Ice Fishing New Jersey

Ice Fishing New Jersey, New Jersey possesses an ample and varied assortment of ice fishing destinations. When winter conditions are favorable, North Jersey lakes do freeze solid enough to support the Garden States hardy ice fishermen. In banner ice fishing seasons even the lakes and ponds of Central New Jersey can put on 6 to 10 inches of ice. This expands the ice angling opportunities deep into the heart of Springsteen Country. Then too, every few years, during a particularly harsh winter a bone chilling cold sets in and the saltwater bays and estuaries freeze over. When this occurs you can find up to one hundred anglers eagerly drilling their holes and jigging for white perch at Collin’s Cove on the Mullica River not all that far from Atlantic City. As you can see given a properly cold winter there are numerous ice fishing opportunities in the Garden State.

Chasing flags, ice fishing Budd Lake, NJ

Chasing flags, ice fishing Budd Lake, NJ

The opportunity to sample the Garden State’s hard water was a by product of my profession. During the 80’s and the 90’s I was a musician in a Jersey Shore Party Band. Although we worked our tails off during the warmer months as soon as Labor Day passed I had 3 to 5 days off every week. So barring the traditionally busier holidays, I was free to fish, Gone Fishin’ was my life. I believe that first lake I attempted was Budd Lake. I spent many days trying to catch a monster northern pike on Budd and managed to cover a good portion of the lake. Budd Lake is located in Budd Lake village in North Jersey right off route 46 and only a few miles from route 80. I those days I was not interested in panfishing and the idea of catching a big northern was all the motivation I make the 2 hour drive from the shore to hit the ice at Budd. I caught quite few smaller northerns and a few that were in the low 30 inches range. My biggest being a 34 inch one that I caught right along the shoreline off rt.46. On my tip ups I caught lots of  largemouth bass a few dandy crappies and a personal best smallmouth bass which  has that distinction to this day. I had just drilled my first hole and had chosen the location poorly. My gas auger cut through the ice and promptly into the bottom of the lake. The water in the hole was a muddy mess. Not wanting to waste the hole, or the time spent drilling it, I hooked up a shiner and set a tip up so as to let the bait hang just under the bottom of the ice then, I turned to find a spot for my next tip up. As I walked off I took a look over my shoulder back at the tip up and the flag was up? I must have set it sloppily I thought as a stooped to reset it. I hooked the flag into the clip and stood up, and pop it tripped off again. This was a fish! It fought like the devil but had not much water in which to manuever and I was able to land the smallmouth bass which I haven’t come within two inches of equaling on ice or in open water in the 20 odd years since. It was an honest 23 inches.

End of the ice. Spruce Run Reservoir

End of the ice. Spruce Run Reservoir

Another favorite haunt on mine during the cold winters was Spruce Run Reservoir. Spruce Run can be found right off of another interstate highway, rt. 78 at Clinton, NJ. It is located within a state park, a state recreation area, and wildlife management area so there is ample access to a wide variety of locations for ice fishing. In addition to the parking areas in the state park there are cruder parking lots in the other sections of state land surrounding this big, 1,290 acres with 15 miles of shoreline, reservoir. Twenty-nine species of fish are contained within the waters of Spruce Run including largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, yellow perch and carp. Trout, northern pike and hybrid bass are stocked by the  NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. My days on spruce were enjoyable and I fished far and wide on it icy surface. One of my favorite spots for northerns was Tennis Court Cove. I would park in one of the roadside pull offs and backpack my gear through the field and woods to the shoreline of the cove. I never got any wallhangers in Spruce but between the bass and the pike I was kept busy and content.

Heading further south and not far from Freehold the hometown of the “Boss”, I found a nice trio of shallow lakes which would freeze up solid enough to support ice fishing every few winters. These lakes were situated within the Assumpink Wildlife Management Area. Bass and Pickerel are plentiful and would provide some fast action on tip ups if I was there at the right time. I fished on the ice at Stone Tavern Lake once or twice but my favorite spot was on Assumpink Lake. I liked to fish off the southeastern corner of this island. There water there is about 20 feet deep and always produced some nice fat largmouth bass for me. The lake was noted for its panfish but at the time I was all tip ups all the time and never attempted to catch any.

Hundreds of ice fishermen gathered to fish for white perch on Collins Cove, NJ

Hundreds of ice fishermen gathered to fish for white perch on Collins Cove, NJ

Last stop on this reminiscence of New Jersey ice fishing is Collins Cove on the Mullica River. Collins Cove is known for large White Perch. It was created when Garden State Parkway contractors dredged up thousands of tons of sand to be used making concrete for the parkway. The dredge hole was at one time up to 50 feet deep but has silted in over the years. Years ago, when it was at its deepest it was a wintering area for large schools of white perch. Although the heydays have past it still attracts the perch and the ice fishermen who chase them. Ice fishing on salt water has some challenges that sweetwater ice anglers don’t have to deal with: the water is brackish, and requires colder temperatures to freeze than fresh water does. Because the river flows into the ocean it is either flowing to the sea or being pushed backwards by the tides. This flowing motion makes the water less likely to freeze plus, the whole frozen ice surface rises and falls with the tides so the shoreline ice is never safe and must be breached by a large beam staked to the shore. When there is solid ice at Collins there can be upwards of two hundred anglers on the ice on a Sunday afternoon. I only did this one time back in the late 80’s but it remains to this day one of the most vivid and exiting experiences I have had while ice fishing.

If you want to learn more about ice fishing or the ice fishing to be had in New Jersey, the IceFishin247.com community is here to be a friend, lend a hand and be a resource in your icy pursuits. Whether you are a beginner or an icy veteran seasoned by many winters spent on frozen lakes, you will find a warm fire, good friends, and extraordinary tales when you step through the doors of IceFishin247 .

Links:
Bait and Info for Budd Lake
Bait and Info For Spruce Run
Bait and Info for Assumpink Lake
Bait and Info for Collins Cove

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