9 Spots for New Jersey Northern Pike

From the northern stretches of Passaic County to the coastline of central New Jersey, the Garden State has nine bodies of water with aggressive northern pike.

November is prime time for northern pike, and those Garden State waters with packs of these fish provide rip-snorting opportunities as waters chill, weeds recede, and angling pressure fizzles. River, lake or reservoir, it’s a Thanksgiving Month pike picnic.

Just when you believed October’s rod ‘n reel circus was winding down, along comes November and with it, the torrid pre-winter northern pike bite.

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“It (November) is an awesome month for northerns. Plenty of big, trophy fish in the waters where we’ve been stocking them for years in the north and central parts of the state. New Jersey has some of the best fishing for pike around, so no need to go elsewhere,” Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries’ Hackettstown Hatchery superintendent Craig Lemon assures me.

New Jersey Northern Pike Spots

From Deal Lake at the waistline of New Jersey in Monmouth County up through Pompton Lake in Passaic County, there are currently nine venues dosed heavily on an annual basis with thousands of fry-to-fingerling northern pike, and to say this “middle child” of the esocid clan acclimates well to the chosen waters would be a rod-snapping understatement. The current state record, a whopping 30 pounds 8½ ounces that was dragged from Pompton Lake in Passaic County in 2009 by pike hunter John Viglione, illustrates the drag-gagging potential of the pike fishery.

New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Pike Map.
New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Pike Map.

The state’s upper reaches are where you can expect the biggest northerns. Cranberry Lake, Budd Lake, Pompton Lake, the Pompton River, the Passaic, and Spruce Run Reservoir all boast thriving populations of pike. Budd is the designated broodstock lake where, during late February or early March or whenever the ice departs, the Hackettstown crew sets and attends trap nets. Gravid females and males are captured and brought to the hatchery. Eggs and milt are delicately stripped, the eggs fertilized and hatched, and the fry raised to stocking (4.7- to 6.2-inch) size. So prolific is the Hackettstown Hatchery that there is a years-long arrangement to barter northerns for landlocked salmon with Massachusetts, and Connecticut gets loads of Jersey fry pike for free, but a future exchange deal is in the offing.

Pike have extremely sharp teeth, which are used bite down on smaller fish.

There is but a trio of central Jersey waters that harbor pike, though all provide hard-hitting body shots when it comes sweaty-lipped exchanges with northerns. They are the south-to-north flowing Millstone River in Somerset County from Griggstown to Somerville, Farrington Lake and Deal Lake.

Catch the New Jersey Pike State Record

Favored location for a new state record? “The Passaic River, for sure,” boasts Lemon. He continues, “There is great forage, great habitat and, even with all the publicity, not that much fishing pressure considering the many miles we stock with thousands and thousands of northerns. It’s a pike powder keg!” The daily limit is two at a 24-inch minimum.

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3 on “9 Spots for New Jersey Northern Pike

  1. Joe Todd

    Why doesn’t the state stock some of these northerns in the southern lakes?
    Alloway lake is large enough to hold these fish, as well as Palatine near Elmer.

    1. Dave Hughes

      Most likely money. If your inclined get in touch with fish and game or DNR.
      Good luck,
      Remember: low, slow and flashy

  2. Dave Hughes

    Do they ever return the breeders to Budd lake? I fish Budd lake extensively, it can be very productive for pike, bass and catfish. PB; 38” pike, 6lb. Largemouth, 13 lb. channel cat and 2 1/2 lb. crappie. Budd lake can also test your patience, as it takes many years to figure out the seasonal patterns for the different species. Early and late in the season the water is clearer then in the warmer months. Generally I fish low, slow and flashy. High contrast solid color lures work best, as water clarity is an issue. The lake is shallow so fish stay on the move creating a milk run environment hoping from different structure. There is a large forage base of herring, gold shiners, crawfish, white perch, yellow perch, sunnies, frogs and rats. Black with blue fleck, solid white, red shad, silver are my go to colors. Fish slow! Then fish slower. When the weeds are up it’s spoon city. First and last hour of light being optimal. These fish don’t act like text book fish. Think out side the box and old school. (Weightless Senko, weedless spoons, large Colorado blade spinner bait with a stinger hook, jointed jitterbug or jitterstick if you can find one. Good luck.

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