The Pequest River, located in Northwestern New Jersey, is well known for the abundance of trout found in its waters, and the fish hatchery located along its banks. Route 46 parallels the river for much of its length, offering anglers easy access. On the Pequest, large trout are caught frequently on everything from streamers to dry flies. The average size of the fish here range from 12 to 14 inches long.
Flowing out of swamplands above Route 80, the Pequest eventually turns into a river that has great character. Swift runs, pools, and pockets make up this productive trout river. The fish hatchery, along its banks, is located midway between Great Meadows and the town of Buttzville. Fishing near the hatchery is usually crowded, so if you’re seeking some solitude, you’re better off fishing above or below here, especially early in the year.
Above the hatchery you’ll find some fine water with classic runs, pockets, and pools. Overhanging trees help shade the river and keep it cool throughout most of the summer. Two great places to start fishing above the hatchery are Vienna and Great Meadows; be sure to mark these reference points on your map. The hatchery area is the most popular fishing spot on the river. The State stocks unusually large fish in this river, and a good majority hold over each year. The hatchery is a great educational facility to visit, alone or with your family, to learn how it operates, and what it does for the Pequest.
There is a Seasonal Trout Conservation Area (Regulations 2002) near the hatchery. Below the hatchery, fishing is as good as it is anywhere else on the river. Another popular stretch, which is less crowded, runs from Buttzville to Belvidere. This part of the river seems to hold over the best population of fish. It has some wonderful pools and offers anglers great potential for a successful day of fishing. Before flowing into the Delaware River near Belvidere, the Pequest is at its largest, approximately 30- to 50-feet wide in most spots.
Hatches are prolific on the Pequest, more so than most of the other freestone rivers in New Jersey. Hendricksons and Blue Quills are two of the early-season bugs you will find. As the year wears on into mid- and late-May, Sulphurs and eventually Light Cahills are some of the stronger hatches. Caddis and Stoneflies are in abundance, and you should carry them in your box throughout the year. During the summer, Trico Spinners fall in the morning, and Midges and Terrestrials are found throughout the day. The Pequest has an abundance of hatches and fish.
Most fish are good-sized, and easy to catch early in the year. As spring wears on and water levels drop, fish become skittish and are harder to catch. At those challenging times, try lightening up your leader, and use smaller flies. You may also want to try fishing downstream from the fish, so you don’t “line” them. Keep these tips in mind.