Friday, January 26, 2018

Wild and Native Trout in Small, High Quality New Jersey Streams

           Here's a piece I wrote for New Jersey Federated Sportsmen's News early last year. Edit comment (January 6, 2019): This is one of two articles I've posted on both Litton's Fishing Lines and Fishing in New Jersey. Only the titles and these words differ. (I didn't mention the Fed on the other blog, either.) So if you found the other blog first, what follows is the same. I was trying to see if one or the other would rank well, and as it turns out, both posts are doing pretty well.
Wild Rainbow Passaic Headwaters
           How I learned about native brook trout in Dunnfield Creek is permanently obscured, but memories of catching them in the late 1970’s remain clear and colorful like the aquamarine spring-fed water. I made pilgrimages during the 1980’s with a brother of mine and also a girlfriend, catching both native brook trout and wild browns. In 1993, I hiked with my wife-to-be, Patricia, on a 90-degree July afternoon. Into the deepest pool I dove, clad in shorts. That’s when I learned just how cold the Creek stays.

          Charts and statistics online indicate approximately 50% of original native brook trout range remains in New Jersey, some of the lines of genetic inheritance going back about 12,000 years to the Wisconsin Glacier recession. From Somerset County northward, the New Jersey State Fish, designated by former Governor James Florio, is a multi-colored, fleshed-out jewel not all that rare. I’ve found them in a Somerset County rill, a shallow run not listed among 175 New Jersey Wild Trout Streams, which the Division of Fish & Wildlife designates. My son and I hiked the one-mile length, finding a single hole five feet deep with half a dozen brookies as large as seven inches finning at bottom. To the south of the state, native brook trout inhabited parts of the Pinelands in spring-fed streams and reportedly still do today in Big Timber Creek, tolerating high acidity.  

          Not every high quality stream in the state has brookies. Passaic River headwaters in Sherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary’s vicinity flourish with wild rainbows and browns, absent of any brook trout. Rockaway Creek has wild browns, but no rainbows. Flanders Brook has all three species. Countless other examples have their unique characteristics. On the whole, wild brown trout are most resilient, native brookies not quite as common a survivor of our state’s environmental pressures, and wild rainbows are not rare but least to expect.

          All three species offer you an opportunity to count small fish as valuable, although on occasion, I’ve got news of a true wild brown—not a holdover—more than 20 inches long. I saw a photo of a five-pound brook trout caught somewhere in remote Warren County. I couldn't quite believe this fish was native, but what else could it have been, caught far back in the forests of Warren County? Some brook trout do holdover from stocking and work their way far upstream to reproduce. Not as natives, but as wild trout, their progeny live on, but it seems unlikely to me that a giant brook trout from a remote forest stream was a wild fish, instead of a native.

           Not every small, spring-fed stream is small its entire length. During seventh grade, a friend and I used to sneak into the woods during lunch recess, hiking to the headwaters of Little Shabakunk Creek in Mercer County where we planned on building a dam as beavers would make. I had the address and contract information of a trout hatchery. We were just kids. Before complications ensued over a brook trout order, my father asked to see the site with wood already piled on. I took him there. He said, “You would need an engineering degree and equipment to build this dam.”

          Beavers do it, though.

          You will find most wild and native trout in free-flowing creeks and river headwaters. Some exceptions include small impoundments of such streams. In the creeks and small rivers, trout don’t always hold in the deepest pools. I’ve caught nine and 10-inch brookies in Dunnfield Creek riffles by casting small shad darts on an ultra-light spinning rod, though in recent years, I stick to my two-weight fly rod. To catch a seven-incher of any of the three species is to gain an opportunity to witness a fine specimen. Nine-inch fish prove less common, and yet among brown trout, 14 to 17-inch fish are not drastically rare in streams small where you might not expect them. They live out their years by very wary behavior.

          Rules posted online by NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife govern designated wild trout streams, limiting anglers to use of artificial lures. Ultra-light spinning is a perfectly thrilling way to go. Trout Magnets and tiny jigs of any variety work best. I never bothered with spinners, because these clear water habitats make the metal seem too flashy for my taste. Besides, treble hooks are a nasty way to treat the trout, so if you do use lures with trebles, it’s a good idea to crimp the barbs to ensure clean release. Use no more than two-pound test low diameter line and you have all the casting range you need.

          Plenty gets written on small stickbaits for wild browns, especially around spawning time in the fall. I own tiny one-inch Rapalas I’ve caught plenty of stocked browns on in the past, and though they would work, longer lengths—yet small—tease out larger fish. Committed now to my six-foot fly rod, I never look back with any regret to the jigs I used, nor to the worms browns chewed in February before artificial lures became the rule on the Dunnfield.

          Bead-head nymphs like pheasant-tails, stonefly imitations, olives, and you-name-it in a variety of smaller hook measures have proven most versatile, although especially smaller streamers like Wooly Buggers and Muddler Minnows have had their moments. So do dry flies. If you’re new to our state’s little secret, consulting local hatch charts is a good idea, although all-around patterns like the Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Hendricksons are good to begin with especially for eager brook trout. The plethora of fly patterns available—and of stream entomology—will confuse you plenty, as it still does me. But if you read Art Scheck, former editor of Fly Fisherman magazine and former New Jersey resident, you might find him claim the only pattern he cares to fish for summer brook trout is the floating black ant.

            Light tippets of 6X and 7X may not hold a big trout but prove fitting for the little ones. A diopter can ease the uncertainty of finding the tie loop of a tiny fly. Just wear a vest and you’re good to go, unless the stream demands waders in the cooler and cold months.

          Summer trout fishing is easy compared to this time of year. If water temperatures remain as cold as they do in the Dunnfield Creek, trout will survive their struggle with you. As a rule, I don’t pursue trout in water above 68 degrees. Right now is a special time to seek out new streams and fish them. Cold weather inspires zest in the hardy, but if you feel averse to line freezing in the guides and numb fingers reaching for a hand warmer, a mild afternoon is a pleasant reminder of days to come. And yet if you find the deepest pools and fish them patiently while forgetting summer memories that distract you from the present, you may find persistent winter days are plenty to comfort the need to get out. 
Wild Brown Trout Peapack Brook  Caught by Jorge Hildago
Native Brook Trout Dunnfield Creek

Headwaters North Branch Raritan
Capoolong Creek

Hakihokake Creek

Pohandusing Brook
Little Flatbrook 
   Rockaway Creek

Lamington River above CR 665

Van Campens Brook

Link to a piece on a stream hosting wild brown trout in its upper reaches:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Robert J. Romano's Novel The River King: A Fly Fishing Novel

Robert J. Romano Jr. lives in northwestern New Jersey with his wife, Trish, and their two Labrador retrievers, Winslow Homer and Finnegan. It might be appropriate one of the dogs is named after a great painter, because Romano's writing, like that of other novelists I read, reminds me of scenes captured not by camera pixels, but paint. As an aside, before I get further into my review of Romano's latest book, The River King: a Fly Fishing Novel, as an aside I point out that for an avid photographer, I feel peculiarly prejudiced against the art of selecting images by use of the technological device, but then again, I used to draw and paint, and I remember how it feels to create an image from the mind by placing marks on paper or canvas by pencil, pen, or paint brush.

An artist does much the same with words, and even though words don't have direct color tone and texture as does paint, at best their evocative value has the effect upon the reader of creating scenes in the mind. I read Romano's new book with great pleasure, because it invited me to visit the Rangeley region of western Maine, and why should I have denied myself this pleasure? Not only did I go through the portal to another place so well depicted, I met characters there who I won't forget.

Before I say more about the story, but withhold most of what I could show and tell you so I don't give too much away, a little more about Romano. His blog, Forgotten Trout, I had read some of before I read his novel. Here's the link: http:/ The details trace the kind of descriptions I think we all want to slow down and savor, though the hyper-speed warp of life today makes the mind impatient and disables the sense. I came first upon Romano's book Fishing with Fairies at Clarence Dillon Public Library in Bedminster many years ago, before I first encountered New Jersey Skylands Visitor, a publication I, too, have had the privilege of writing for. Romano writes for it regularly.

I think the writing of any novel requires of the author a paradox. He must slow down to create scene and character, because he mustn't miss evocative detail by which his readers will imaginatively experience place and people, but the mind of an artist involves an unruly ability to move at lightning speed. Such a mind is much quicker than any mind dependent on mobile devices. The notion that electronic pulses move faster than the thoughts of a free mind is absurd. The mind of a novelist leaps across a story's range so every detail contained in the story arc implies the whole.

Again, I won't give the story away, but I will tell you Romano creates suspense. He breaks his chapters by shifting chronology, thus building upon present time by backstory that creates depth, mulling the reader into moods suddenly alarmed by new developments on the next page, achieving sharp intensity. The climax comes late in the story and do not miss it.

I'm proud to know one of us among New Jersey writers has got so many books published and particularly of this most recent. I could say outdoor writers, especially because, like me, Romano is a member of Outdoor Writers Association of America, but basically we're writers first, I believe, and about the outdoors second. I get that impression from The River King: A Fly Fishing Novel. It's a story about life.

Link to product offer:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Knee Deep Ice Fishing Derby

Multiple posts, one day. Want to get Laurie's report across quickly. The Knee Deep event on Lake Hopatcong happened Saturday.

Laurie Murphy:

Knee Deep held their first contest of the year on Sunday Jan 21st. With a beautiful day, their were 120 entries and 5 juniors that fished for the  $$$ prizes. First place winners, Yang Davie with a 4 lb 9 oz pickerel, Mike Kolodziej with a 1lb 15 oz crappie, and Janine Depula with a 3 lb 7 oz Largemouth Bass each won $320.  Second place winners Vincent Canfield with a 4 lb 5 oz pickerel, Tom Nelson with a 1 lb 9 oz crappie and Gary Bruzaud with a 3 lb 3 oz Largemouth each won $192 and Third place winners Dylan Cole with a 4 lb 5 oz pickerel, Pablo Nieves with a 1 lb 2 oz yellow perch and Gary Sherman with a 3 lb 1 oz largemouth bass each received $128 for their prize.   Junior winners were Carly Poggio with a 3 lb 12 oz Largemouth Bass, and Gerard DelVescovo with a 4 lb 12 oz pickerel. They each won a rod and reel jigging combo. The next contest is set for February 11 th. Hopefully the ice will hang on !!!  There were several other noteworthy pickerel caught including Lou Marcucci  with a 3 lb 10 oz pickerel, Mike Novak w with a 3 lb 5 oz fish,  William Smith with a 3 lb 9oz pick, John Fernandez with a 4 lb 4 oz fish,  Rocco Farina with a 4 lb 1 oz pickerel and Will Rowe with 2 fish, weighing 3 lb 8 oz and 4 lb 3 oz.  There were lots and lots of yellow perch weighing about 1 lb.   There were also reports of some muskies being caught during the week in the 43 - 44 inch range. Please call the shop for up to date ice conditions. We are fully stocked with whatever you may need to spend the day on the ice. Have a great week !!!

Ice Thoughts and Sedge Island Summer

Weather forecast is mixed and not very promising for a continued ice season, though we do have a good base layer and it may hold out, if it gets cold after the first week of February. Guys are still getting out. I saw a FB post featuring Zach Merchant with a 36-inch true strain musky, and a tiger musky about the same length caught yesterday, the 22nd. I want ice fishing like that, but I have to be patient with what little I can get!

Awaiting Laurie Murphy's report and word on the Knee Deep Derby Saturday. Muskies are not included in that derby, by the way, since they're too big to get weighed, or so the word goes. We like to release them alive.

Now for another release to the press. My son participated in the Sedge Island Program years ago. Three events I recall were kayaking from Barnegat Bay through the inlet, into the ocean; fishing bluefish; treading clams. But they studied marine features of many sorts. It's a great opportunity for kids to get in touch with the natural world and to study and think about it, so I offer you this information in case it may spark interest.

he Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center is located just off Island Beach State Park in Barnegat Bay. Activities include the Barnegat Bay Field and Research Experience, the Sedge Island Field Experience, and the Sedge Island Fishing Experience. Here's the link:

Monday, January 22, 2018

Delaware Watergap NRA Accessible to Public

I wondered about this. Would the national parks shut down. Shut down's over now anyhow, but this information may be of interest.

Delaware Water Gap NRA News Release

Release Date:  January 22, 2018

Contact:  Kathleen Sandt, Public Affairs Specialist

       ; (570) 426-2472

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Accessible to Public during Government Shutdown

BUSHKILL, PA – During the shutdown of the federal government due to the lapse of appropriations, national parks will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures. As long as conditions permitpark roads, lookouts, trails and open-air areas at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will remain accessible to visitors, but emergency and rescue services will be limited. 

There will be no NPS-provided visitor services at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area including public information, restrooms, trash collection, and facilities and roads maintenance. 

Because of the federal government shutdown, NPS social media and websites are not being monitored or updated and may not reflect current conditions. All park programs have been canceled.

Pocono Environmental Education Center, Peters Valley School of Craft, Mohican Outdoor Center and Bushkill Outreach will remain in operation during the shutdown.  Primary roads will be plowed in the event of a snowstorm.

For updates on the shutdown, please visit


About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

Editor's Note: 

Due to the federal government shutdown, I am not in the office and am unable to access or respond to email.  I will respond to email messages as needed once government operations resume and I am back in the office.

Kathleen Sandt

Public Affairs Specialist

National Park Service

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

(O) 570-426-2472

(C) 570-234-9144

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” 
― Rachel Carson

Sunday, January 21, 2018

More About Edison

"Edison's quarry," you can call it that, but the real quarry the limestone came from to make the concrete houses I had in mind, but did not mention, apparently is situated near Stewartsville. Nowhere near the lake Oliver and I may fish. If you click on the link to the Hidden Jersey site, you'll find Edison Portland Cement Company, along with the nearby Vulcanite Company, depleted limestone in the area.

Here is further information and links from Fred:

Work was a little slow so I started playing around.  This Edison Concrete thing really peaked my interest. The man was amazing. The quarry's were down by Stewartsville, nowhere near Tilcon.  Its all across from Montana road (Merrill Creek) so will have to check it out this year.  The other looks like it was reclaimed as farmland, no visible sign of a ditch..