The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife will be stocking some 570,000 rainbow trout across state waters for the spring fishing season, yet anglers will notice something different about them this year. Due to a large die-off last year from bacterial infection, there will be no brown or brook trout stocked. Officials said they intend to abstain from stocking these species for at least several years, until a bacteria-resistant strains of brook and brown trout can be introduced.
“The trout going out from the Pequest Hatchery this spring will be completely healthy—and big,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. “The only difference is that we will be stocking solely rainbow trout, a much heartier, disease-resistant species which has not been exposed to the bacteria that causes furunculosis.”
Last spring, more than 114,000 trout at New Jersey’s Pequest Trout Hatchery had to be euthanized after furunculosis, a fatal bacterial disease, spread among the hatchery’s fish. Furunculosis had not been a problem for New Jersey fish for more than three decades until it was discovered again at the hatchery back in 2013. Although the disease is not harmful to humans, it can be lethal to cold-water fish. It is believed that the disease got into the Pequest Hatchery through ospreys that swoop into the facility’s pools to catch fish. In response, the hatchery has taken on new precautions.
“In consultation with other states that have had to deal with similar issues resulting from this common cold water fish disease, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has taken aggressive steps to eliminate the disease from the hatchery,” the Division of Fish and Wildlife stated in a press release. “Raceways used to raise the fish have been fully disinfected and increased measures have been taken to deter birds.”
Despite the lack of variety, wildlife officials said that anglers can expect a large number of quality trout this year, with 10.5-inch trout in the spring and 15-inch trout later on in the fall.
“In New Jersey, the spring trout season is a tradition shared by generations of anglers who take this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and some of the finest fishing on the East Coast,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. “The numbers of trout released this spring will rival past production numbers. Now is a great time to get your fishing license and trout stamp and take part once again in this wonderful tradition.”