MT. ARLINGTON, N.J. Late October triggers a significant spike in musky activity on New Jersey's Lake Hopatcong, with fish in the 36 to 46-inch range putting the bite on a variety of trolled and cast hardware.
The activity will remain steady through November, with the biggest fish caught during the later going.
The state Division of Fish & Wildlife annually stocks the 2,658-acre reservoir with 9 to 11-inch pure-strain musky, and growth is quick in the forage-rich environment.
Herring, yellow perch and sunfish add inches and girth at an accelerated pace, and as the esocids reach the 20-inch mark, stocked trout are added to the menu.
"Hopatcong is generally considered the best muskellunge venue in the state, by virtue of its physical size, and the size of the fish that are taken every year," said principal fisheries biologist Bob Papson (980-236-2118) who is in charge of the Garden State's warm water/cool water fisheries program.
Where to go
On Hopatcong, the musky will be found in ambush mode on the deeper edges of weed lines in the 15 to 25-foot depths.
Top locations include the south side of Halsey Island, Chestnut Point, Great Cove, Davis Cove, River Styx, Lee's Cove, Raccoon Island and Byram Bay.
What to use
Dan Kinsey at Dow's Boat Rental and Tackle (973-663-3826) reports that trolling the likes of the Yo-Zuri Mag Minnow (chartreuse), Polish perch (perch), and the Bucher Jointed Depth Raider (sucker), at 3 to 4 mph will take Hopatcong musky.
Casting the Mepps Muskie Killer and Hi-Fin spinners, along the weedlines will also draw strikes.
Boats can be launched at the county marina on Howard Boulevard. There are no power restrictions.
Hopatcong musky are under "Conservation" regulations. The minimum length limit is 36 inches and the daily limit is one fish, and this includes the rare tiger musky that still may be haunting the lake's depths.
More Musky Millponds
NJFW's Bob Papson is quick to point out there are excellent musky opportunities also available at Greenwood Lake (1,920 acres), Monksville Reservoir (505 acres), Mercer Lake (275 acres), Echo Lake (300 acres; Newark Watershed, permit required) and the Delaware River (Montague to Trenton).
Mountain Lake (122 acres) and Oxford Furnace Lake (53 acres) also offer respectable fisheries.
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