For the second springtime in a row, the NJ Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries re-vamped its spring stocking schedule in order to minimize angler crowding (the social distancing thing) as well as any risks to personnel.

As in 2020, the seven week-in season stocking schedule was reduced to a massive dose of rainbow trout that included both the pre-season and in-season allocation that were released from mid-March through the first week in April. All told, 499,620 rainbows were liberated in 172 statewide waters.

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And, like last year, there was a load held back to be stocked in May. This year, this “bonus” stocking will run from next Monday through Friday. Approximately 75,040 ‘bows (there could be more) will be spread throughout 17 select venues.

For south Jersey trout anglers, these will include the Toms River (1580), the North and South Branches of the Metedeconk River (680 and 1070 respectively), and in a bit of a geographic stretch, the Manasquan River (2080).

From this corner, the Maurice and the Shark rivers should have made the list, but that’s
grist for a future column.

The trout fishing has been exemplary this spring, with waters blessed with decent amounts of rain and overall cool temperatures, affording the stocked rainbows close to ideal living conditions, especially those released in streams and rivers. Happy trout are hungry trout, and many anglers encountered tell of limit catches and lots of catch-and-release. A lot of husky breeder ‘bows ranging from 18- to 25 inches and weighing up to six pounds are being caught along with loads of the standard 10.5-12 inch standard length stockies.

“It’s been really good trout fishing, especially on the South Branch of the Metedeconk and the Toms,” enthuses Dave Podmokly from Manahawkin who also likes to travel north and probe Sussex County swims such as the Big and Little Flat Brooks, and the Pequest River.

He also told of lights out trouting on the easy-to-fish Delaware & Raritan Feeder Canal (3,550 next week) in Mercer County as well.
To be sure, next week will provide outstanding South Jersey trout fishing opportunities that will last into June, if not beyond. The Toms, South Branch of the Metedeconk and Manasquan are classified as “Trout Maintenance Waters” where the fish can survive year-round, and we’ve nailed our share through the summer months.

You can’t go wrong with the likes of Mepps and Rooster Tail spinners and Trout Magnets as well as baits such as salmon eggs, garden and meal worms, PowerBait Dough and three-inch bubblegum Power Worms, and Gulp! Corn.

Go to njfishandwildlife.com, hit the trout fishing link then go to springtime stocking for a list of the 17 rivers and streams. The waters stocked that day will be listed on the site that same evening...no announced dates/waters. This is designed to eliminate angler crowding on the day the rainbows are released.

The daily limit is still six at a nine-inch minimum. After Memorial Day the possession limit drops to four.

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