|New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife|
September 11, 2002
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, recent rains in Monmouth County have increased the likelihood that sea run brown trout will move into the freshwater Manasquan River. These brown trout usually remain in the lower brackish river near freshwater seeps until a large pulse of freshwater draws them upriver.
A 4-inch rainfall over the weekend of August 31, especially after such a long, dry period may have accomplished that. One angler in particular took advantage of this 4" rainfall and fished the river the following days as it was dropping to a near normal level and becoming less muddy (ideal fishing conditions). He reported that he hooked and released two small brown trout and momentarily hooked a larger unidentified fish, which he lost. He also observed two or three larger silvery fish moving upstream from pool to pool which he pursued, but could not get to strike.
To increase their chances of catching a sea-run brown trout, anglers should note that as fall and winter approach, it is a good idea to check the Manasquan River gauge at Squankum Dam for a sharp increase in river discharge. Fish the river as it is dropping, becoming less muddy and approaching near normal levels. These sea-run brown trout mostly feed and migrate in the evening into the night. The majority of the reported catches, including the largest at nine pounds, have been on bait with nightcrawlers winning out (although the angler mentioned above is a dedicated fly-fisherman).
In New Jersey, the Manasquan River is one of the few streams stocked with brown trout during the trout season where stocking occurs relatively close to the point where saltwater meets freshwater. Young brown trout migrate from the streams to the saline estuaries and open saltwater to take advantage of abundant marine food sources. Here they grow quickly and within several years are 4-6 pounds when they return to the freshwater river of their origin to spawn. Reports of occasional catches of sea-run trout by sport and commercial fishermen along the Jersey coast and by sport anglers in the Manasquan River were an indication that the brown trout stocked there were finding their way to and surviving in saltwater habitats.
Seeing the opportunity to develop a new and exciting sport fishery in the Manasquan, 16,000 eight-inch brown trout raised at the Pequest Hatchery were stocked in the tidal portions of the river in 1997. To date, over 140,000 surplus brown trout have been stocked here in the fall in an effort to jump-start this trout angling novelty. An additional 30,000 brown trout are slated for stocking this October.
Browns that migrate from the stream to the estuary and open saltwater usually spend two or more years taking advantage of abundant marine food sources before they return to freshwater on a spawning run in the fall. Less wary at this time, they are more vulnerable to angling. These brown trout will seek out gravel bar areas where there is an upwelling of oxygenated water especially after a rain. Females become aware of these conditions during their movement upstream and select preferred areas for spawning often located at the head of a riffle or the tail of pools where gravel slopes gently upwards and sedimentation has less effect.
Sea run trout have been caught on a variety of lures and bait including white wooly bugger flies, spinners, spoons, night crawlers, garden worms and mealworms. Although October and November are the prime months for spawning activities, these fish have been caught throughout the year.
This program is a cooperative effort between Trout Unlimited and the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Program costs have been kept to a minimum, as the trout that are stocked in the fall are surplus spring hatchery fish. Trout Unlimited Chapters have provided financial assistance to feed the fish during the summer and also supply volunteer labor for fin-clipping.
Evaluating the success and determining the future of this program relies almost exclusively on fish being reported when caught. Silvery and deep bodied in appearance these brown trout have a clipped adipose or left pelvic fin. Fishermen should be able to see where fins have been clipped. Anglers are asked to report all catches of brown trout in tidal water to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at (908) 236-2118 or (908) 637-4173.