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Winter Trout Fishing in Lakes and Ponds

By Bob Papson
Principal Fisheries Biologist
November, 2004 (updated November, 2006)

At this time of the year, when many sportsmen are planning hunting strategies, freshwater anglers "in the know" are planning winter trout fishing trips to freshly stocked lakes and ponds throughout the state. 2004 marks the fifth year of the Division's highly successful Winter Trout Stocked Lakes Program. Twenty-four lakes and ponds geographically distributed throughout the state are stocked the three days prior to Thanksgiving Day with 12,940 rainbow trout averaging 11 inches in length. (See Winter Trout Fishing in New Jersey for current information.)

This stocking program has been well received and every year winter trout anglers eagerly await the stocking of trout in their favorite lake or pond. Although much of the winter fishing activity on these lakes occurs during open water (unfrozen) periods, many anglers look forward to the opportunity to catch trout through the ice, especially in South Jersey. Some of the parks where trout are stocked, particularly in urban areas, prohibit ice fishing. Therefore, anglers should check with the park office regarding regulations on ice fishing.

Stocked trout will readily strike during the winter either through the ice or open water. Catch rates have been impressive especially in some of the smaller waterbodies.

So how does one go about catching trout during the colder months? Through the ice, tip-ups fished with fathead minnows or scented artificial bait (such as powerbait) are very effective when the bait is placed near the lake bottom. Jigging near the bottom with small jigs or ice jigging flies also works well.

If fishing open water from the shore, bait is usually more productive than lures. A variety of baits can be used (baby nightcrawlers, meal worms, fathead minnows, powerbait, mini-marshmallows, etc.) and they work best fished on the lake bottom. If using lures from shore or boat, they should be fished slowly since fish tend to react more slowly in colder temperatures.

Bob Papson with trout
Bob Papson with a nice winter rainbow trout
photo courtesy of Tom Pagliaroli
Boy ice fishing
Take a kid ice fishing!
Several changes have been made to the program in 2004. Green Turtle Pond, a 40-acre lake located on the Wanaque Wildlife Management Area, will be substituted for Shepherd Lake. Green Turtle Pond, a recently approved trout stocked water is located in Passaic County several miles from Shepherd Lake. It is hoped that this smaller lake with good shoreline access will provide higher returns to the anglers than Shepherd Lake produced. Shepherd Lake is classified a "Holdover Trout Lake" therefore trout should still be available for winter anglers from those stocked the previous spring. (See the Freshwater Digest for more information.)

In addition, south Jersey lakes that were traditionally stocked the first week of January will now be stocked during the same period as the north Jersey lakes, i.e. Thanksgiving week. This change will allow all Garden State anglers to take advantage of these fishing opportunities during the holiday period when many people take time off from work.

A tagging study will be conducted on the newly stocked Green Turtle Pond to evaluate the level of success. Tag receptacles will be set up near the boat ramp and the pull-off near the dam. The tags of harvested trout should be place in the tag receptacle or mailed to the Lebanon Field Office in the envelopes provided. Angler cooperation in returning these tags is very important to the evaluation of the program.

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P. O. Box 402
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Last Updated: November 6, 2006