A little known fact is that in 1997 the State of New Jersey began a project to plant brown trout in the Manasaquan River in an attempt to start a sea run brown trout fishery. Between 1997 and 2005 approximately 234,000 eight inch brown trout have been stocked in the tidal and brackish portions of the river.
To understand the goals of the program, one must know a little bit about brown trout as a species. The brown trout was brought over from Europe in the 1880s and stocked throughout the east coast of the United States and has an ability to tolerate warmer water than other trout species. Since brown trout originally migrated from the sea to freshwater fisheries (many thousands of years ago) they may sometimes migrate to saltwater to advantage of other food sources. These are called “sea run” trout and differ from their freshwater brethren in that they develop silvery coloration that masks their normal spots. These same fish will then return to freshwater, sometimes having achieved trophy size on their rich marine diet.
The State of New Jersey predicts that these fish will reach an average size of 2-4 pounds (or larger), returning to the Manasquan in the fall to spawn. Given the right conditions, such as a vigorous rain, concentrations of these fish could be very exciting. Since the inception of the stocking program, anglers have been encouraged to report their catches to the Lebanon Fisheries Lab by phone at 908-236-2118. However, as 0f 2004 there had only been 112 such reports. Ther is speculation that the paucity of reportage could be the result of an effort by anglers to not “spoil” the great fishing by creating an influx of other anglers. However, with the massive stocking effort and possibility of some natural reproduction of these fish such fears are overblown.
The vast majority of these sea run trout were caught in the area from the Squankum Dam down through the Manasquan River Wildlife Management Area. Some of them weighed as much as 10-13 pounds. The best fishing, due to the brown trout’s nocturnal feeding habits, is in the late afternoon/early evening. Fishermen have luck with nightcrawlers or fly tackle fishing in the fall through the winter. If the water is high, especially from heavy rainfall, the fish tend to concentrate and can even be found during spring and summer months. After a rainfall, wait for the flood crest to pass and the water to begin clearing up from mud and silt. This is the prime opportunity to catch trophy sea run brown trout.
All fishermen are encouraged help the success of this program by reporting their catch. Write down the location caught, fish size, any notches in the pectoral fins, tackle used, etc, and phone the number above.