Gone Fishing: The Musconetcong River

Jersey’s anglers are hooked on the mighty Musky.

Fly Guy: A fisherman casts his line. Trout are most plentiful in April and May.
Photo by Tom Sperduto/Getty Images

The Musconetcong River is among the state’s most revered waterways, thanks to its ever-changing landscape and world-class fly-fishing. The Musky ranges from calm to raging as it flows nearly 46 miles from the southern end of Lake Hopatcong to the Delaware River. Visitors value its fly-fishing, canoeing and kayaking. For guidance, Beth Styler Barry, executive director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, recommends the Musconetcong Waterway Trail Guide (available at the MWA River Resource Center in Asbury for $3), which lists public access points and hazardous areas where old dams still exist.

In fact, most of the old dams that once constrained the river are gone, thanks to the efforts of local environmental groups. This creates a better, more oxygen-rich habitat for fish, which promotes migration upstream from the Delaware. “The river is the healthiest it’s been in recent history,” says fly-fishing enthusiast Stuart Shafran.

The river flows through Allamuchy Mountain State Park and Stephens State Park, as well as county-run properties, all with public access points. Boat-launch sites include the Lake Hopatcong headwaters, Cranberry Lake and Musconetcong Lake. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at Lakeview Marina at Lake Hopatcong (973-663-2935). For hikers, a highlight is the Musconetcong Gorge Preserve, which has several trails with scenic overlooks.

Fly-fishing has always drawn men—and now a growing number of women. Surprisingly, it’s a tech-friendly sport. “The difference between fly-fishing today and 10 years ago,” says Safran, “is that now we’re able to take instant pictures of our catches, send them out to a dozen friends, and then release the fish back into the wild.”
Popular sites for fly-fishing include Point Mountain Reserve, a trout-conservation area in Hunterdon County, and Saxton Falls in Allamuchy. The river is stocked seasonally with trout; other species include large-mouth bass, striped bass, sunfish and catfish. Fishing is permitted year-round, but trout are most plentiful in April and May. Anglers between the ages of 16 and 69 must get a license.

Beginners, be warned! Fly-fishing takes patience, finesse and creativity. Devotees make flies (imitation aquatic insects used to attract fish) out of anything they can get their hands on—fur, feathers, beads. Even nail polish can add useful pizazz.

“When you make something yourself and successfully catch a fish with it, there’s no greater reward,” says Shafran.

Convenient fly-fishing outfitters include Shannon’s Fly & Tackle Shop in Califon (908-832-5736), Ramsey Outdoor in Succasunna (973-584-7798) and Tight Lines in Parsippany (973-244-5990).

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