With the official start of trout season just around the corner, the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is hosting its 25th annual Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center Open House this weekend.
“Opening day of the trout season is a revered spring tradition for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “The Christie Administration understands and appreciates this tradition for thousands of New Jersey residents and visitors, as well as the need to protect the waters that support these prized fish.”
An estimated 100,000 anglers are expected to participate when trout season officially opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 7 at hundreds of trout lakes, ponds and streams across New Jersey.
The annual free open house at the Pequest Trout Hatchery, located in Oxford, Warren County, has become a rite of spring in its own right for many freshwater anglers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages, offering trout-related activities that are both fun and educational.
“The beginning of trout season is the most anticipated day on many anglers’ calendars,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Chanda. “The annual open house, which showcases the state-of-the art facilities where we raise our trout, is equally special. People of all ages from across the state come to this event to learn more about this prized fish, which is a lot of fun to catch and is an important indicator of good water quality.”
In the weeks leading to opening day, the Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks more than 180,000 trout raised at Pequest in nearly 200 waterways throughout the state. Over a seven-week period following opening day, nearly a half-million more trout will be released.
The open house, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, offers a range of activities suitable for everyone from novices to experienced lovers of fishing and the outdoors.
The weekend’s events will feature the return of the hog trough, a large mobile fishing tank that holds thousands of gallons of water filled with monster trout and warm-water game fish raised at the Pequest and Hackettstown hatcheries. Professionals will use the hog trough to demonstrate casting methods, effective fishing techniques, and the proper use of various lures.
Meanwhile, children, age 8-16, can fish for trout in the catch-and-release education pond, where the average fish weighs in at several pounds. Children under eight years old can also drop a line in the Kiddie Fishing Tank with Fish and Wildlife staff. Volunteers from the Wildlife Conservation Corps and Trout Unlimited will be on hand to assist the young anglers. All fishing equipment and bait will be provided.
As a bonus, the youngster who guesses the weight of “Bubba Trout” will also win a trout rod-and-reel combo.
Those interested in other outdoor pursuits can take a shot at beginner archery and shotgun shooting on ranges near the hatchery. Certified Hunter Education Instructors will be on hand to provide instruction and ensure a safe program. Equipment will be provided.
Experienced archers can try their hand at a 3-D course set up in the woods. Those using this course are required to provide their own archery equipment.
Inside Pequest’s Natural Resource Education Center, the Division of Fish and Wildlife staff and representatives from various conservation organizations will present exhibits and information on natural resource protection in New Jersey.
Pequest is located on Route 46, nine miles west of Hackettstown. For a schedule of events, visit: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2012/peq_opnhse12_sched.pdf or call 908-637-4125.
The in-season stocking schedule covering the seven weeks following opening day is available online at http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/trtstk12.htm and through the Trout Stocking Hotline at 609-633-6765.
The “production trout” average is 10.5 inches, but more than 5,000 three-pound to eight-pound breeder trout are mixed in with the production fish during the spring stocking runs. Big trout hunters will also be pleased to hear that every year an increasing number of anglers discover that plenty of the 26,000 fall-stocked 17-inch to 24-inch fish don’t get landed until the spring.