Highlights of Proposed 2014-2015 Fish Code Regulation Changes
New Jersey's Fish and Game Council, and the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is proposing amendments to the 2014 - 2015 Fish Code. The proposed amendments will be published in the September 16, 2013 New Jersey Register, initiating the sixty day public comment period which will end on November 15, 2013. (See the Notice of Rule Proposal at www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices/20130916a.html for a link to the full proposal.) The Fish Code governs when, by what means, at which locations, in what numbers, and at what sizes, fish may be pursued, caught, killed, or possessed in fresh waters of the state.
Since the turn of the century, the Fish Code has provided a system for the protection, propagation, introduction and conservation of freshwater fish in this State and for their use and development for public recreation and food supply. Biennial revisions of season dates, creel limits and other regulations based on scientific investigation and research ensures the greatest likelihood of success in reaching these goals.
A public hearing concerning the proposed amendments will be held on October 8, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at:
NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife - Central Region Office
Submit written comments electronically beginning September 16, 2013 and by November 15, 2013 at www.nj.gov/dep/rules/comments.
The Fish and Game Council (Council) encourages electronic submittal of comments. In the alternative, comments may be submitted on paper to:
Gary J. Brower, Esq.
Highlights of the proposed regulation changes appear below. For a more complete summary of the proposed rule changes please refer to the DEP Notice of Rule Proposal or the September 16, 2013, New Jersey Register N.J.A.C. 7:25-6.
BIG FLAT BROOK (Rt 206 downstream to Roy Bridge (4.2 miles) - CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY, ARTIFICIAL LURES AND FLIES ONLY
Although the stretch has gear restrictions, it carries a liberal harvest limit of six trout, minimum size is 9 inches, per day from Opening Day to May 31, and 4 trout at all other times. Fishing is not permitted during the three-week pre-season period. In addition, the stream is closed to fishing on the seven Fridays after Opening Day (from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m) when trout are stocked.
In 2010 Trout Unlimited proposed a change in regulations for the lowermost 1.3 miles, from the top of the Blewett Tract downstream to the Roy bridge (Table 1), to a Year Round Trout Conservation Area. At the time the Division lacked sufficient data to either support or oppose the recommendation. The Division believed additional information was required in order to determine if the proposal as presented would benefit both the resource and the majority of anglers fishing the Flat Brook.
Additional data collected by the Division included; On-site angler creel survey (2011), Electrofishing Surveys (2012/2013), Trout Angler Surveys (Telephone (app. 1,300) and On-line (app. 1,700)), Angler Log Books (2012), and Water Temperature (initiated Aug 2012).
Electrofishing surveys conducted during the summer of 2007, 2012 and 2013 indicate very few trout remaining by mid-summer. The low number of trout may be a result of one or more factors, including significant harvest by anglers and/or a variety of ecological conditions.
To determine the role harvest plays in limited trout availability, the Council proposes year round catch and release regulations for the 4.2 mile stretch, from the Route 206 stretch downstream to the Roy bridge. The regulations should result in an increase in trout abundance, improve catch rates, and ultimately enhanced angler satisfaction. As hooking mortality is higher with live bait than with artificial lures and flies, the possession or use of bait is proposed to be prohibited at all times. For similar reasons, artificially enhanced substances are also proposed to be prohibited. A 2012 Trout Angler Survey indicate that 11% of anglers who fish the first nine days of the season in the fly stretch use bait. The current gear restriction for fly fishing is also proposed to be amended to allow spin fishing and artificial lures and flies for the entire 4.2 mile stretch, including the Blewett Tract. The Division will continue to monitor the fisheries population in response to any regulatory change.
KEN LOCKWOOD GORGE (S/BR RARITAN) CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY
LAKE AUDREY - TROPHY BASS REGS
In 2010, catch and release regulations for bass were instituted to protect the developing smallmouth bass fishery unique to South Jersey waters. The current catch and release regulations have not provided the intended results of a trophy fishery for smallmouth bass due to the illegal harvest of smallmouth bass, angler introduction of largemouth bass and unstable pH levels. Electrofishing surveys completed from 2007 to 2012 show a decrease in the smallmouth bass population and an increasing largemouth population. The pH levels initially stabilized by liming have also dropped with levels as low as 4.5 documented. These low pH levels are not conducive to supporting a reproducing smallmouth bass population. Meanwhile largemouth bass continue to demonstrate good growth rates.
Managing Lake Audrey under more liberal bass regulations will continue to provide protection of the lake's existing fish population, while providing anglers with more opportunity to utilize the lake. Due to the restrictive catch and release regulations few anglers have utilized the lake since the fish population deteriorated in 2011.
PROPOSED ADDITIONS TO THE DIVISION'S TROUT STOCKING PROGRAM
Manalapan Lake (Middlesex) - Manalapan Lake is a 45 acre impoundment located in Thompson County Park. The lake conditions are desirable for a put and take seasonal trout fishery, including 70% of its shoreline accessible for fishing, minimal shoreline vegetation, and a car top boat launch. Plans are underway for construction of a formal boat launch in 2013/2014. The lake is limited to electric motors only. There are only four trout stocked waters within 10 miles of Manalapan Lake. If added Manalapan Lake would receive app. 1,870 trout, and would be stocked pre-season and three times in-season.
Mountain Lake (Warren) - Mountain Lake was removed from the Division's trout stocking program in 2006 due to the lake's large size and limited public access which resulted in poor angler turnout. Since that time, Liberty Township has acquired property along the shoreline which has improved public access. The Council proposes reinstating trout stocking to acknowledge the Township's efforts towards improving angling access. Mountain Lake would be stocked pre-season only. Due to the presence of other early season fisheries such as muskellunge the Council also proposes to exempt Mountain Lake from the pre-season stocking closure to allow muskellunge fishing to continue during the three week closure. All trout caught during the pre-season closure period would have to be immediately released.
Nomahegan Park Pond (Union) - Nomahegan Park Pond is located within the 95 acre Nomahegan Park in Cranford. The pond is currently being dredged and is scheduled to be completed at the end of this year. 100% of the shoreline is accessible for fishing and offers excellent opportunities for local anglers. Although there are 11other trout stocked waterbodies within a ten mile radius the surrounding urban area results in high angler participation in nearby waters. Opening day angler counts at Lower Echo Park Pond, located only 1.2 miles away, demonstrates the high angler use in the area with 88 to 111 anglers on opening day.
WATERBODIES PROPOSED TO BE DROPPED FROM THE DIVISION'S TROUT STOCKING PROGRAM
Shadow Lake (Monmouth) - was re-instated to the Division's trout stocking program in 1996 in the anticipation of planned improvements by the county that would greatly improve public access. Although certain aspects of the project have occurred, they have not resulted in significant improvement in public access and future improvements appear unlikely. Due to limited public access angler participation is low indicated by opening day angler counts in 2005 (15 anglers), 2006 (7 anglers), 2011 (16 anglers) and in 2013 (18 anglers) with only six trout caught.
Lake Takanasee (Monmouth) - The bulkhead at Takanassee Lake, 14 acre lake in Long Branch, was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy resulting in draining of the lake. The timeframe for completing bulkhead repairs and refilling the lake is uncertain. The lake is immediately adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and periodic saltwater intrusion has impacted the lake's freshwater fisheries including the viability of stocked trout.
LAWRENCE BROOK TROUT STOCKING BOUNDARIES PROPOSED TO BE REDEFINED
TILCON LAKE PROPOSED AS A HOLDOVER TROUT LAKE
LANDLOCKED HERRING LIMIT PROPOSED TO BE INCREASED FROM 10 TO 35
ICE FISHING DEVICES PROPOSED TO BE RESTRICTED TO SINGLE LINE PER DEVICE
PROPOSED CHANGES FOR COMMERCIAL SNAPPING TURTLE RULES
The Council also proposes that the harvest of snapping turtles be prohibited from waters that are subject to a Department of Environmental Protection (Department) fish consumption advisory, for the general population, for any fish species of "do not harvest," "do not eat," or "no more than one meal per year." These advisories are updated regularly and published in the Department's Fish Smart, Eat Smart publication and can be found at www.nj.gov/dep/dsr/fishadvisories/2013-final-fish-advisories.pdf.
Snapping turtles are harvested for the sole purpose of human consumption. Currently, the Department lacks data on contaminant levels of dioxins, PCB's or mercury in snapping turtle tissue. Bioaccumulation of these contaminants is known to occur through the food chain. As snapping turtles are a long lived, top level predator to many of the fish species currently tested by the Department, the Council proposes to use the established advisories for fish to prohibit the harvest of snapping turtles in waters that warrant the most serious fish consumption advisories.
Fish consumption advisories are developed through a scientific process that includes collecting samples of fish from waters throughout the State and analyzing them for various chemical contaminants, such as dioxin, PCBs and mercury. The contaminant levels in the fish are then evaluated using Federal guidelines for protecting human health.
EMERGENCY CLOSURE ON MIGRATORY HERRING FORMALLY INCORPORATED INTO FISH CODE
1. The possession, take, attempt to take, sale or purchase of alewife or blueback herring from any freshwater stream or river is prohibited.The closure prohibits the possession, take or sale of alewife or blueback herring from any freshwater stream or river. The Council proposes to reflect this closure in the State Fish Code as part of this proposal, as well as proposing to increase the daily limit, for personal use, on landlocked herring from ten to 35 per day in freshwater lakes within counties specified above.
EMERGENCY CLOSURE ON AMERICAN SHAD FORMALLY INCORPORATED INTO FISH CODE