There have been a number of changes to the 2020 Spring Trout Stocking Schedule. Beginning on March 16, trout were distributed under an accelerated stocking schedule due to the uncertainty of further COVID-19 restrictions affecting our ability to distribute the fish.
The hatchery this time of year is at capacity with adult fish filling the raceways and a nursery building filled with next year’s fish which need to be moved out once the raceways are cleared. Failure to be able to distribute would have resulted in the loss of not only some of this year’s fish but next years as well.
As indicated with the opening of trout stocked waters to catch and release fishing on April 1, all waters (with several noted exceptions) received a generous allotment of trout by April 3, and stocking continued until April 10. The hatchery retained approximately 50,000 trout for a late May stocking depending on the status of COVID-19 and water temperatures.
We also needed to protect our workers. Asking staff to continue to stock fish during the height of the ongoing pandemic meant more people continuing to work in close proximity to each other and the general public. Stocking fish as early as possible allowed us to get the hatchery raceways drained, power washed, disinfected and then bring in next year’s fish from the Nursery Building. It also allowed us to reduce the number of staff on the premises at any given time.
At an emergency Fish and Game Council meeting on March 30 it was decided to remove the pre-season closure on April 1, allowing a catch and release period. This was to relieve fishing pressure on the scheduled Opening Day (April 11) with its crowds on many waters. It would redistribute angling pressure and allow anglers to better maintain proper social distancing practices in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Therefore the following changes were enacted to include:
Catch and release fishing for trout allowed on trout stocked waters began at 8:00 a.m. on April 1, 2020.
Season, size and creel limits for all other species applied. These waters temporarily closed to fishing at 12:01 a.m. on April 11 and the season re-opened at 8:00 a.m. on April 11 (the official Opening Day of Trout Season). Trout could then be harvested within established regulations, including a creel limit of six trout per day where allowed. Gear restrictions on special regulated areas still applied.
In-season closures were removed.
Typically, following Opening Day, 14 waters are closed to fishing till 5:00 p.m. on their weekly designated stocking day. This year anglers may fish these waters at any time or on any day of the week.
Revised Stocking Schedule
The Division implemented an accelerated stocking schedule beginning March 16 and generously stocked trout throughout the state. All waters received trout by Friday, April 3. Stocking continued until April 10. Specific stocking dates were not announced. There will be no regularly scheduled in-season stocking this spring. The Division is holding some trout in reserve for a late spring season stocking depending on the status of COVID-19 and water temperatures.
The closure of state parks and forests on April 7, along with county parks, to protect the public removed many popular fishing access locations, however, state Wildlife Management Areas remain open at this time, as do at least portions of more than 100 waters. We are posting known closed waters in the Updates/Changes section of the Spring Trout Fishing Information page.
Anglers are urged to practice safe social distancing AT ALL TIMES.
Anglers should subscribe to the Freshwater Fishing E-mail List and check the Updates/Changes section of the Spring Trout Fishing Information page for future trout stocking updates. Anglers should also have their current e-mail address in the license database, and select to receive e-mails as that database is sometimes used to send specific messages. Log in at www.nj.wildlifelicense.com and select Edit Customer Profile to make sure your information is up to date.
The Division thanks and appreciates all anglers for their understanding, and for their support, during this unprecedented period. We are hopeful restrictions and closures will be eased before the end of the traditional trout season, but that is dependent on the course of the disease and what the science and data dictate in the response to COVID-19. We wish everyone good health. Stay safe.