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July 18, 2003


The New Jersey Fish and Game Council has scheduled a public hearing for the proposed 2004 Fish Code at 2 p.m., August 12, at the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP's) Division of Fish and Wildlife's Central Region Office (Assunpink) on Eldridge Road in Robbinsville, Monmouth County.

The Fish Code describes the legal angling methods, season dates, size and catch limits, and trout stocking locations/dates for freshwater fishing in the Garden State. The regulations are reviewed annually and revised based on biological findings and changing situations, then proposed for the next year's code.

Anglers should note the following highlights of proposed changes: Opening day of the 2004 trout season has been proposed for April 10, 2004. All of the dates throughout the Code that are dependent on this date have been adjusted accordingly.

The Fish and Game Council proposes to amend the definition of baitfish to indicate that both alewife (anadromous and landlocked forms) and blueback herring are no longer considered baitfish in the Delaware River, but are foodfish. This change was made to be consistent with the definition of foodfish on the Delaware River and the regulations established by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Alewife herring are still regulated as baitfish in the remainder of the state.

Gizzard shad has been added to the definition of "baitfish." The intent of this proposed change is to allow greater harvest of gizzard shad. Gizzard shad is a highly prolific species that quickly becomes over abundant in a number of New Jersey waters.

Hickory shad and alewife (anadromous form) will be removed from the list of foodfish taken with nets. The removal of hickory shad was made to be consistent with recent changes to Pennsylvania regulations. Pennsylvania currently has a closed season on hickory shad, due to concerns with its lack of abundance in the Delaware River. Alewife (anadromous form) was removed to prevent the taking of alewife during their spring spawning run, via the use of haul seines, fykes and gill nets in the state's rivers. This recommendation is made to protect the migratory spawning run of alewife herring. Landlocked alewives can still be taken in lakes over 250 acres in size with a special permit issued by the Division.

The current trout stocked stretch on the Passaic River (White Bridge to Dead River) will be extended from White Bridge Road to Route 24 in Chatham Borough. This will increase the recreational trout fishing opportunities on the Passaic River by two miles.

Due to the excellent reproducing trout fisheries documented, the following waters will be designated as Wild Trout Streams: Saddle River (State Line Road to Lake Street); Whippany River (source to Tingley Road); and Jackson Brook (source to Hedden Park Lake). This will protect the valuable fishery resources within these streams as well as promote recreational fishing opportunities.

Baitfish regulations have been amended to allow the taking of baitfish, other than alewife and blueback herring, from the freshwaters of the state by special permit. An amendment to a previous year's Fish Code permitted the taking of baitfish only in lakes greater than 250 acres. The intent of the amendment was to prohibit the taking of alewives in streams, not to prohibit the taking of all other baitfish within a stream environment. This year's change corrects the error and provides protection to the alewife migratory run without precluding the taking of other baitfish species.

In order to protect the valuable and historic fishery on the Delaware River from exploitation, permits for haul seines exceeding 70 fathoms in length will be issued for the Delaware River, upstream of the wing dam at Lambertville, only for permittees who have obtained approval from the Division prior to January 1, 2004. New permittees will be restricted to seines not to exceed 70 fathoms in length in this section of the Delaware River.

The start date for the 2004 gill net season and each year thereafter, will change from March 1 to May 1. This change was made to protect the spawning run of alewife herring (anadromous form), which occurs from the beginning of March through the middle of April. Conversely, the spawning run of blueback herring occurs at the beginning of May through June. Alewife herring is similar in appearance and easily mistaken as blueback herring. However, gill net permits are issued for the taking of blueback herring only. The later start date will reduce the number of alewife herring being inadvertently captured by permitted blueback netters.

The foul hooking of alewife and blueback herring will be banned. Snagging herring as a method of collecting fish causes a high degree of collateral mortality that often includes striped bass and other game fishes.

The minimum size for muskellunge and tiger muskie will be increased from 30 to 36 inches and the creel reduced from two fish per day to one fish per day at Mercer Lake. This regulation change will be consistent with other state waters that are stocked with true strain muskellunge and have an established and targeted fishery.

The daily limit for sunfish at Rainbow Lake (Salem County) will be reduced from 25 to 10 fish per day with a minimum size of 7 inches. This will serve to protect the excellent panfish population as angler access and interest in the lake has greatly increased.

Fishing within the flumes of Deal Lake, Wreck Pond and Lake Takanasee will be prohibited from March 1 to June 30. The outlet structure design of these impoundments congregate fish through narrow raceways making them extremely vulnerable to capture, particularly during spring spawning migrations.

For consistency with regulations of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission pertaining to the Delaware River, a closed season has been included on hickory shad. Hickory shad are an uncommon species in freshwater and there are concerns about the abundance of this species within the Delaware River.

The daily bag limit for alewife and blueback herring has been reduced from 50 to 35 fish statewide, including the Delaware River. This reduction in bag limit will be consistent with newly adopted Pennsylvania regulations and limit the number of alewives that may be captured on a daily basis for personal use. Few, if any, anglers require 50 herring for use as bait on a daily basis. This it to prevent the waste of an important forage species.

Applications and reporting requirements were added to permitting requirements for baitfish and snapping turtle harvest as well as various netting practices. For consistency with other permits, conditions for the issuance of foodfish netting permits were also outlined. Harvest information received from commercial anglers is considered extremely valuable and will be used for population monitoring purposes. In addition, the Fish Code was further clarified to state that the intent of issuance of gill net, haul seine, baitfish and snapping turtle permits is for the sale of the species collected under such permits.

To obtain a copy of the complete proposed 2004 Fish Code, send a self-addressed, stamped (use two stamps) 11" x 14" envelope to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 400, Trenton, NJ 08625-0400, ATTN: Fish Code. Written comments regarding the code will be accepted July 21 - September 19 and should be directed to Director Martin J. McHugh at the same address.

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