Story by Tom Pagliaroli

The trout season kicks off Saturday at 8 a.m., and the traditional “Opening Day” draws tens of thousands of eager anglers to stocked lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, streams and brooks from Sussex County to Cape May County.

For Saturday, 184,140 rainbow trout averaging a thick 10.5 inches will be hungry and eager. Two-percent of each pre-Opening Day load will include 2-year old breeders averaging 16-18 inches, with two venues within The Hawk listening area, Holmdel Park Pond and Echo Lake each being the recipients of an additional 30 “bonus broodstock” 3-year old ‘bows ranging from 17-25 inches and weighing up to 6-plus pounds. These are included in the number of fish stocked for Saturday, 220 for the former and 370 for the latter.

That’s a lot of meat, and no doubt the bite will be on, even if the weather is cold, wet and windy.

Stocking will continue on select “trout maintenance” waters through the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend. For all intents and purposes, it will end in this area by the last week in April or the first week in May, but do not despair as there are several swims that are stocked through the final week. These include the Manasquan River, Toms River, and the north and South branches of the Metedeconk River. Not to be overlooked are the Mingamahone Brook, the Shark River and the Hockhockson Brook which are stocked through the week of May 14-18. Go to www.njfishandwildlife.com and click on the freshwater link and then the trout fishing link. The statewide list of stocked waters, the number of trout stocked and the week of the stocking is posted. One can also call the Trout Stocking Hotline 609-63365 for the daily stocking finny skinny.

The monster Opening Day event occurs on Spring Lake in Spring Lake Borough, where the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s deposit of 460 rainbows is bolstered by approximately 500 jumbos trout, a mix of rainbows, browns, goldens and tigers, some up to and exceeding a whopping 7-lbs., courtesy of the Shark River Surf Anglers Club and procured from the renowned Musky Trout Hatchery in Warren County. This is billed as a “Kid’s Event” that is geared towards youngsters 8-15 years of age and runs from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Prizes galore and a chance for a kid to catch the trout of a lifetime. Adults can start casting once the minute hand hits 1:30.01. Visit www.sharkriversurfanglers.com for details.

Story by Tom Pagliaroli

Fluke and Sea Bass Rules: The meeting of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council Thursday evening at the Bay Ave. Community Center in Manahawkin was standing room only as expected, and public comment about the three season options abounded. Despite excellent points made by several tackle shop and boat liver owners, and charter captains for the earlier opener (May 15), it was ultimately decided by the Council, buoyed by comments made by party and charter boat captains, fishing clubs and individual anglers, to open the fluke season Friday, May 25. It will run through Saturday, September 22.

The daily limit will be three fish with an 18-inch minimum length. It will be a two fluke limit with a 16-inch minimum at Island Beach State Park, and a three fish limit with a 17-inch minimum in Delaware Bay.

Sea bass? The “tentative” season decided, based on a meeting in early May by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that could through a huge wrench in the works, looks like this: May 15-June 22 (10 fish at 12.5-inch minimum); July 1-August 31 (two fish at 12.5-inch minimum); October 8 to 31 (10 fish at 12.5-inch minimum) and November 1-December 31 (15 fish at a 13-inch minimum).

This could change dramatically, and not for the better, based on the ASMFC’s May meeting. Stay tuned.