Fishing Lake Hopatcong

Nothing shuts the door on winter as when the ice breaks up and the first of 9,200 annual trout arrive at Lake Hopatcong in the initial days after the vernal equinox. Rainbows, brookies and browns, averaging 10 1/2" in length and ready to catch, arrive at their final destination after a year and a half of pampering at the Pequest Hatchery in Warren County. Along with them come many more thousands of "fingerling" size walleye, channel catfish and the relatively unfamiliar hybrid striped bass in the ongoing "put, grow, and take" program. More stocked fish come from the Knee Deep Club, the lake's preeminent fishing organization. Thus begins the annual cycle of Hopatcong's favorite sport. Nothing brings more delight to all ages than catching a righteous fish.

Rich Giessuebel is a biologist by trade, teaches eighth grade, lives with his family on Lake Hopatcong, and fishes. He has fished all over the world. He is an ardent fly fisherman and has fished waterways from our own Beaver Kill and Musconetcong to the most famous trout streams on earth. He has written books and given talks on the subject. But he still gets excited when he describes, with passion, fishing on New Jersey's largest lake. He is the resident expert on how to make your fishing trip to Lake Hopatcong a success. "Our lake", Rich calls it with love and respect for the life it holds and the joy it can bring. Through his experience we can begin to appreciate the bounty of New Jersey's largest lake.

Brown trout caught by Marie Archambault (left)

Every spring day spent fishing for rainbows or browns is precious. The life of an Hopatcong trout is tenuous- few survive through the year. Because of excessive weed growth and resultant oxygen depletion, the upper 20 feet of water in the lake become the only habitable place for trout by summer. And as the water temperature in this top layer approaches 75° (62° is optimal), trout become a rare sight. Undeniably, some survive by spending the dog days of summer in a cool creek off the lake. In fact the state record Rainbow Trout (most certainly a holdover at over 13lb.)- was caught in Lake Hopatcong a few years ago. But a trout over 10" is exceptional after July. Trout can be pursued before fishing season opens in early April as long as they are released unharmed.

To Rich, the lake represents both "the old fishin' hole" and big game adventure. He has spent a whole year learning about and locating the prized hybrid striped bass using down riggers and depth finders, mapping the lake and it's upcroppings. The Hybrid Striper, relatively new to the lake, is a cousin to the Striped Bass of ocean surf fame, and has quickly become the premium catch. The Hybrid Striper is the hardest to find and one of the biggest fish in the lake, growing up to 20 lbs. (The Knee Deep record is 9 lb. 9 oz.) In the days of the Morris Canal hundreds of barges crossed the lake dropping ballast at regular spots. These spots- where the lake's bottom now suddenly rises from 40 to 20 feet under the water- are popular with hybrid stripers. Using a depth finder and trolling herring, Phoebe or Rebel lures at about 18 feet, a good fisherman can expect only one or two stripers a week to start. That's until you find the spots. Try around the Yacht Club over near Bertrands Island.

Hopatcong's name originates from the Lenni Lenape Indian word "Huppakong" meaning Honey Waters of Many Coves. The coves are part of what makes Hopatcong a great bass lake, and many tournaments are held here. When you know the lake you can get a stringer of bass on any day in about 2 hours. Largemouth bass are probably the most fished in this water. The record is 7 lb. 8 oz., but consider anything over 3 lbs. a good fish and 5 lbs. a tournament winner. Rich has seen a dead 10 lb. largemouth. "There are fish out there that just don't get caught. Bass are part of that story". The smallmouth bass is the strongest fighting fish pound for pound. Growing to 4 lbs., smallmouths just don't like to get caught. They jump, contest your command, and would bite you if they had teeth. Find them in isolated locations over rocks, where they are hunting crayfish. Use frogs, real or rubber, with light tackle and your battle with the smallmouth is on.

Jim Archambaulte with muskie on Lake Hopatcong.

Trout and bass aren't Lake Hopatcong's whole fish story. Walleye are rare, despite the thousands stocked each year. Pickerel are everywhere. The largest run about 5 lb. and can be found in the deepest, coldest water by springs and rock formations. Fishing at about 20 feet around Raccoon Island will yield 3-5 nice size pickerel a day. Cast anything- a worm, a hot-dog, whatever- into the lake at night and you will catch a catfish. In fact a night's fishing can yield 100-200 catfish a night! Channel Cats are Hopatcong's biggest - the state record fish (33 lb.) was caught off Nolan's Point a few years ago. And don't disregard the panfish. Crappie and perch can yield a memorable day of fishing for the whole family. As Mr. Giessuebel puts it, "People can come up here... I would advise them to use a 1/2" bobber, the smallest you can get and a little lure called a Rufus Jr., which happens to be a bucktail, 1/32 or 1/64 oz. It's very small.- no bait necessary. Put it 3 feet under the bobber, cast out anywhere along the shore line and watch it disappear!" Retrieve slow to get crappies, retrieve fast for yellow perch. Use light line because these fish are line sensitive. "The lake is loaded with fish. You can catch fish 8 days a week, 24 hours a day."

The lake's acquifers, refurbished by winter snows, run cold water into the lake through early spring. As summer approaches, the boats, skiiers, and swimmers take over Lake Hopatcong, and fish get harder to find. Spring is the time for hook, line and sinker, and the lake offers 28 miles of shoreline to explore.

Lake Hopatcong, of course, isn't the only large body of fishable water in the Skylands, but the principals are the same- look for structure in the water, fish the drop-offs, find the right temperature. Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County or Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County both receive thousands more stocked fish every year. In these deeper, cooler waters you will find Lake Trout, a fish that has become rare in Hopatcong's warmer, shallower water. Round Valley approaches depths of 160 feet in spots, and Lakers lurk at around 80 feet on warmer days. Lake trout are big game fish. They grow to exceed 20 lbs. and must be over 24" to keep. Spring yields great fishing off the shore at Round Valley (they say trout favor marshmallows in the spring). The state record brown trout-18 lb. 5 oz.- was caught by a woman fishing live bait in shallow water off a boat ramp. The state record smallmouth bass (7 lb. 2 oz.) was also caught in Round Valley- by a woman.

Anybody can be a fishing boat captain for a day. Go to a bait and tackle shop and rent a boat and engine. Bring clip-on down riggers, a thermometer to find the right temperature and a portable depth finder to pinpoint locations and you are a big game fisherman like on Lake Ontario or anywhere in the world. Or try marshmallows, hot-dogs, or shiners under a bobber from a boat ramp or bridge. Either way you will quickly find something at the end of the line. And the surprises never end...

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Rich Everett
13 Mar 2018, 16:48
Pat Excellent article, nicely done! The fishing is great anytime on Lake Hopatcong.
Pat Robinson, Knee Deep Club
04 Jan 2017, 14:17
Can you please post? Thanks! Pat Robinson, Knee Deep Club:
ATTENTION FISHERMEN !!! The BRC (boating regulation commission ) has a proposal to prohibit vessels from anchoring closer than 200 ' from the shoreline on Lake Hopatcong, due mostly to all the boats anchoring in Byram Cove on the weekends. (N.J.A.C. 13:82-3.11) You need to email or send a letter asking them to exclude those who are fishing from this, by Feb 3, 2017, to Edward Harrison Jr., acting Chair Boat Regulation Commission, c/o Marine Services Bureau, Div of State Police, POB 7068, West Trenton NJ 08628 . His email is
Carol Sorce
28 May 2016, 11:04
My husband is 70 and a bass fisherman. His favorite lake for large mouth bass is not functional this year. I was wondering if there are any charters on Lake Hopatcong for a day on the lake, and how much that would cost. Thanks
Skylands Visitor
26 Apr 2015, 08:22
Raja, The KneeDeep club is your best resource:
26 Apr 2015, 00:21
New to this town. Looking for a good spot for shore fishing in lake hopatcong. Something like fishing pier . Please share if anyone knows a good spot.
Jesse Horowitz
27 Dec 2014, 06:41
Just moved to the area looking for good places on lake Hopatcong to go fishing with out a boat.
21 Jun 2014, 15:19
Fishing off Brady Bridge just before Prospect Point????
Israel Perez
27 May 2014, 13:17
Hello my name is Israel and I'm trying to bring my kids to fish at the lake I just wanna know if we are aloowd I live in kenvil
17 Aug 2012, 09:04
When is the fishing event for kids run by j. klien???
Nicole Newell
13 Aug 2012, 08:29
Are there any FREE (Public) Boat Ramps on Lake Hopatcong? If so, where?\r\nThanks very much,\r\nNicole
19 May 2012, 08:03
Fishing license only
21 Sep 2011, 08:47
Do I NEED A PERMIT TO FISH THE LAKE AND HOW MUCH IS IT. Can you tell me where the closest ramp would be, I'm coming up route 80 from North Haledon also where are the bait stores and what time do they open.
17 Aug 2011, 20:29
hello guys, I want to know if i need a fishing permit to fish on lake hopatcong. thanks....
ron ges
13 May 2011, 10:01
mike freni my name ron e-mail me i will show you how to fish lake hopatcong i am on the lake for 30
NJ AdventureTours
07 May 2011, 06:43
Good morning! For anyone interested in fishing in NJ I am professional guide and would be more than happy to take people out. I am small business and my website is Check us out today! Hope to see you on the water!
Mike Freni
24 Apr 2011, 07:32
4-26-2011\r\nHello, I am looking for someone who would like to fish with me in my boat. It is a 17ft vhull loaded with almost anything. I have fished lake Hopatcong a few times but with not much luck. I am looking for someone who knows where to fish and what to use. I live in Pennington so it is somewhat osf a trip for the day so I like to make it worth wild. Hpoe to hear from someone soon.
Roger Sullivan
31 Mar 2011, 11:56
Does anyone remember Herb Spencer, Bertrands Island? I cannot wait to go fishing off of Dow Marina, hoping to catch different kinds of fish with my grandson Nicholas. I intend to use the Dow marina for bait.I wish all fisherman good luck and hope to meet some of you at Dows Marina.
John Depta
28 Mar 2011, 07:52
do you rent boats and if how much are they?
Roger Sullivan
24 Feb 2011, 13:43
Jim: Thank You so much and I look forward to meet you in May at Dows
Jim Welsh
24 Feb 2011, 13:38
Roger Dows has everything you need to go fishing. April is cold. Try May
Roger Sullivan
24 Feb 2011, 11:53
What type of baits does Dows Marina have? I am so looking forward to fish with my grandson Nicholas off the Dow Marina dock or to be able to rent a boat which I would row out a little bit and get ready to try and catch some good size fish, trout, pickrel, perch and bluegills.
Roger Sullivan
14 Feb 2011, 07:56
Jim Welsh: Would it be possible to catch some trout while fishing off the dock at Dow's Marina. Remember the fun we used to have during the summer? How is charlie and your sisters. Remember Bertrands Island and its rides.
J Welsh
14 Feb 2011, 07:35
Jim: What a wonderful surprise, remember Herb Spencer's rowboats and all the times we used to fish from his docks. Remember night time catfishing.Probably in April I and my grandson Nicholas will show up at Dow's Marina, we will be able to fish from their dock correct?
J. Welsh
05 Feb 2011, 15:52
Roger Sullivan I work at Dows Charlie brother.
The kid
03 Oct 2010, 18:38
Weed beds weed beds and did I mention weed beds, find em, fish em, and make sure you are using at least an 1 oz of weight to get through them WEEDS?
Roger Sullivan
28 Sep 2010, 08:15
Brian: Thank You very much, both Nicholas and I will try that spot this week-end. I love catching sunfish and just maybe there maybe a few small bass or trout.
Brian Cox
28 Sep 2010, 05:42
For caesar re: water quality in Hopatcong - on a recent canoe trip my wife and I saw an American river otter near Raccoon Island; a homeowner nearby said the otter had been living there for a while. River otters will only live in clean water.\r\n\r\nFor Roger Sullivan, re: where to fish with grandson - There's a marina/market on Prospect Point that let my 7 year old fish from the dock (he caught a bunch of sunfish) and they let us put our canoe in for free too. Nice people.
Roger Sullivan
25 Aug 2010, 10:43
sleddog: I want to thank you very much about where I can take my grandson Nicholas to fish. We will try Dows Marina asap.
24 Aug 2010, 18:36
Roger go to Dows Marina by the Jefferson House they let you fish off the dock there
Roger Sullivan
22 Aug 2010, 18:17
Once again I am asking anyone about the spot on Lake Hopatcong in the Jefferson Area where I would be able to fish with my grandson Nicholas. Finding a spot is very difficult because there are not a lot of spots that allow to fish from the shore. I need a favor from some great person. Thank You
19 Aug 2010, 11:11
Is the water in lk. Hopatcong? I heard a rumor few years ago that it was a little polluted. I want to go fishing there with my dad. does anybody know about the condition of the water?\r\n\r\nThanks.
Roger Sullivan
02 Aug 2010, 16:10
Who remembers Bertrands Island and all of the great times that were had on nickel nights on the roller coaster and the slide ride that was in a boat.Who remembers Charlie Welch, his brother Tommy and Herb Spencer, Teddy Romanowski and his sister Patty.
Roger Sullivan
01 Aug 2010, 16:46
Can someone direct me to a spot in the Espanong Jefferson area that will allow me and my grandson Nichols to fish in Lake Hopatcong. We tried two weeks ago at Lees Park and asked a few marinas but no one would allow us to fish. I was just looking for a dock or a land area that would allow us to fish. Does anyone know Ted Romanowski of Espanong who was my friend back in 1950's or his sister.
20 Jul 2010, 14:31
do you need a license to fish on the lake? if so where do i get one? thanks.
12 Jul 2010, 07:25
Your definately right caught about 10 channel cats from 6" to 12"in 1 hour just fishing off the docks!
Shawn M. Demmerle
07 May 2010, 10:11
Rich, am so glad I was subliminally magneted to my Mac this a.m. I am a Veterinarian who just moved to Lake Hopatcong, and want to get involved! Spending some time in Minnesota during my internship has me Muskie dreaming!!! I live very close to the Lake on Chincopee Lane, near the State park. \r\nMy Brother and I have fished the Chesapeake our whole lives, Check out our website (Business) Hit me back Rich, \r\nThanks...\r\n\r\nDr. Shawn M. Demmerle D.V.M.
Matt Z
10 Apr 2010, 18:48
yeah im going tomorow first time on that lake will rent a boat from bow's im big fun of pike if any one know any good spots will be a big help my friends fish ther but they cant come to show me if any one can pleas email me
05 Apr 2010, 13:55
Is going to be my first time
05 Apr 2010, 13:52
I want to fish in that lake what tackle is the best how about live bait shiners \r\n\r\n
31 Mar 2010, 12:32
I usually rent a boat from Dow's. I try herring and crawlers, and tubes. All good. However, I have yet to catch a walleye here. What are the secrets for walleye on this lake - what area?
20 Mar 2010, 07:05
20 Mar 2010, 07:04
Forgot my email address
20 Mar 2010, 07:02
Can someone please email some shore points to fish lake hopatcong. Thanks in advance.
07 Mar 2010, 15:05
Hi all. First timer to the lake hopoctong\r\nhere's my question. When can I start , can I fish off the side I usually fish starting may fresh water but I just can't wait. I purchased my liscence and I'm ready can someone email me. Thnx guys or gals
03 Nov 2009, 11:17
Was there on Sunday.. no one bite...
Ken Landolfi
07 Oct 2009, 13:14
Hi, I fished lake Hopatcong all summer with great sucess. Trohpy size pickerel off raccon island in 10ft of (weeds) water. using weedless mepps spinners#5. Also caught many small mouths,large mouths Hybrid Strppers and walley off nolans point. Lindy riging with herring.\r\n\r\nThings seem to have slowed up in october, I actually have been skunked for the month. Any pointers comments?
Roger Sullivan
29 Sep 2009, 09:06
The week-end of October 9th, I intend to take my grandson Nicholas who lives in Jefferson fishing off some available dock. Fishing for blue gills, perch and just maybe a trout. I have been looking forward to this for so long. My family used to have a home on the lake(Espanong) where we spent all of our summers and visited Bertrands Island every Monday and Thursday.We used to get our boats from Spencers
21 Sep 2009, 18:33
you can catch a lot of perch and sunnys off the docks at lee's county park marina at lake hopatcong. also some bass and walleye
05 Sep 2009, 07:42
Looking for a good shore spot on the lake to go fishing this weekend. Any recommendations
stumplin dan
22 Jul 2009, 18:56
Great lake to fish, I live on the lake. Muskie, hybrid stripers, big cattys, and monster nighttime walleye. Use topwater, zara spooks, sammy and super spooks, also long A bombers cranked super slow as well as cotton cordells, and rebels. Nighttime is the right time.
Dennis I
24 Jun 2009, 15:14
I am entering the stew lant contest with my nephew this weekend, i am already registered, where can i get a list of public boat ramps on lake hopatcong or private pay ramps i have no idea where i can launch. thank you DI
21 Apr 2009, 16:14
nice lake
31 Mar 2009, 19:25
What am I likely to be able to catch from the shore in a shallow cove in mid-April? I'm trying to decide whether to buy a fishing license for a weekend visit then.
michael n. grooms
27 Mar 2009, 04:17
i am plannining to fish hopatcong for the first time soon. i am primarily a salt water big game fisherman returning to fresh water. are there any guides with boats offering charters? ( i need a little help until i get my feet wet in fresh water after many years)
26 Mar 2009, 19:41
michael n. grooms
12 Mar 2009, 08:09
planning to fish hopatcong this spring need any- all hot tips! THANKS A LOT.
Bill K.
14 Jan 2009, 19:33
Tito:\r\nRubber worms, Baby Bass color, are deadly in spring around the docks, if you want largemouth. Also, skirted football jig (black and blue) with craw trailer seem to work well around the 4-8 foot rocky/sandbar areas all season.\r\nI did well last season with 4 5lb-ers and dozens between 2-3 lb-ers all season. Even had one break 12lb test after a 3 minute fight. definately a state record, I saw him or her and she was huge. shame I couldn't bring her in.
11 Jan 2009, 22:41
Im lookin foward to fishing this lake soon. Does any one got any good pointers?
05 Nov 2008, 22:06
can i supply you with fishing flies?
Rich O
26 Aug 2008, 15:58
I am thinking about taking the kids fishing at Lake Hopatcong. Is this a good family fishing spot and can you fish off the shore or do you have to rent a boat. If so how much are the boats? Thank you
Frank Munkel
15 Aug 2008, 13:13
Can you tell me about how wide and long the lakeand is? \r\n\r\nThank you\r\n\r\nPS Thank you for the fishing information.
28 Jul 2008, 15:46
any info about carp fishing?
joe burke
10 Apr 2008, 10:09
I am looking for resaninable dry storage for my 20 foot pontoon boat and trailer any info would be greatly appreciated
Mike Dolan
08 Apr 2008, 19:37
8 lb striper this weekend off of Barns bros.\r\n\r\ngood times
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