With the huge amount of focus and angling effort centered on saltwater (read: flounder, weakfish, stripers, sea bass and black drum), south Jersey’s freshwater fishing scene remains largely ignored.

With the spring trout stocking concluded and the largemouth/smallmouth bass “season” (when the fish can be possessed) not set to open until June 16, there seems to be only token interest in what is available on the sweetwater scene.

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As of June 16, expect to see many, many boats on the likes of Union Lake, Lake Lenape, the Salem Canal, the Cooper River, Hammonton Lake, Sunset Lake...venues popular with bass tournament anglers who will then be able to possess via putting the fish in the livewells to be weighed at the conclusion of the competition and then safely released.

For the most part, though, save for a burgeoning interest in the exploding fishery for the invasive northern snakehead in any number of the Delaware River tributaries in Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Mercer counties, freshwater activity remains under the radar.

This is crazy, because as you read this, there is superlative angling opportunities for not only bass, but pickerel, crappies, yellow and white perch and channel catfish, and no need to travel far, as waters close to home, many within a few minutes drive, can provide plenty of rod bending.

“Hiding in plain sight” is how we put it, especially when it come to urban and suburban park lakes, ponds and creeks. Often viewed as kids’ domains where sunnies and bullheads rule, they are not deemed worthy of adult angler attention, yet these can deliver both in numbers and quality of fish.

Cases in point: a quick detour off the highway and a sortie to an Ocean County park pond late last week ended with a guesstimated three-plus pound bass on the grass that was quickly released after a photo. Fast forward to an early Sunday evening with the oppressive heat waning as the sun sank below the treetops, what we figured was an 7-8 pound chicken liver-loving channel cat was set free after the circle hook was removed.

Again, a park pond, but in another county.

Explore some of these easy-to-reach swims, and you just might be surprised. The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife now has available a “Places to Fish” app that covers
waters in all 21 counties. Access, acreage, species...it’s all included. Go to www.njfishandwildlife.com for more information.

Worried about having to purchase a freshwater fishing license? The Division has that covered as well via its “Free Fishing Day” next Saturday, June 5. No license or trout stamp required. Just go and fish. Better yet, bring a youngster or two along and get them involved.

You can learn more about the Free Fishing Day and also the Division’s statewide “Youth Day Fishing Challenge”, also on June 5, by tuning in to Rack & Fin Radio this Saturday, 7-8am, on 97.3 ESPN FM (www.973espn.com).

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