Hercules and the Trees

“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. ~Joni Mitchell

It feels like an everyday fight here in Jersey. Our remaining open spaces are constantly under assault. Paving paradise to put up a parking lot. From a decades-old fishing club space, to preserving open space in Princeton, to attempting to keep a community garden from being paved, it is an ongoing battle and you need to be ever watchful.

Many think the central point of power in a town is the town council. I am here to say not true. If you want to know where the true power lies, it is with a town’s planning commission. They have the ability to decide if an area can be as an area “in need of redevelopment.”

So why am I telling you all this? Stick with me.

My latest worry is for the approximately 1,000 acres of the former Hercules site in Kenvil, a neighborhood of Roxbury. There is currently a plan in front of the planning board to develop the site, which calls for low-income housing and (you guessed it) warehouses.

Proposed warehouses submitted to the planning commission for development at the former Hercules site in Kenvil
Rendering of proposed warehouses submitted to the planning commission for development at the former Hercules site in Kenvil. (Source: Hartz Mountain Industries)

Now let’s forget for a moment this will add tons of traffic to an already tight area. We are talking about taking down hundreds of acres of mature trees and open space. All in the name of “progress” and “ratables.”

I am going to attend the planning meeting on January 18th and I urge everyone that lives in the area to attend as well. Regardless of how you feel about this particular proposal, we as citizens have a right, and even more so a duty, to stay informed as to how these commissions plan the future of our local communities.

And you can believe I have a statement prepared.

Be vigilant. Don’t like a proposal in your community? Attend a meeting and make your voice heard.

Observe the Christmas Crossing

We all learned about the incredibly harsh winter General Washington and his men endured deep into the Revolutionary War. Throughout the entire war, time and again, Morristown was a key location for the the Continental Army. Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental Army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Another well-known time period during the Revolutionary War that began in Princeton and ended in Morristown is known as Ten Crucial Days. The first day was on December 25th, when the Continental Army force of more than 2,000 soldiers crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey at McConkey’s Ferry. Once on the other side, they marched 10 brutal miles to Trenton in a blizzard to assault the 1,500 Hessian troops occupying the town. In this First Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army defeats the Hessians; their first major win in the Revolution.

Over the next 10 days, Washington and his Army crossed the Delaware back and forth with stealthy precision, which lead to multiple battles against Hessian and British troops, and more importantly, multiple wins.

Americans willing to cross a frozen river to kill you

That key first crossing of the Delaware River is reenacted every year on Christmas Day. Just as it was during that cold winter of 1776 and 1777.

This free event takes place from noon to 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Day. The actual crossing begins at 1:00 p.m. Washington Crossing Historic Park is located at the intersection of Routes 532 and 32 (River Road) in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. Please note drones are not allowed. Additional historical events during the annual Ten Crucial Days Patriot’s Week will take place from December 26th to the 31st.

I always thought it was fitting that New Jersey played such a key role in our battle for independence. I think that independent fighting spirit still lives in all of us that call great state home today. It’s what makes us known around the country as one really tough crew.

Merry Christmas.

The Need for Trees

We interrupt Italian Heritage Month for this important announcement from The Land Conservancy of New Jersey

Volunteers Needed for Tree Planting

We had a great day planting trees at Nancy Conger West Brook Preserve. Twenty people came out to help create a young forest on the site where a dilapidated barn used to be.

But this is a big job, and we still need you! There are 50 trees still left to plant at Nancy Conger West Brook Preserve in West Milford, and 100 at South Branch Preserve in Mt. Olive.

Dates for these projects are Monday, 10/24 at West Brook and Thursday, 10/27 at South Branch, starting at 9am. The work consists of moving 3-gallon pots, as well as planting, shoveling dirt, and watering the seedlings. Our staff has dug the holes for the trees to go in, so that work will be minimal.

Please RSVP here if you would like to help the New Jersey Land Conservancy plant!

Planting trees is one of the best tools we have to slow the connected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe. They reduce storm water runoff, which means less erosion and pollution in our waterways, and mitigate flooding in extreme weather. Many species of birds and mammals depend on trees for food, protection, and homes.

So when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offered us 250 native hardwood trees plus various shrubs to plant at our preserves, we jumped at the chance. This planting complements the long-term conservation work under way at both locations, from the young forests and pollinator meadows at South Branch to the stream restoration on the West Brook.

The Bird and the Bug

This weekend I had a very frightening event happen at our home… thankfully with a very happy ending. I want to tell you that story to serve as a warning.

The tail-end of last week, an email was sent out from our homeowner’s association spraying would take place in an effort to try and kill as many spotted lanternflies as possible in the woods behind our building. On Friday evening a neighbor told me she saw a dead bird along the tree line and I immediately thought of the spraying that took place the previous day.

Spotted Lanternflies on a tree trunk (Source: NJ Department of Agriculture)

Sunday morning a young woodpecker flew into our building and fell with a hard thump on our deck. I ran out to find this tiny little bird on its back, its leg twitching. I quickly grabbed gloves and found a small box. I very carefully turned it upright, placed it in the box in the shade and kept it partially closed. I called Animal Control to review the steps I had taken and she confirmed I followed proper protocol. She said to let it be, as it could be quite awhile for it to come around if the hit was as hard as I suspected.

My husband and I regularly checked on it for hours. I called our town’s Animal Control Officer again and she thought by now it might need to be go to a rehabber, so she wanted to swing by and take a look at the bird and see what might be our next steps.

I picked up the box and went downstairs to wait outside. She quickly arrived to examine our little feathered friend. She carefully opened the box and began to examine the bird. Shockingly, he started to come around, hopped to her hand and flew away! We were both shocked! And thankful!

I am very grateful to Susan at Animal Control for her guidance and care. She told me it was her third bird call just that morning. My call, thankfully, had a happy ending. One, she was still monitoring, but looked promising. The third was on its way to a rehab facility and did not look good. The suspected issue with all three? Spraying for spotted lantern flies.

These bugs are an invasive species leaving damage everywhere they lay their eggs. However, when sprays are used, they do not just kill the spotted lanternfly; they kill all the other bugs. Then the birds eat those poisoned bugs and those birds die. Then you have a fox, racoon, or other animal eat the bird, and so on.

So obviously, sprays are causing a lot of damage. Instead, some are using fly glue/tape traps with the thought this would be less harmful. While this is somewhat correct, the Animal Control Officer shared with me it is because of these fly tape traps the third bird she responded to on Sunday will more than likely perish. Birds are getting stuck to the tape and as they attempt to get away, they are pulling out their feathers.

It has become such an issue, The Raptor Trust released the following statement on Facebook last week:

“We’re continuing to sound the alarm – the number of birds tragically caught in glue tape traps set out for Spotted Lanternfly remediation grows daily: more than 60 birds already this year.
This nuthatch had nearly ALL of its wing and tail feathers stuck, and one particularly nasty piece of glue tape caught an entire family of birds.

nuthatch stuck on lanternfly glue trap
This nuthatch had nearly ALL of its wing and tail feathers stuck, and one particularly nasty piece of glue tape caught an entire family of birds (source: Raptor Trust)


While the Spotted Lanternfly is of great concern in our area, the unintended consequences of this method of remediation far outweigh its effectiveness, and in some cases the bycatch victims are they very things that might prey upon the Lanternflies in the first place.
A wildlife-safe alternative is this “circle trap,” being used very effectively in Pennsylvania.
https://extension.psu.edu/how-to-build-a-new-style-spotted-lanternfly-circle-trap
If you must use the sticky tape traps (though we advise alternative methods), you can make them somewhat safer for birds and small mammals by wrapping a cover of small mesh wire over the tape at least an inch away from the tape. The wire mesh needs to be small enough to keep birds out, but the Lanternflies can still get in. Half inch “hardware cloth” is a good option.
If you find a bird caught in a glue trap, please bring it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.”

Of the 61 birds that have been stuck in glue tape and brought to Raptor Trust as of August 3rd, 15 have recovered and been released and 23 continue to receive care for their injuries. Sadly, the rest have died.

So how do you actually kill spotted lanternflies safely?

If you are in an area that has a large infestation of the dreaded spotted lanternfly, there are a few different ways you can get rid of them that are much safer than spraying poison or using glue traps.

Common Milkweed
Common Milkweed (Source: milkweed4monarchs.org)
  1. Smash them out! Just the plain’ old shoe-to-bug method. Just give them the old squish.
  2. Trap in water bottle. Many are finding success holding the mouth of an empty water bottle over them and when they try to fly away they are caught in the bottle. Yes, it is one at a time, but you can catch a bunch in one bottle and then toss it.
  3. Grab the shop vac. If you have a ton of them on the outside of your home, you can actually suck them all up in your shop vac and then pour water and Dawn dish soap in the reservoir to kill them.
  4. Insecticidal soap. This safe, effective, and low toxicity alternative to more toxic pesticides is a great natural way to control many undesirable insects, including the spotted lanternfly. You can either purchase it pre-made, or you can make your own at home. Penn State reports the following soaps work: Concern Insect Killing Soap C, Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap, and Safer Insect-Killing-Soap.
  5. Plant Milkweed. As the spotted lanternfly is not indigenous to the United States, Common Milkweed is poisonous to them. An added bonus to planting milkweed? It’s great for butterflies!
  6. Spray horticultural vinegar on weeds. A more potent type of common household vinegar, spraying horticultural vinegar will kill the spotted lanternflies. It will also kill the weeds (or whatever else you spray), so just be careful if you are spraying it near your zinnias or tomato plants.

Unfortunately, it seems like the spotted lanternfly is here for the long-term. We all need to play a part in its management and hopeful eradication. Unfortunately, dealing with an issue such as this doesn’t always have an easy answer. No matter what you use outside, from insect spray to fertilizer, think about how it will affect the environment and wildlife around you before you put a product to use.

National New Jersey Day

This week we celebrated National New Jersey Day. Yes, that’s right. There’s an official day to nationally celebrate New Jersey.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate New Jersey and I thought I would share some interesting facts about our awesome state, which officially became a state in 1776.

New Jersey State Seal
The New Jersey State Seal (source: state.nj.us)

First of all, we are known as “The Garden State” thanks to Abraham Browning. He bestowed the nickname in 1897, the state was full of garden and farmers, and agriculture was the predominant occupation at that time. While many joke it is better known as “The Mall State” now, if you head to the western part of the state, you will still see plenty of farmland.

The state’s seal was created by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere in 1777 and contains five symbols, each of which represents something about New Jersey. The helmet and the horse’s head crest represent New Jersey’s independence as a state. They also represent New Jersey’s status as one of the first states. In 1787 New Jersey was the third state to sign the U.S. Constitution. The woman holding a staff with a liberty cap on top is Liberty, who represents freedom. In ancient Rome, former Roman slaves saw a liberty cap as a badge of freedom. Liberty caps became popular again during the Revolutionary War. The woman on the right is the Roman goddess of grain, Ceres, and holds a cornucopia, filled with the many fruits and vegetables produced in New Jersey. The three plows on the shield symbolize the agricultural tradition of New Jersey. The state’s motto “Liberty and Prosperity” is written on the scroll.

The eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is native to northeastern North America and being so, was designated in 1992 as the State Fish of New Jersey. Based on results of a genetic-research study conducted in 2008 by NJDFW, it was been determined that wild book trout in New Jersey are descendants of the native species that colonized this area of the northeast following deglaciation about 12,000 years ago. It is an incredibly beautiful fish and my favorite fish of all marine life. It is also known as an “indicator species,” meaning brook trout only survive in the cleanest, most pure water. So if you see a brook trout in the water, known that is some of the cleanest waterway in the state.

The state tree is the Red Oak, a perfect choice for New Jersey because it is just like us. Tough, strong, and durable.

New Jersey is one of the top blueberry producers in the country and blueberries were the top crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. Farmers in the Garden State harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres last year.

Farmland on the way to Frenchtown

New Jersey played a pivotal role in our nation’s fight for independence from the British. More than 100 battles took place in New Jersey. In 1776, crossing the Delaware River into Trenton; George Washington fought with, and ultimately defeated the British forces. This was one of the first major victories in the Revolutionary War. Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record. The park also maintains a museum & library collection related to the encampments & George Washington, as well as items relating to pre- and post-Revolutionary America.

We here in New Jersey have plenty to be proud of and love when it comes to our great state. For those who “think” they know us by what they see when they land at Newark Airport or some horrible television show about a bunch of idiots from New York and elsewhere, well, we know better.

The True Story Behind Jaws

Today begins the much anticipated Shark Week on Discovery. I’ve always been fascinated by marine wildlife. Fascination, along with a healthy dose of respect. That respect first came from the movie Jaws; one of my favorite all-time movies.

What many do not know is Peter Benchley’s inspiration for the book upon which the movie is based was a week of terror that took place off the coast of New Jersey in 1916. It is briefly mentioned in the movie as Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) try to convince Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) the shark terrorizing the waters of Amity island actually exists and they should close the beach.

Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton)

Michael Capuzzo’s Close to Shore is an incredible non-fiction account of the harrowing days in 1916 when a Great White shark attacked swimmers along the Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching an extensive shark hunt. This is an incredible read that has been meticulously researched. These attacks were the first documented shark attacks in the country and for individuals who just recently discovered the benefits of “sunbathing,” learning there were creatures in the ocean that could kill children simply enjoying the water was shocking.

So as you are watching Shark Week, I highly recommend you check out Close to Shore and learn how New Jersey played an important part in the history of shark attacks, research, and lore. And maybe as I do, have a healthy respect for marine life while you enjoy your time in the water.

Support for those who Support the Outdoors

Back in the freezing weather of January, I shared my goals for 2022. One of the most important goals outlined was to fight for our ever-dwindling open spaces in New Jersey. That includes fighting for those who share the love of the outdoors and educate others about the resource.

Enter the frustrating situation of the Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club.

Located in one of my favorite spots in New Jersey, Sunset Beach, Cape May, the Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club has been meeting and sharing their love of fishing and the outdoors since the mid-1940s. What started as a few friends meeting at a private home in the Philly-area has turned into a decades-old club that has officially met at Sunset Beach since the 1950s.

They function as a non-profit, providing camaraderie and community to a group of local anglers. They have a great little meeting space next to the miniature golf course at Sunset Beach. It sounds like a really wonderful group of anglers who enjoy the outdoors and telling fishing stories.

So what’s the problem? Glad you asked.

Their building is located on the grounds of a former brick plant. When the plant closed in 1982, the owners leased the land to the club. In 1999, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife purchased the land from the plant owners and added it to the adjacent Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area.

Sportsmen's Club Building inside black circle within former brick plant.
Sportsmen’s Club Building inside black circle within former brick plant. (Credit: Sportsmen’s Club’s Facebook page)

So they own the building, but they do not own the land underneath it. It is also worth mentioning they have paid taxes to Lower Township since 1957.

OK, so sounds like typical bureaucracy so far. Annoying, but not horrible… yet.

Well, here’s where it gets complicated. And frustrating.

The NJ Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter in February announcing plans to terminate the club’s lease agreement. The “Notice to Quit and Demand for Delivery of Possession of Premises” notes that if not followed, the state could file for eviction action. The letter outlined a list of reasons, which include “the sale of alcohol on a Wildlife Management Area without the prior written permission or other authorization from the (state), the club’s ‘interference’ with the National Coastal Wetlands Grant and the club’s use of the property being ‘inconsistent’ with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s mission.”

Yes, they drink the occasional beer at the end of a day fishing. Pardon me while I clutch my pearls. I really hope my Jersey sarcasm is coming through loud and clear.

Whether the state owns the land beneath the club remains in dispute, according to Chris Gillin-Schwartz, Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club’s attorney.

It is worth mentioning, letters have been sent on letterhead from The DEP, New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, and the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. Tremendous pressure has been put on Lower Township to not renew the liquor license the club has possessed (in good standing) since 1976. I applaud Lower Township for standing up to the state and renewing their license.

This is a club that has served the community and its membership since the 1940s. They currently have 160 members (over 50 of which are veterans) and are good stewards of the resource. I feel like there’s more going on than the state wishes to share.

Now in all fairness, I reached out to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Governor’s office. I received no response whatsoever. Not even a “no comment.” Total radio silence.

I promised my readership to fight for our great state and its wonderful resources. The Sunset Beach Sportsmen’s Club does the same. They work for their community and work to preserve the resource. I urge my readership to sign their online petition. I also urge you to reach out to the Governor’s office and let your voice be heard. Why the state is making a (literal) federal case out of a local fishing club is beyond me. I promise all of you to stay on this story and hope for a positive outcome.

Fish on.

New Jersey: The Cradle of Independence

When many think about Independence Day, they often think of places like Boston or Philadelphia. The truth is, New Jersey played an incredibly important role in the birth of our nation. There are plenty of great events throughout the long weekend of celebrate the holiday! Here are some of events that are taking place over the weekend.

Morristown National Historical Park

Morristown National Historical Park, where America survived, will celebrate our Declaration of Independence with July Fourth activities beginning at Noon on the park’s Washington’s Headquarters grounds, 30 Washington Place, with a “Warm-Up for the Declaration” followed by the reading of the Declaration.

The “Warm-Up” will feature a park ranger in period clothing entertaining the crowd and giving a “kids level” explanation of the Declaration. Eighteenth-century stories, jokes, and riddles are all part of the fun.

At 1pm, the “Public Reading of the Declaration of Independence” will commence. Attendees will be encouraged to cheer along with park rangers and re-enactors as they denounce tyranny and praise liberty. After the reading, attendees are welcome to participate in a mock salute called a feu de joie (musket salute).

Following the reading of the Declaration, the Ford Mansion will be open for self-guided tours with re-enactors in period dress, bringing life to the mansion once again.

Ford Mansion
Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Visitors are asked to bring water to drink and a chair or a blanket to sit on the ground and are reminded to dress appropriately for the weather, including wearing a hat and sunscreen. It is a rain-or-shine event. Due to limited parking, guests are encouraged to carpool or walk to the event.

All activities will occur at the Washington Headquarters area and are free. The Jockey Hollow Visitor Center and Wick House will be closed on July 4th, but Jockey Hollow’s roads, grounds, and trails will be open.

Cape May Coast Guard Sunset Parade

U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May; Sunday, July 3 at 7:40 p.m.

Sunset Parades are free military displays of marching troops and the Coast Guard Recruit Ceremonial Drill Team. The recruit regiment will march in the parade and strike the National Ensign from the parade field at sunset.

The gates to the training center will open at 6:30 p.m., and visitors are asked to be seated by 7:40 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to use this extra time for security screening, parking, and seating.

Avalon: Bay Atlantic Symphony Independence Day Concert

Avalon Community Center, 3001 Avalon Ave, Avalon; July 3 at 7 p.m.

This free symphony fills fast, so be sure to get there a bit early if you want a seat! Those who don’t have a seat can still watch in the standing room section. Come see a fantastic symphony play a patriotic set.

Princeton: Morven Museum & Garden Fourth of July Jubilee

55 Stockton Street, Princeton; July 4th — 12pm to 3pm

Check out Morven on Independence Day for their Fourth of July Jubilee, a free celebration of our American heritage at the home-turned-museum of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This year will will also feature the museum’s current exhibition, Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention in New Jersey, which features the original TelStar satellite and so many other technological innovations made right here in New Jersey that affected the entire world for generations.

Wall Township: Historic American Flag Collection at Allaire

Come celebrate the Fourth of July at Allaire! Allaire’s rare one-of-a-kind historic American flag collection on display this weekend only!

Your ticket includes admission (which by the way is only $5) to the Chapel to see Allaire’s unique and one-of-a-kind American flag collection on display this weekend ONLY! There will be over five historic flags on exhibition (rare and one of a kind!), the oldest flag dating back c. 1850 and authenticated by the Smithsonian Institute!

To visit the historic village, experience early 19th century industrial community life, and explore the village grounds EAST of the Mill Pond, a ticket for General Admission is from 11am-4pm.

In purchasing your General Admission Ticket, you will be able to see our historic trades in action including our blacksmiths and tinsmiths as well as tour our period homes to see how each class in the village lived. All of this in addition to other themed pop up tours and demonstrations are all available to you when you visit The Historic Village at Allaire! There are great events scheduled throughout the month, so it is definitely worth a visit!

Oxford: Celebration of Independence & Museum Day at Shippen Manor

Shippen Manor, 8 Belvidere Avenue, Oxford; July 3; 11am – 4pm

The newly formed United States Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright and sunny day. John Dunlap printed the Declaration (known as “Dunlap Broadsides”). There are twenty-four known copies, two of which are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. One of these was George Washington’s personal copy.

Beginning at 11 a.m., the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps of Hackettstown will begin our celebration with music from the era.

At 11:30 a.m., the Bachmann Players of Easton, PA will commemorate our celebration with readings and other activities that preceded the actual reading of the Declaration. The reading will begin promptly at 12 noon (the same time as the 1776 reading in Easton, PA).

Following the reading, the Colonial Musketeers Junior Fife & Drum Corps will entertain our visitors with colonial-era music until 1 p.m., when the museum will open for tours.

And plenty more!

Now let’s be honest; right now we are a divided country. There are probably many out there that don’t feel much like celebrating. I say not true.

Stick with me for a moment.

The founders of this great nation ensured the right for us to disagree with each other, and more importantly, to disagree with our government. To peacefully assemble and voice our concerns. This experiment in democracy has been challenged over the centuries. I use the following example:

The more populous and wealthy the United States have become, and the higher the position to which they have risen in the scale of national importance, with the greater confidence has it been maintained, on the one hand, that our institutions rest on a solid and permanent basis, and on the other, that they are destitute of inherent strength and cohesion, and that the time of explosion and disruption is rapidly approaching.

The previous quote is from New-York Daily Tribune, November 27, 1860.

We’ve been pushed and challenged before and we have survived. Sometimes bruised. But we are still here. I implore everyone to remember that we will do the same again.

Almost every community will have events this weekend, so I encourage you to get out and enjoy!

New Jersey Free Fishing Day: June 4

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am an avid fly angler. My husband and I write, lecture, and teach about the subject whenever we can. Well, this weekend, we are hopeful everyone in New Jersey will give fishing a try on Saturday, June 4th during the Free Fishing Day.

Free Fishing Day

So what is Free Fishing Day? This means you do not need a license to legally fish. Not that I really trust the weather reports all that much, but it is expected to be beautiful on Saturday, so I encourage everyone to head outside and give it a try!

OK, you want to go but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:

Rod & reel: Get a basic rod and reel. You can start out with a spinning rod or go right to fly fishing. There are plenty of great basic combos available and the guys working in the fishing department are happy to help you pick something. Purchase a combo for simple freshwater fishing in your local ponds. Remember, every town has a local pond that is stocked with plenty of panfish and bass.

Pond in Morris Plains, NJ
A beautiful pond in Morris Plains, NJ in the fall.

Lures & flies: Just like your rod and reel combo, stick with the basics. Try a crawdad soft plastic with some split shot set as a weedless Texas rig to go deep. If you are looking to go just sub-surface, try one of my all-time favorites when I used to spin fish, a rooster tail with a gold blade. Want to go completely top water? Try a crankbait with a fat lip for maximum water disturbance. If you want to give fly fishing a try, think about muddler minnows, wooly buggers, poppers, gold ribbed hare’s ears, sponge spiders, and of course, Clouser minnows.

Now remember, when you go look at all these wonders, I always say they are there to catch the angler more than to catch the fish. Don’t go overboard. Get a variety, but you don’t need much.

Other equipment: There are a few other items you should have on hand. First, it may sound ridiculous, but have a good pair of sunglasses (polarized, if possible) and a hat. You will be out in the sun and want to stay protected. Polarized sunglasses will help you see down into the water by cutting the glare and will also protect your eyes from a wayward hook that catches air if a stiff breeze blows unexpectedly. Also pick up a good pair of hemostats. This looks like a surgical tool with a clamp and often a pair of scissors in it. Do yourself a favor and get the one with the scissors. Two tools in one. Have a bandana on hand to keep something wet on your neck to avoid overheating if it gets too hot. Also, keep water on hand to stay hydrated.

What happens June 5th?

Damage at Hedden Park, Morris County
Damage at Hedden Park, Morris County

So you have a great time on your Free Fishing Day. What happens on June 5th? Well, if you want to continue to fish, you will need to purchase a New Jersey state fishing license. I will tell you, sadly, many will continue to fish without a license. I ask that you do not. First, it is against the law. If you get caught, you will face a very expensive fine. Second, it is one of the few fees you will pay in the state where you are guaranteed to know where your money will go. The politicians in Trenton cannot access this money at all. The money you pay in fees will go right back into the resource you use. I implore you to spend the money and pay for your license.

Carry in, carry out

One more point, if I may. During the last few years, many people stuck at home due to the pandemic discovered all the wonderful parks in New Jersey. The bad news is not every visitor treated them with the care they deserve. In 2020 I wrote about Hedden Park in Morris County, which had to be closed for two weeks due to extensive damage from park visitors. So go out and take advantage of Free Fishing Day. Just remember to take your garbage with you. And if you see someone left something behind, grab it on your way out. Leave the area better than when you arrived.

I hope you enjoy your day outside!

It’s Spring; Be Bear Aware!

As the weather finally begins to warm up, we aren’t the only creatures starting to emerge from our homes. Bears are waking up and making a grand entrance.

Unfortunately, not everyone is ready for them.

Black bears are appearing in more and more residential areas and people that are not necessarily used to seeing them may not know how to respond when they come face-to-face with a bear. Recently, a woman in Lafayette was attacked by a bear near her home. A few weeks prior, a bear killed two small dogs in Sussex County.

How to Prevent a Bear Attack

There are a number of steps everyone can take to minimize the chances of a negative experience with a bear.

NJDEP Fish & Wildlife Bear Safety Guidelines

If you come in contact with a bear, here are a few important points to remember:

  1. Yes, they are cute. They are also wild animals. DO NOT try to pet them. Yes, I really need to say that.
  2. Do not feed them. Don’t leave food out for them as a way to invite them on to your deck.
  3. Clean the grates of your grill after use. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and will definitely want to check them out if they any kind of interesting scent.
  4. Keep your garbage well-secured.
  5. If a sow is with her cubs, give her extra space! You know the term “momma bear?” People use it for a reason.
  6. Never corner a bear. Always give them an exit.
  7. NEVER turn your back on a bear. Just back away slowly.
  8. Never make eye contact with a bear. It may consider it as a form of aggression.
  9. NEVER turn and run! Again, slowly back away.
  10. Make yourself look as large as possible. Yell, clap, whistle, etc. to let the bear know you are in the area so it is not startled by you.
  11. If you are going into the woods, keep a whistle and either Mace or bear spray on hand.
  12. If you are actually attacked, kick and punch the eyes, throat, and muzzle. That’s your best chance. Do not follow the advise of the Bugs Bunny cartoons we all watched as kids and “play dead” with black bears.

Seriously though, bear attacks are incredibly rare. Just use the common sense God gave you. For more information, check out the bear safety resources provided by NJ Fish & Wildlife.