this translates into trout for whoever wants to go fish. As I say, at least most places. If you travel far up into Warren and Sussex, you may find the crowds thin somewhat. The Big Flatbrook a major stream flowing most northwestern, little creeks like Clove Brook in Wantage Township or Glenwood Brook in Vernon are really special. By comparison to brooks, I’m a little awed by the familiar North Branch Raritan River here where I live in Bedminster. I feel large flow leans on the heavy side and fish little creeks best. Regardless, I would feel awkward catching a brazen smallmouth bass in a tiny pool, on the other hand.
This is why, growing up in Mercer County, I never fished Beden’s Brook, even though I knew for sure it held smallmouths as large as 17 inches. With trout, it’s a different story. I used to drive from Lawrence Township to the Delaware Watergap and fish little Dunnfield Creek for native brook trout and wild browns. Otherwise, I caught stocked rainbows in Holland Township and Milford Borough’s tiny Hakihokake, experiencing some of my life’s finest moments. A trickling flow can put you directly in touch with life’s essence. There’s little arguing against the point that water is this.
Creeks usually function as headwaters for popular rivers such as Warren County’s Pequest with big holdover trout and plenty 15 to 24-inch breeder rainbows stocked. If you want to fish big water, additional possibilities include the Paulinskill in Warren and Sussex; Musconetcong in Morris and dividing Warren and Hunterdon; Black, Rockaway, South Branch Raritan and Passaic in Morris; Ramapo, Wallkill, Wanaque, Pequannock, and Pompton in Passaic; the Ramapo, Saddle and Hackensack in Bergen; and the Passaic, Lamington and North Branch Raritan River in Somerset. These are major streams well worth the effort shared with rather convivial crowds, but again, little creeks listed online—numerous—may be more endearing to you than any larger water’s austerity. Let’s not forget this at the Pequest Hatchery.
For the past three years my son and I, along with two of his uncles and a cousin on some occasions, have fished the Locatong and Nishisakawick creeks among Hunterdon hills, catching nothing in the Nishisakawick, since nothing was there but minnows and dace. A fair number of other anglers have accompanied us at the Locatong, good conversation struck up with fewer people than the North Branch Raritan entertained during preceding years. The rural character of the region explored in-between bridge stops engenders an authentic feeling reminding me of New England, 18th and 19th century history deeply engrained in charmed settings. Two years ago, we drove past Sergeantsville Inn and I made a mental note to perhaps have my family dine there. The Inn burned down just last year after about 300 years of fine service. This is an irreplaceable loss, though it’s consoling I’m familiar with other historical restaurants near streams in Stockton, Frenchtown and Milford. We ate at Milford’s Ship Inn in October and have yet to try the Oyster House around the corner and the Frenchtown Inn on back down the road in the direction of Trenton.
For those of us who like to use the lightest spinning tackle possible in these places—no, not literally in these restaurants, but whether on rivers or creeks—two-pound test monofilament and salmon eggs prove elementary to method effective for nearly two months this year. Browns traditionally stocked in May tend to shun salmon eggs, not rainbows. However, the classic 70-degree calm evenings that bring on insect hatches for the last two weeks or so of stocking—traditionally inciting browns to rise in amazing numbers throughout river slow stretches suitably deep—may serve as tests to find if rainbows refuse salmon eggs quickly after stockings for an exclusively buggy diet. I may never know, because as soon as I see rainbows rise, I’m fly fishing.
This year I’ll again exercise my new six-foot, two-weight TFO outfit. A river like the North Branch Raritan flowing through Bedminster accommodates an eight-foot, five-weight rod just fine and with advantages of quicker, longer casts, but I want to feel better what it’s like on a very light rod. Another idea anyone else can try is butter worms. They’re available from California online and a good idea for any shop owners. Now the secret’s out.