For about 60 years, the Knee Deep Club of Lake Hopatcong has been stocking the lake with trout—and many on Sunday agreed that this year’s was one of the best.
“Sometimes there’s ice, sometimes we’re still down 26 inches, sometimes it’s raining,” said Tim Clancy, a past president of the club. “Today was an unbelievably beautiful day for this.”
Sunny skies, a stiff breeze, and temperatures in the 50s greeted the dozens of Knee Deep Club members and fishing enthusiasts who watched bucket after bucket of trout get transported, first from the Musky Trout Hatchery vehicle into large tubs in a variety of boats, and then from those boats into various coves around Lake Hopatcong. “This is one of the best days we’ve had in years,” said Les Aughey, the club’s president.
More than 2,000 brown, rainbow, and brook trout were released into the lake, most of them decent-sized fish (about 12 to 14 inches each). But an additional 150 trophy-sized trout, weighing in at 2 to 8 pounds each, were also dropped into the coves. The effort, which is the club’s biggest expense of the year, cost about $13,000.
“The reason we spend more money on this is because we need nice-sized fish to hold people’s interest,” Clancy said. “We could put a lot more fish in and skip the trophy-sized ones, but we have a philosophy that people really enjoy catching larger fish, so we give them that opportunity.”
The Knee Deep Club release follows a state release of trout one week earlier, which dropped 2,300 fish, generally smaller than those released on Sunday.
Trout season officially begins on Saturday at 8 a.m., and any trout caught prior to the opening must be released unharmed back into Lake Hopatcong’s waters. Anglers must possess a fishing license and a state-issued trout stamp to catch trout.
The Knee Deep Club holds its trout contest in mid-May, and will release an additional 400 to 500 trout one week prior. For more information about the club and its activities, go to kneedeepclub.org.