On Sunday April 3rd, The Knee Deep Club of Lake Hopatcong will conduct was has become a nearly 60 year tradition. At 10 AM at Dows Boat Rental on Nolans Point Rd., Lake Hopatcong they will assemble and meet the truck from Musky Trout hatchery and then will release well over 2,000 trout. The vast majority will be what are considered large trout, in the 12”-14” range, but they will also liberate 150 large trophy size trout that range in size from two to eight pounds. These fish that are purchased with club funds from a private hatchery along with the fish stocked by the State Division of Fish & Wildlife means that there will be over 4,400 trout swimming in Lake Hopatcong prior to opening day for the trout fishing season that starts at 8 AM on Saturday April 9th. Any trout caught prior to that time must be released unharmed back into the water. Also in addition to a Fishing License anglers must have a state issued trout stamp to be able to legally possess trout.
The public is invited to attend the stocking and lend a hand transporting the fish from the trucks to the numerous boats that Knee Deep will have on hand with large tubs and coolers filled w/ water so that the fish can be spread out throughout the entire lake. The club stocked fish are considerably larger, and more expensive, than are typically stocked, because after decades of stocking the lake they have determined that the angling public enjoys catching larger hard fighting fish than the smaller trout that are more appropriate for the many streams that are stocked by the state.
Club President Les Aughey stated that “while it takes a lot of effort to raise the money to purchase these fish, just the looks on people’s faces, especially the kids, as they are loaded onto the boats make it all worth while. Of course when we get a chance to catch these fish is also very rewarding.” The club will hold another stocking of around 400-500 large trout on May 7th a week prior to their annual Trout Contest.
More information about the Lake Hopatcong based Knee Deep Club, which currently has 900 members and is celebrating it 65th Anniversary this year, can be found on their website, kneedeepclub.org.
In a photo taken April 8, 1953 that resembles Elliot Ness dumping whiskey in the Chicago River is actually the first stocking of trout into Lake Hopatcong by a group of the original Knee Deepers. Things have come along way since then with the club now stocking many more and larger trout as well as float stocking the fish to better distribute them through out the lake.