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New Jersey Fishing Article

Union Lake - Fishing In New Jersey

By Steve vonBrandt

Union Lake is southern New Jersey's largest freshwater body of water. It is considered the premier lake in this area for angling. It has had a history of providing good fishing for a variety of species.

The lake was constructed in the 1790s, and later in 1868, it was sold to the Millville Manufacturing Company, and a new dam was built downstream of the original, and it significantly increased the size of the lake. Union Lake is located in Millville, New Jersey, right off Route 49, about 45 minutes from the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It is part of the Union Lake Wild life Management area, and is located on the Maurice River Drainage.

The lake and it's surrounding properties were purchased by the New Jersey Fish Game and Wildlife in 1982, and the Division reconstructed the dam in 1989, and built a fish ladder in 1990. This enabled anadromous fish to spawn above Union Lake.

Union is 898 acres, with an average depth of 9 feet, with a maximum depth of 27 feet. The water in Union is highly productive due to the high fertility of the soil around the lake. It has a brown humic color, and is subject to algal blooms in the summer. The lake develops a thermocline in the summer at about ten feet, and there is a lack of dissolved oxygen at about fifteen feet. There is a variety of vegetation, both emergent and submerged, with some lay downs, and islands with lily pads throughout the lake.

There have been man made structures added also, such as Christmas trees reefs, and tire reefs, at various locations throughout the lake. There are two boat launches at Union that are available to the public. The ramp located on the Southeast end of the lake is owned by the city of Millville. The other ramp located on the West shore of the lake, has parking available for fifty car and trailer rigs, and is owned by the Division of Fish Game and Wildlife. The parking lot and ramp are fantastic, and it is lighted for night time fishing also. There is a ten HP maximum on the lake. There are also shoreline angling areas around the lake.

FORAGE

The main forage base in Union Lake are Alewife and Gizzard Shad, and they are in the lake in good numbers. There are also a good population of panfish, including crappies and bluegill. There are also some channel catfish and Pirate perch, along with some Swamp Darters.

SPECIES AVAILABLE

Fish species found in the lake are largemouth and smallmouth bass, Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, White Perch, Striped Bass, Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish, and Sunfish of several varieties. The smallmouth bass population in Union was small, so the State has been doing some stocking to increase the population, but they are still greatly outnumbered by the largemouth bass, but recently anglers have been reporting better catches and larger fish up to four pounds. The Stripers that are in Union are contributed to anglers releasing them from the Maurice River population. There is currently an advisory on largemouth and chain Pickerel, because they exceed the level of Mercury allowed.

BEST LOCATIONS

The best locations for smallmouth bass are around the dam and adjacent sandy shoreline, and across the lake by the Millville ramp, around the rip-rap, near the stumps and deep water structure. Some of the smallmouth we caught in Union were around three pounds, which is a nice size smallmouth for this area. The largemouth bass will hold on traditional structure in the lower end of the lake, such as the brushy areas along the shore near the Dam, and in the coves on both sides. There are also three artificial structures in this area, and they hold baitfish and Crappies, and subsequently bass. A good fish locator is required to find them now. One is located about forty yards off shore by the Millville ramp, the other one is about thirty yards up from the dam off the rip-rap bank. The third is on the adjacent shore by the sandy cliffs after the first cove by the dam.

The best lures for smallmouth bass in these areas include tubes, small hair jigs, in brown and black, and small crankbaits in crawfish colors.

We have had the best results in all the lakes and rivers with a Strike Pro USA crankbait or the Lucky Craft Fat CB.

The largemouth here will hit a variety of soft plastics, but we have had the best luck on small worms and Senkos by Gary Yamamoto baits. The four and five inch models have been taking big largemouth bass from these areas. About a third of the way up the lake from the dam, near the state boat ramp, there are two other artificial attractors, made of Christmas trees and tire units. These areas also hold bass. A good tactic is using medium to deep diving crankbaits in this area, and bumping the structure as much as possible. Small straight tail worms and Senko's also produce when cast to the structure and shoreline cover in this area. In the early mornings, and late afternoon and evenings, largemouth bass have been hitting walking type baits, jerkbaits, and buzzbaits in this area as well.

The next area to try would be near the upper end of the lake on the West shore of the lake. There are marsh reeds and lily pad fields in this area, and they hold a good deal of large bass and Pickerel. The best baits for here would be weedless topwater's, such as a Top-Prop, and other buzzbaits worked around the edges of the cover. Small worms, in four inch sizes, and Senkos, cast to the edges of the deep weed lines here will produce in the daytime. Also, this year we have had a good deal of bass hit Yamamoto Spider Grubs on a light weight or rigged Texas style, and cast to the edges of cover. There are a variety of Spider Grubs, but I like the ones made by Gary Yamamoto the best. The earth tone colors are easy to match to the forage and water color.

The last place you should try is in the upper end of the lake, on the right hand side, right before it turns into a narrow, winding, swamp like area. There is a Christmas tree reef in this area, mixed with other vegetation, that you should work with five to seven inch jerkbaits, in gold/black colors, and other soft plastics.

The pads on the left side in this area also hold a good deal of bass that go to five or six pounds. Many largemouth's were taken here by working the pads with a "Tournament Frog" in Black and Brown, and a Terminator spinnerbait in 3/8 ounce, with tandem blades, with a Golden Shiner skirt. Buzzbaits took some largemouth also from this area that exceeded six pounds! Some other good baits to try in Union are lipless crankbaits like a Rattlin' Rapala, and spoons in the reedy areas for Chain Pickerel and bass.

EQUIPMENT

I like to have a couple spinning rods, with a good reel, such as a Shimano Sustain, or Daiwa Z series, spooled with six and eight pound test P-Line. These are good for small grubs and the smaller Senkos. I also like to have a couple of good baitcasters, such as a 61/2 to 7 foot G.Loomis, or Kistler rod, with a medium, and a medium/Heavy action, with a Shimano Chronarch, spooled with twenty to twenty-five pound test P-Line, and a separate rod for cranking. I use a Lews Crankin' Stick, and a G.Loomis Cranking Stick for this, with a Lews reel, spooled with ten to twelve pound test. These reels are necessary to present the crankbaits properly, and reduce angler fatigue.

Use these tactics at Union this coming year, and you will increase your catch rate and your fun. Union has variety of scenery and wildlife also, and can provide a great day out for the whole family.

Editors Note:
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