NORTH BRUNSWICK — Trout season kicked off on a cold Saturday in New Jersey, and the happiest group out there might have been the trout.
Though some people arrived for the 8 a.m. start time, in the mid-morning chill and wind only a handful of anglers tapped the waters of the 290-acre Farrington Lake in North Brunswick.
“There’s surprisingly few people out this opening day,” said Jesse Stratowski, a 23-year-old Milltown resident. “Normally I’d be lucky to get one of these spots. I think it’s the cold weather.”
Stratowski, dressed in a black Rutgers baseball cap and a camouflage jacket with a Field & Stream bag slung across his back, waded in tall boots into the stream below Farrington Dam. He said so far he’d caught yellow perch but no trout.
“By now they should be all over the place,” he said.
Over the last three weeks, state officials have stocked more than 181,000 trout in the state’s waterways, according to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. By the end of May, waters will be stocked with about 570,000 trout that were raised at the state’s Pequest Trout Hatchery in Warren County. During the 10-week spring stocking season, most of New Jersey’s stocked rivers and streams will receive fish at least four times.
But Dan Kish, a 50-year-old Monroe resident, said he wasn’t satisfied.
“For the money we pay, they’re not stocking enough fish,” said Kish, who had no luck fishing at Lawrence Brook in Milltown. “People are getting discouraged.
A fishing license and trout stamp for a resident between the ages of 16 and 64 costs $33. Residents between 64 and 69 pay $23. Residents younger than 16 and older than 69 don’t need a license.
In a statement last week, the Department of Environmental Protection said it expected 150,000 anglers throughout the state’s 200 trout-stocked waters to turn out for opening day.
Jeffrey Wren, a deputy conservation officer with the Division of Fish and Wildlife said people were catching fish at Lake Papaianni in Edison. And he said everyone he’d encountered so far had his license.
“Mostly the die-hards are out today, and they’re pretty honest,” Wren said. “But not many people are out fishing today.”
Though there’s more to fishing than catching fish.
“It’s a tradition,” said George Kaltschmid, a 63-year-old North Brunswick resident at Farrington Lake with his son, two grandchildren and a niece. “Bring the kids out. It’s quality time.”
Ashleyann Kaltschmid, 12, said they were out there for last year’s opening day in the pouring rain.
“I tell the other girls in school I went fishing, and they all go “Ew,”‘ she said.
Her 8-year-old cousin, Megan Kaltschmid, explained why.
“They’re slimy things,” she said.
For the Kaltschmids, fishing directly under the dam, many slimy things found their way onto worm-baited hooks.
Everyone caught a fish. And 9-year-old Cameron Kaltschmid, caught nine, including two trout.
Janice Liebowitz and Al Phelan, an engaged couple from Spotswood, had no luck casting lines from an overgrown sandbar farther upstream on Farrington Lake, off Washington Place.
“It would have been nicer if it was a little warmer out,” Liebowitz, 48, said as she put on a pair of black gloves before casting a corn-baited hook into the water.
“When I met Janice and she said she liked fishing, I was like, bonus,” said Phelan, 53. “She likes fishing and she even puts her own worms on, too.”
Liebowitz said she started taking her son fishing when he was 4 years old. But yesterday, the 18-year-old chose differently.
“My son comes out a lot,” Liebowitz said. “But we couldn’t get him out of bed this morning.”
In the chilly air, no trout could be heard complaining