The Urban Angle

Sometimes the most important question is, “Where do I go fishing”? For those of us who live closer to the big cities the answer often involves driving, one maybe two hours from our homes.  I sometimes wish that I could just drive a few minutes and drop a line. 

Close to me in North New Jersey there is the Hackensack River. This river starts in NY State and heads south emptying into the Newark Bay. The problem is that the river has developed a bit of a bad reputation over the years as being just too polluted.  This river, along with another river in the area called the Passaic River, were so damaged by industry and waste disposal (some highly toxic) that when I was a kid we made jokes about three eyed fish coming from those waters. For sure people in the area didn’t fish there and if they did they kept it a secret.

For many years now I have been living near the Hackensack River and seeing it at high tide, I would often think to myself how great it would be if I could just go fishing there and then recently I discovered a little secret. Back behind the River Square Mall on Route 4 is a small park of sorts.

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It’s called the Hackensack River County Park. It’s not much more than a well-groomed lawn area hidden behind the Mall’s parking lot but they constructed two overlooks or piers that jut out over the river, conveniently close to the edge of the tide line. I discovered the larger of the two  while taking a walk with my wife after getting dinner at the mall. I told her that one day I was going to try out the fishing there.

On one recent Sunday morning I did just that.  I grabbed some worms, carp and catfish bait and decided to check it out. As fate would have it, I arrived there to find a few people  bird watching on the overlook. 

Well I couldn’t fish there so I took a walk around to see if there were any other access points and that’s when I found it. Hidden away behind low hanging trees and tall swaying reeds was the second overlook. This one had a very long walkway probably 50 feet or so through those same weeds and over the marsh. This overlook was smaller than the first one but it was perfect.

Now down to the fishing. My expectations were low but I found out quickly that the river is packed with many different varieties of fish. There were White Perch, Yellow Perch, Channel Catfish, Bullhead Catfish, Spot, Stripped Bass and I even caught a Blue Crab. And they were all very hungry. Since I’ve started fishing there the worm (nightcrawler) has been king but pair it up with a small Killi (Killifish) and it’s deadly.

Now my hope is that these aren’t the biggest fish out there but it shows that you can catch fish on this river. By the way, there are also some massive carp swimming around in there. I saw them, I just didn’t get one.  Maybe next time. I have to admit I’m a believer!

Recently I learned that over the years there have been many initiatives to cleanup the river. Although I cannot claim to be an expert on these efforts I know that there are several organizations that might be able to say more about them. Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc. is a non-governmental group that is an honest and true advocate for the Hackensack River and its renewal. Check them out.  

DISCLAIMER: One important note. Everyone knows that Hook, Line & Skillet is all about consumption of the catch but the Urban Angle is about fishing locales that may be in areas close to city centers where the bodies of water and waterways have been a bit abused over the years. Even though the fish and wildlife are thriving in these areas again they still may not be suitable for consumption. I have read that New Jersey has a ban on eating any fish or shellfish from the Hackensack River. Please, before you consume any fish caught in your area make sure to check with your state’s game and wildlife departments for regulations.

Good Fishing   –Pete

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