By Elias V

Round Valley Reservoir our closest freshwater gem.

Freshwater has always been a tough nut for me to crack. You get so used to the fast paced action of saltwater bass or fluke fishing that you may have a hard time adjusting and reincorporating the concept of “patience” into your fish catching skills. Long Island offers some mediocre freshwater opportunities, mostly for largemouth and carp. Everything else is a shadow of what people told me it was like back in the day.

At exactly 1.25 hours in driving distance from Brooklyn it is the cleanest body of freshwater I have ever seen. Round Valley offers an excellent trout opportunity close to home. It is meticulously managed by both NJDEP and RVTA to provide an excellent angling opportunity. Every year RVTA stocks hundreds of trout from 18”-26” in this lake. Although the thrill isn’t the same as catching a wild one, it is still a challenging angling opportunity. The lake spans 2,350 acres in size and up to 180 feet in depth. The shape of the lake is something to be reckoned with and can easily cause a blow out on a windy day. Treat this lake as you would a large body of saltwater, and with a very limited area to gain protection from the wind.

The main targets of the lake are rainbow trout, and lake trout. Brown Trout are present and the state record did come from there, but the numbers are historically way down and returns of large tagged fish are rather low. Of course your usual assortments of other species are present, but can be difficult to target in cold water. There are some very large rainbow trout caught ever y year up to 26”, mostly returns from the RVTA club. The average size rainbow is around 15”-18” but they are plentiful. Lake trout are also abundant but can be challenging to locate and target depending on the time of year. I’ve had some slammer days with the lakers there with 4 to 5 fish, and many strike outs as well. The average size is about 18”-21” but every year one or two over 36” is caught, and more in that size are surveyed. The lake management encourages the harvest of the naturally reproducing lakers to allow them to grow bigger because of the limited food source. Rainbow trout and lake trout make excellent table fare, far better than most saltwater species we normally would keep.

Catching these fish can be challenging at times. I am by far no expert and still learning this as I go along. But I do know attempting to catch myself a trophy trout is much better than staying behind in March or December and missing the first or last action of the season. I find jigging to be the most rewarding, but unfortunately it can be hit or miss. Lake trout generally tend to be deep most times of the year. They are caught shallow in cold water, and anglers catch them trolling Rapala Husky Jerks and small spoons in ten feet of water or so, but I find most of my luck to be anywhere from 50’ to 80’. If you have a depth finder that is great, but I’ve caught plenty without one, I’ve done it just by scoping out a change in the landscape or near some structure. The dams on the north or south sides of lake are most popular, and I have had luck off the launch where the depth just drops off from shallow to deep. I have never caught any in more than 100 feet but I would not be surprised to find them there. My two choices for jigging lakers are either a ½ oz blade bait (most popular one is called a Binsky) or a 4” pearl Fin-S shad with a ¾ oz lead head. Current is a non-issue in a lake, but wind is, so adjust weight accordingly or change your tactic if needed. When I just started jigging lakers I caught a few on a 1 oz gold diamond jig as well on a bright and sunny day.

I’ve caught very few rainbow trout jigging, but most on the troll. I’ve caught them trolling those blade baits on regular tackle or spoons on lead core. They are normally spotted on a calm day slurping on the surface. Rainbows are normally caught from the surface down to about 50’ being as deep as I would run a spoon, but occasionally you may find one around 80’. Trolling lead core can be boring and requires a decent amount of work, but it is consistent in catching fish. The fight of the fish is usually drowned out from the weight of the lead, but a decent sized trout will still give you a tussle. The lead core I prefer is Sufix advanced 832 12lb lead core. Its diameter is so thin compared to other lead lines that you can fit twelve colors onto an Abu 7000 series. Each color dives about 6-7 feet so you can get down about 85 feet with a spool of it. I personally like to go as light as possible, so spooling up a Penn Senator with lead core for 20” trout sounds really miserable. There are videos online of how to splice your lead core to a fluro leader, and then from there you will attach your spoon or plug. Just make sure you use a swivel, as a twist in the lead core will ruin it shortly. The amount of spoons to choose from is endless, but I have found the Plazma spoons to be very consistent in hammered gold or copper. Stinger company makes nice spoons as well with gold colors being my favorite. Just be careful when trolling lead core to not let out too much line as if the lead begins rubbing the bottom it can get snagged and cut, which happened to me and was an expensive mistake, and also limited my options for the day.

The scenery of the lake is breath taking, with an excellent launch, and ample parking. You will need a freshwater license from New Jersey, which can be day to day or monthly. A trout stamp which is an annual purchase is also necessary. I go somewhere between 6-10 times a year out there so it works out. I usually fish the lake either waiting for the stripers to arrive locally, or towards the end of the season. There really isn’t much spot burning here so a group of kayakers can easily share the lake. There are also other lakes close by with the most notable being Spruce Run Reservoir famous for its northern pike and hybrid striped bass. Merrill Creek Reservoir is another 20 minutes west of Round Valley and has excellent lake trout fishing as well, and a world class smallmouth bass fishery. My recommendation before setting out, watch some Youtube videos of anglers fishing any of those lakes to give you an idea of what to expect, and how to target a species you’d like to catch!