By John Provenzale
It's not every day that you find a public land gem. But today I did. It is even less often that you find a place that exceeds expectations. But today was a perfect day.
After a long hike of 1.5 miles with 5 youngsters aged 2-8, we finally made it to the small lake of only 50 acres. I had high hopes that this distance from the road would keep the fishing pressure down.
It did. The kids reeled in bluegills and sunfish one after the other for two hours. My fingers were worn bare from rigging lines, unhooking fish, baiting hooks and untangling everything.
After 3 hours we made the return trip a little slower than our approach but in good spirits. As we passed the sign with the lake's name and designating it a wildlife management area, the older kids and accompanying parent, got a crash course on how fishing license fees and tax on fishing equipment paid for this property and access.
We made a pit stop for some much deserved ice cream and then headed back to my friends house and fried several of the fish.
My son commented how it was interesting to him to watch a fish die. We agreed how fragile life can be and how nothing should be wasted. It was a good lesson.
I fried the fish in a cast iron skillet with some oil and butter. As they became aromatic every kid wanted to see the fish in the pan. The kids all had a taste of the fish with varying degrees of approval. But it was a special ceremony, a communion of sorts.
People must think...what do sportsmen in New Jersey know about backcountry? Wait, are there even outdoors people in NJ? I will tell you yes there are sportsmen and women and they for the most part don't know much about backcountry...just enough.
Enough to dream about getting to it on a grand scale west of us and enough to protect the few small semblances of wildness left within our boundaries.
With nearly 9 million people living in just under 9,000 square miles of New Jersey's land mass. It seems the best thing we can do as the New Jersey Chapter of BHA is educate and recruit even a tiny fraction of the population to help us protect our collective "gems".
John Provenzale is a family man, outdoorsman, bow maker and secretary of the New Jersey Chapter of BHA.