Thanks to the consistently cold temperatures this winter, northern New Jersey's ice anglers are reporting the thickest ice in several years. Barring an extended warm spell, conditions should allow for ice fishing well into March, a rarity in New Jersey.
When discussing ice fishing, the question many newer ice anglers have is "Where?". The answer is usually the same places you catch fish in other seasons. If a body of water holds a good population of fish, there is no reason they won't bite through the ice. Obviously there are some differences in depths where you will look for fish, as opposed to the other seasons. Generally speaking however, a place that is a good one for a species in one season should be just as good in the winter.
So here are some places where new ice anglers can get a taste of "hard water" fishing.
Lake Hopatcong (Sussex County). The largest lake entirely within New Jersey, Lake Hopatcong is an ice fishing mecca. There are many coves that ice up early and hold ice late in the season and the main lake freezes most years. Hopatcong may hold the largest variety of fish in New Jersey with trout, pike, pickerel, walleye, small and large mouth bass, perch, hybrid bass and more. If there is a freshwater fish in NJ there is probably a population of it in Lake Hopatcong. Anyone passing by the lake in winter can see by the sheer numbers of anglers on it how popular it is.
Green Turtle Pond (Passaic County) - What Green Turtle Pond lacks in size it makes up for with some excellent fishing. Access is along a heavily rutted dirt road, so make sure you have a high clearance vehicle and if there is snow on the ground, a 4x4 is essential. Greet Turtle Pond holds large mouth bass, pickerel, perch and is generously stocked with trout every spring and fall. The water is deep and cold enough for the trout to holdover all year round, so there are some lunkers prowling the waters. Thanks to its elevation, northerly latitude and size, Green Turtle Pond is often among the first in New Jersey to freeze and the last to have fishable ice.
Monksville Reservoir (Passaic County) - Monksville is a reservoir that fishermen love to hate. It's a difficult lake to fish, but it is the home of some trophy fish. New Jersey's state record Muskie, a 42 lb. whopper, came from Monksville and it's waters are inhabited by lake trout, walleye, bass (small mouth and large mouth), pike and perch among others.
Split Rock Reservoir (Morris County) - Split Rock is a narrow, three mile long reservoir straddling the border of Rockaway Township and Kinnelon. The only legal access is from a small parking area at the southernmost end, along Split Rock Road. Because of that anyone considering fishing the northern end has a long walk ahead of them. Split Rock is known for its outstanding pickerel, perch, and bass fishing.
Wawayanda Lake (Sussex County) - This popular lake in Wawayanda State Park has a good population of pike, bass, perch and trout and in recent years the state has introduced landlocked salmon.
Budd Lake (Morris County) - Budd Lake is a large, round bowl of a lake along Route 46. It is the state's largest entirely natural lake and has excellent pike, crappie, tiger muskie, bass (large and smallmouth), perch and pickerel fisheries.
Shepherd Lake (Passaic County) - This 72 acre lake in Ringwood State Park has a reputation for producing some huge pickerel. There is also a good population of largemouth bass and the water is deep enough for some of the stocked trout to survive year round, so big holdover trout are a possibility here.
Pompton Lake (Passaic County) - Because Pompton Lake is little more than a wide section of the Ramapo River, ice forms here later and recedes earlier than many other area lakes. But for those targeting pike, bass, trout, crappie and pickerel through the ice it is a worthwhile destination. New Jersey's state record pike came from its waters.
Swartswood Lake (Sussex County) - Swartswood is stocked annually with brown, brook and rainbow trout and they hold over through the summer so you can bag some nice trout through the ice. Swartswood is also famous as one of the few lakes in New Jersey that hold walleye, a popular target for ice anglers. Bass, perch and pickerel are also popular targets here for ice anglers.
This is only a sample of the numerous waters in New Jersey that offer excellent ice fishing. Visit the New Jersey DEP website for their "Places to Fish in New Jersey" pamphlet. It lists many publicly accessible waters in the state and many are suitable for ice fishing