The recent Round Valley Reservoir gamefish survey by the NJ Division of Fish & Game found largemouth bass abundant, though mostly growing at a sub-average rate, compared to statewide statistics. However, the population is unbalanced in this respect, some of the bass apparently growing better than most, and the study points out the possibility of a state-record largemouth lurking under the reservoir's surface, as evidenced by a monstrous largemouth surveyed, nearly 24 inches long, weighing 8.85 pounds. Two other largemouths over five pounds are documented. The current New Jersey state record stands at 10 pounds, 14 ounces from Menantico Sand Wash Pond, Cumberland County.
Smallmouths did not show nearly so well, and the study indicates the population is not so abundant as in the past. Nor are the bass as large. I further speculate that with the low reservoir level, smallmouth bass spawning habitat is decreased. They need gravely bottom. Not only this. Their habitat in general is lacking now.
Keep in mind that an electroshock and netting survey is just a small sample on 2350 surface acres, even though that acreage is reduced somewhat for the time being with low water level. This recent effort by the DFG resulted in only three lake trout 9.9 pounds to 21.2 pounds surveyed, a behemoth over 20 pounds got caught on Super Bowl Sunday. Big largemouths get caught secretly ever year. I have heard the story of a nighttime surface plugger who experienced a huge strike, terrific battle--and break off. Naturally, he believes he hooked the state record.
In my opinion, it's good culture to agree on releasing big largemouths here. The unusual growth statistics suggest something sort of like the difference between Florida and northern strain largemouths, though this surely can't be whatever it is, in fact. And yet, whatever it is--the survey results show very convincing evidence that largemouths over two pounds pretty are rare here. Those larger may be the better growing fish; I've caught and released a number of them, and will continue to release all of my bass. It's in all of our interest to practice catch and release, because the better bass stand a chance of reaching that record size.
And whoever catches that record in season. That one keep.