Three Great Reservoirs

Blue Acres

By Manny Luftglass

Besides helping to provide basic water and power requirements to a surging population in Hunterdon and Warren Counties, three reservoirs built within the past thirty years offer tremendous year round recreational opportunities. Fishermen love these huge man-made lakes with a passion, as do campers, birders, boaters and folks out for a good hike. Within twenty miles of one another, Merrill Creek, Spruce Run and Round Valley can satisfy either the most avid outdoorsman looking for trophy fish or the casual daytripper in the market for a nice view.

On behalf of the seven power companies who own it, Merrill Creek, the youngest of the three, was built in 1988 on 650 acres of land atop Scotts Mountain in Warren County's Harmony Township. When a drought occurs, water is released into the nearby Delaware River through a 3 1/2 mile underground pipeline in order to enable uninterrupted power generation from stations along the river. On the other hand, in high water times at the Delaware, water is pumped up the mountain into the reservoir. The water in Merrill Creek is as deep as 200 feet.

Near Clinton, to the southeast, Spruce Run, built in 1965, is the primary source of water during drought conditions for the Elizabethtown Water Company. Covering 1290 acres, the lake holds 11 billion gallons of water when full and reaches depths of over 75 feet. At times of severe drought, the lake is drawn down by as much as 25%, exposing hunks of land like small mountains in the water, and the flow stops.

That's where Round Valley Reservoir comes in! Known to fishermen as the "Valley of the Giants", Round Valley opened in 1972 as a back-up to Spruce Run. It is New Jersey's second largest body of fresh water (next to Lake Hopatcong). 55 billion gallons of pretty, blue water cover 2350 acres, extending to depths of 175 feet.


Boaters should be aware of the varying regulations at each reservoir and should always respect the magnitude of these water bodies and the sudden shifts of weather, wind and waves that occur. No boater should venture out without a compass and a whistle in the event of emergency.

Merrill Creek can be used during daylight hours by licensed boaters whose conventional boats and canoes are at least 12 feet long. Smaller kayaks and inflatables may be used too, but with extreme caution. The only motors that are allowed at Merrill Creek are electric, so it is battery or arm power only. A boat with a gasoline engine may be on the lake, only with the engines lifted, to be used in the event of severe weather or emergency.

Spruce Run offers the only boat rental facility of the three, where you can get a rowboat, canoe, sailboat or motor powered craft for a day. Be it in your own boat or in a rental rig, all standard laws must be fully observed, and no one may use more than a 9.9 horsepower engine. No, not two of them in tandem, only one. The Hunterdon Sailing Club uses this lake for its Regatta's and most of its members try hard to co-exist with other boaters.

Round Valley is also used by sailboats, but is best known for its fishing. Power motors are again limited to 9.9 horsepower. Years back several fellows used two and even three such engines at the same time, but the State has stopped this. A 9.9 horsepower engine mounted on a 16 foot boat can traverse the entire lake from one end to the other within ten minutes; so you really don't need a bigger "kicker".

Besides Boats

Each reservoir supports an ample population of wildlife including deer, foxes and many other local species. And each lake has a large contingent of birds representing dozens of species, so much so that Bird Watcher groups often can be found at each location. Eagles have been seen at each lake. I've seen eagles pick off fish in flight, as you see in Alaskan film, both at Merrill Creek and Round Valley. I once photographed an eagle at Spruce Run within 15 feet of my boat!

The State Parks at Round Valley and Spruce Run have swimming beaches, picnic areas and camp sites, some of which are accessible by water only. Neither swimming nor camping is allowed at Merrill Creek. Each lake offers nature lovers many jewels, but most of all, other than fishing, just plain walkin' in beauty seems to be the most popular activity. Surrounding Merrill Creek are more than 2,000 acres of forest and fields prime for exploration for birders and hikers. The Visitors Center is a destination in itself, with interactive kiosks, nature displays, historical exhibits, and a regular program of nature walks and workshops presented all year. The Visitor Center is the only building you can see from the water at Merrill Creek, but that's one more than you can find at Round Valley. Here it's nothing but water and trees! Spruce Run has perhaps a half-dozen buildings that you can see around its entire beautiful perimeter.

Use of the reservoirs is not quite free for all three all the time, but its not bad! Merrill Creek is free, PERIOD!... daylight hours only, but free to walkers and boaters. Round Valley and Spruce Run may be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by licensed anglers and boaters. The boat ramp at Round Valley is free, all the time to such people. "The Valley" charges visitors to its main park a daily fee, as does Spruce Run, through much of the summer, but a single higher fee can be paid to permit unlimited use of both parks as well as many other New Jersey State Parks.

Oh Yeah, Fishing!

Merrill Creek holds a huge population of trout with many of the lake trout having already grown to their legal size limit of 24 inches. Brown and Rainbow trout are here, and they have to be 15 inches long to be a "keeper". Large and small mouth bass swim Merrill Creek as well.

Fishermen love these lakes with a passion. And for good reason. Here, Andy Sharo of Dan's Sport Shop holds the mounted State Record 30.2 pound northern pike caught by Herb Hepler. And behind him, two huge brown trout taken in the 70s. All came out of Spruce run.

Spruce Run contains at least 18 varieties of fish, and different folks prefer different critters. The two most sought-after are the hybrid bass- a cross of a female striped bass and male southern white bass. The hybrid, which I like to call "Rocket" due to its explosive bite and fight, is my favorite fish to catch. The state record northern pike was caught at Spruce Run, weighing 30.2 pounds, and many like to fish for pike. Huge carp live in Spruce Run, plus trout, perch and other bass.

Round Valley is the heaviest fished, having its own club, the "Round Valley Trout Association", more than 1,000 members strong. All five fish that are in Merrill Creek live here as well, but, because they have been here longer, the trout are lots bigger. "The Valley of the Green Giants" is the only lake in New Jersey which has reproducing lake trout, and the state record laker was caught there, weighing 24.85 pounds. The state record brown trout came out of "The Valley" too, 21.38 pounds. A 7.2 pound smallmouth bass was caught back in 1990 and still holds the state record.


We have only touched on the law at all three reservoirs, and since laws change, it is important to be up to date. If in doubt, please ask, OK? Enjoy the beauty of our three wonderful reservoirs. Please, please, clean up your litter, and any that someone else might have left too.

We may talk further in future editions about these three lakes, so keep your eyes open. Meanwhile, scuze me, gone fishing!

Resident expert Manny Luftglass has written a series of books on New Jersey fishing. They include

  • Gone Fishin' For Carp
  • Gone Fishin' in Spruce Run Reservoir
  • Gone Fishin' in Round Valley Reservoir
  • Gone Fishin' in NJ Saltwater Rivers & Bays
  • For autographed copies click here.
Stay in the Loop!

Get our newsletter, This Week in the NJ Skylands, with updates, special offers and good ideas!

Read current newsletter

Privacy Statement


Tony mantuano
13 Aug 2015, 15:27
interested in all the questions on this page
andrew mcdonald
24 Aug 2014, 17:47
What month is best for hybrid striper fishing at spruce run ?
Nicholas Hogab
06 Aug 2012, 02:39
I am herb helpers grandson. I have been looking for this fish since Dan's shop changed hands when I was a kid. Anyone having information would be greatly appreciated. Also herbs cove has done me well fishing there with my grandfather as a small kid. It's just off the field with the guard rail past the entrance to spruce run. Round valley was also a favorite of my grandfathers.
Rich Reitz
18 Sep 2011, 04:39
Hi - I am wondering where "Hepler's Cove" is on Spruce Run Reservoir. \r\nAlso, I would like to get a map of depths at Merrill Creek, Spruce Run and Round Valley. \r\nThanks,\r\nRich\r\n
Constantin Popescu
11 Jul 2011, 14:41
Dayne,\r\nBiggest carp I have ever caught was 49,6 pounds. Buffalo carp caught near Austin, TX.\r\nUnfortunately, I cannot attach a photo to this E-mail on this site, but I have nice pics of it and others.\r\nI wondered if anybody knows a good spot on Spruce Run, NJ.\r\nThank you,\r\nConstantin
10 Jul 2011, 13:39
What was the biggest fish ever caught. P.S if you could send a picture to.
Constantin Popescu
03 Jul 2011, 08:36
I am looking for a good spot for carp fishing on Spruce Run Reservoir.\r\nAnybody can help me with any information?\r\nThank you,\r\nConstantin
27 Oct 2010, 21:19
Hey... im about to go fishing but im not really sure where to go for carp....does anyone know where i can find some lake with huge carp fish ??\r\nTHANKS.....
05 Sep 2010, 02:07
I'm planing to go camping in the week end of the sep /17th. if anybody can tell me what kind of fish i'm looking for, and what kind of bait.\r\nthank you very much.
24 Aug 2010, 19:04
Their is a good bait shop in lebanon called lebanon bait and sport that sells herring, shiners, and fat head minnows and the boat launch is in the park
john lyons
22 Aug 2010, 13:28
Hi,it was said you can rent a sail boat at sruce run do you know where? thanks\r\n John
18 Jul 2010, 22:08
where is this located, and does anyone have directions?
26 Jun 2010, 19:58
Ron, the boat launch for spruce run is located inside of the park. The entrance to the park is located on Van Syckels Road, Clinton. The closest bait shop in the area that I know of is Lebanon Bait and Tackle located on Hwy 22west, Lebanon, NJ ( across from Stewarts Root Beer stand) They usually have herring in stock. Hope this helps you out.
24 Jun 2010, 10:54
Thinking of hitting spruce for the first time. Can someone tell me where the boat ramp is and is there a local bait shop for herring.\r\n\r\nThanks\r\nR
Robert Mc Nair
25 May 2010, 19:40
My email is
Robert Mc Nair
25 May 2010, 19:37
Going camping june 9 if anyone has any tips please email me. Any fishing tips. At spruce run
24 Mar 2010, 07:38
Useful info. Hope to see more good posts in the future.
11 Mar 2010, 16:01
I can tell about the under water springs where the big ones are , my uncle did that spruce run res. before they filled it with under ground springs
02 Jan 2010, 04:55
how do you fish for hybrid bass in spruce run. thank you
02 Jul 2009, 19:45
New to fishing and not doing very well. Have fished Merrill Creek. Any suggestions to where on the lake is a good spot? Also, type of lure used.\r\n\r\nThanks so much.
29 May 2009, 12:52
19 May 2009, 20:08
to joe\r\n\r\ntry spruce run, they store boats and trailers for a very resonable fee. less the $180 for the summer 6 months and less then $150 for the winter 6 months. considering some of the other options in the area start at $50 a month its going to be your best bet. good luck!
mike radano
08 May 2009, 06:35
Robbie,\r\nI'm new to the lake and hopefully plan on fishing there a lot with my kids.\r\nWhat type of Fat Rap and bulldog did you have luck with?\r\n\r\nThanks\r\n\r\n
18 Apr 2009, 11:58
do they stock fish at Spruce Run?
Robbie Regan
09 Apr 2009, 12:05
I would suggest the North side of The lake. It's were i nailed a 8 lb Large Mouth Bass this winter using a Fat Rap. I have also had luck with Musky around the same area shore fishing using a bulldog. If your going for musky i would highly suggest using the Bulldog. Won first Place 10k at The Gile flowage up in Wisconsin. For Tiger Musky using the same lure.
Joseph Getchius
08 Mar 2009, 16:29
Do you know of any place that will store a rowboat and tailer in the Round Valley Reservoir area? I just retired and started to fresh water fish again. However, I do not have a place at home to store a boat.\r\n\r\nRegards,\r\n\r\nJoe
jim dunn
24 Jan 2009, 16:43
have not fished the valley since i sold boat in 94 . looking for charter for weekend in june 09. thanks jimj
Brian Shea
24 Nov 2008, 19:42
Looking for a guide to take me fishing on these lakes
11 Sep 2008, 11:00
Would inflated boat be allowed in Round Valley to be used for off shore fishing?\r\n\r\nthanks,\r\nGlen
28 Jul 2008, 15:49
any info about carp fishing?
03 May 2008, 01:52
I fish spruce run alot and the best way to catch fish there is herring it is the local bait fish there.With herring you will catch all variets of fish
John Chaplinski
23 Mar 2008, 07:09
Manny,\r\n\r\nI have read your articles for years, in the New Jersey Fisherman. The only sports "hero's" I have had had in my life were writers from that mag.\r\n\r\nYou actually wrote a boat insurance policy for me at one time.\r\n\r\nI now live in Fla. I was feeling home sick and found this article. It has brought back many memories! I grew up in Hunterdon County and have fished all 3 reservoirs.\r\n\r\nKeep up the great work!\r\nJohn Chaplinski\r\n\r\n
glenn mccave
19 Mar 2008, 06:46
i would like some info about round valley please
Reynaldo Riera
09 Mar 2008, 18:52
hi i will like to receive some information about fishing in this lakes if i could get some more information.\r\nthank you\r\n
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my email
Powered by Scriptsmill Comments Script