Division Initiates Sea-Run Brown Trout Program

By Mark Boriek, Senior Fisheries Biologist, and
Kurt Powers, Supervising Biologist

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association October 1998 Newsletter)

This year the Division has added an exciting new trout-stocking program - Sea-Run Brown Trout. The goal of this program is to create a new trophy fishery utilizing surplus fish from the Pequest Hatchery. These fish will be stocked in the tidal portions of the Manasquan River, grow using available forage and return in several years much larger with a distinctive silvery color. This program will be evaluated for five years and continue if a successful fishery develops.

The Manasquan River was selected because of its location and history of occasionally producing sea-run browns. The Manasquan is a major stream along the coast of New Jersey that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. The freshwater portion is a very popular trout fishing area and has been stocked by the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife for more than 70 years. All three species (brook, brown and rainbow) of trout normally stocked by the Pequest Trout Hatchery have been stocked in the Manasquan River. Occasional catches of sea-run trout by sport and commercial fishermen along the north Jersey coast and by sport anglers in the Manasquan River has been reported over the years.

Young brown trout may, after a period of freshwater residence, migrate to a salt water estuary and/or ocean to grow and mature. After one or two years these fish return to their natal rivers to spawn. In June of 1997 the Pequest Trout Hatchery began to raise surplus brown trout fingerlings at an accelerated rate. Two saltwater tolerance tests were conducted during the summer to find out if these fingerlings could survive and thrive in salt water. The tests showed that the fingerlings could tolerate higher salinties than would normally be found in the Manasquan inlet for extended periods. In October 1997, 16,000 eight-inch brown trout were stocked in the lower freshwater tidal and brackish Manasquan River.

Some experts believe that there are no true sea-run brown trout populations, typical of Europe, existing in North America. And since the Manasquan River’s designation is "trout maintenance" rather than "trout production", it is doubtful that these fish will reproduce naturally. What is anticipated, however, is that these brown trout will migrate out into the estuary to take advantage of the abundant forage, grow to a size of 2-4 pounds or larger and then return to the freshwater Manasquan River on their "spawning run" to create an exciting new fishery for New Jersey sportsmen and women.

Sea-run brown trout have an overall silvery coloration masking most of the spotting on the body but with numerous small spots remaining on the head. Anglers are asked to report all catches of brown trout in tidal water to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at either (908) 637-4173, (908) 236-2118 or (609) 292-8642.

Two brown trout from salt or brackish water have been caught and reported so far this year. The first fish, caught by Mike Paras, was 13 inches long and weighed 1.3 pounds. Mike was fishing in the Point Pleasant Canal for 22 - 26 pound stripers when the brown was hooked. It was caught at 5:45 p.m. on an incoming tide using a 5 -inch lure. The second fish was caught near the outlet of Wreck Pond and was reported to be 9.5 inches long and around pound. This fish was hooked at 6:30 p.m. at low tide. Both fish show considerable growth and weight gain for a 6-7 month period over the winter. These catches show considerable promise for the future of this program

The future success of this program depends on sea run-brown trout being caught and reported.

Your cooperation is needed.

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