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The Weather Outside is Frightful, but Our Great Waters are Delightful!

When the days are short and icy breezes rattle the leafless trees, it's time to once again pull out your snow shovel, space heater, a few extra blankets, and of course, your fishing gear. That's right, now is a great time to head out to the New Jersey Highlands for trout fishing!

The lakes, rivers, and streams of Northwestern New Jersey are an angler's paradise, where trout can thrive in all seasons, including winter. That's in part because they're fed from below by clean, fresh, groundwater that seeps in from the surrounding bedrock. With an average temperature around 50 degrees, the same inflow of groundwater that keeps many of our Great Waters refreshing in the dog days of summer also keeps them hospitable for trout all winter along by offering:

  • Ice-free areas that can serve as refuges during particularly cold periods (we're looking at you, Polar Vortex),

  • Better feeding conditions for overwintering trout,

  • Thermally ideal, ice-free places for incubating eggs and overwintering juveniles in our wild trout streams, and

  • More stable water levels that may be less subject to harmful rain-on-snow and ice break up-related flooding.

But while our groundwater-influenced waters can keep trout frisky and well-fed all year round below the surface, remember that conditions are still harsh above the surface. Winter anglers should always:

  • Play fish for as short a period as possible, and keep them in the water at all times,

  • Avoid fishing in especially cold periods, and

  • Avoid targeting obvious concentrations of fish - they might be taking refuge together in an otherwise stressful river reach.

Most importantly; however, keep yourself safe:

  • Fish with a friend - or at least let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return,

  • Dress in layers,

  • Bring a wading staff and consider purchasing an inflatable PFD, and

  • Learn to recognize the signs of hypothermia, and know your own limits.

And before you head out, be sure to visit Our 7 watersheds offer unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, and our online maps put them all at your fingertips!


This post was written by Jane Heeckt, Project Coordinator for the Great Waters NJ initiative.

The Highlands Region of Northwest New Jersey is home and home-away-from-home to approximately 20 million people who come to enjoy recreating in and around some of the Nation's most prized lakes and streams. These Great Waters, including 3 National Wild & Scenic Rivers, sustain communities, farms, and businesses, and provide a fresh source of drinking water for over 15 million people across the Mid-Atlantic.

Great Waters New Jersey seeks to raise awareness for these precious natural resources through local and statewide advocacy. For more information on the Great Waters NJ initiative, please visit


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