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One of the purposes of the South Jersey Bass Club Association is to serve as the bass fishermen's voice to government agencies.  As the representative of all of our member clubs, we pursue issues that are of concern to South Jersey fishermen.  Below are listed the issues that we're currently addressing.  If you have additional information (or corrected information) on any of these issues or have other issues you believe the SJBCA should pursue, please let us know.  Click on the issue name to go to that section:

MALAGA LAKE ACCESS (Fishermen continue to have encounters with police here, but there IS public access if you know where not to go.)
NJ FISH & GAME COUNCIL (Versions of this bill continue to get reintroduced at each legislative session.)
ATCO LAKE DAM (The lake was saved from development, the dam repaired and the lake refilled.  Probably too shallow for productive fishing though.)
WMA PERMIT FEE ELIMINATION (The fee is now being waived each year, but has not been eliminated.)

PUBLIC ACCESS TO MALAGA LAKE (last updated 3/2010)
3/30/2010 UPDATE: Upon a new inquiry about the use of the park ramp on the east side of the lake, the township stated that as the property the ramp was built on was in fact purchased with Green Acres funds, the ramp is open for use by the general public.  The sign stating that the ramp is for township residents only has been removed.

8/21/2008 UPDATE: 
After yet another fisherman had an encounter with a police officer, an SJBCA representative discussed the situation with the Franklin Township police yet again.  Nothing has changed.  There is still township (public) property at the direct end of Malaga Lake Boulevard and along the sand beach.  (On the aerial photograph below, this would be the areas marked as "Malaga Lake Blvd", "Lake Blvd" and the beach area between Lake Blvd & the water.  The area to the north of Malaga Lake Blvd (to left as you face the lake) is private property and no parking or fishing is permitted in that area.  The police emphasized again that they would like any suspicious activity reported to them.

After one of the SJBCA's member clubs was advised by a local police officer that the ramp area on the west side of the lake could not be used by the public, an SJBCA representative discussed the situation with the township police.  An agreement was reached that the area could continue to be used for launching boats and parking vehicles (not on private land), as long as fishermen agree to  report to the Franklin Township police (694-1414) any suspicious activity they see in that area.

:  Good news!  This writer visited the Franklin Township tax assessors office in late April, 2003.  In a discussion with them, it was determined that the road (Malaga Lake Blvd) that leads to the beach area on the west side of the lake is a definitely a public road and the sign posted saying it is a private road was illegal.  The public is permitted to travel along Malaga Lake Boulevard all the way to the water's edge, launch boats and park in any portion of the beach area that is not on posted private property.  From reviewing an aerial photograph of the area provided by the tax assessors office, it appears that a portion of the beach (nearest the woods) formerly used for parking tow vehicles is private property.  It appears you can legally park your tow vehicle south of the launch area, but not adjacent to the woods just south of Malaga Lake Blvd.  In the copy of the aerial photograph posted below, public streets (existing and proposed) are outlined in white; the private land on which a house is being built is outlined in black.

In late 2002, a developer closed the beach area on the west side of the lake in order to build private lakefront homes.  The developer posted a sign (since removed) saying that Malaga Lake Boulevard, beginning two blocks from the lake, was private and off limits to the public.  This road and the beach area had been used by the general public for many years for the launching of boats and for shoreline fishing.  There is an official ramp and parking area on the east side of the lake at Malaga Lake Park, but there are signs posted which say those facilities (as well as the rest of the park) are for Franklin Township residents only.  There are several reasons we believe the west side ramp area and the lake should be open to the general public.

*  The street (Malaga Lake Boulevard) leading to the beach area on the western side of the lake is a public street and, on municipal surveys, leads all the way to the lake's edge.  This means it can still legally be used for public access to the lake. See update above.

*  Malaga Lake has a long history of allowing public boating access.  Some sources believe that once a body of water has a history of legal public access, that access cannot be taken away by private entities.  We are attempting to confirm this information.

* It was determined that a portion of the land used for Malaga Lake Park was purchased with NJ Green Acres funds.  Under the Green Acres program, land purchased with Green Acres funds must be made accessible to the general public.  Upon our inquiry about this to Franklin Township parks department, they stated that the land purchased with the Green Acres funds is not the specific land that the boat ramp is on.  They contend that this precludes the need for them to open their ramp to the general public.  Recent information we received from the Green Acres staff seems to support this interpretation, but the determination was not entirely clear.

*  The dam at the southern end of Malaga Lake (under State Route 40, aka Harding Highway) has been  maintained by the State.  A new dam was constructed by the State in 2005.  Some sources believe that lakes with dams that are maintained using State taxpayer funds must allow public access.  A response from the NJ Dept of Transportation implied that they do not get involved with lake access issues; they just provide maintenance for dams under State roads (regardless of whether they are at private/municipal lakes).

NJ FISH & GAME COUNCIL (updated 10/3/2007)
10/3/07 UPDATE:  The NJ F&G Council reconfiguration bills were revived again in the NJ senate & asembly, this time as S2041 and A3275.  Outdoorsmen are again fighting these bills, as they have the potential to remove outdoorsmen from the Council and from all recommendations related to hunting & fishing regulations..

12/15/04 UPDATE:
The SJBCA obtained a copy of a letter prepared by Assemblyman John C. Gibson (1st District - Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland Counties) dated 12/15/04 which summarizes a new bill he has proposed (A3606) which would restore and clarify the power of the Fish & Game Council.  Click here for the text of that letter.

12/10/04 UPDATE:
This bill (currently labeled Assembly Bill A2642) is in review by the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.  It is still being vigorously opposed by fishing and hunting groups throughout the State.

A bill (S2603/A3764) is currently being discussed which would change the configuration of the Fish & Game Council and have it directly under the administration of the Commissioner of  the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.  The changes are described by one opposing organization as follows:
Senator Joseph Vitale's (D-Woodbridge) Senate Bill 2603 expands the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to 19 from the current 11. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection would fill one of the new positions. The other seven seats are earmarked for animal rights or environmental activists. Sportsmen members are capped at six, guaranteeing hunters and anglers a minority voice in fish and wildlife policy matters.

The measure also removes critical management authority from the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, and gives it to the Commissioner of Environmental Protection.

Brad Campbell, the current commissioner, frequently sides with animal rights groups over hunting issues, including the debate over whether to establish a bear-hunting season.

In 2001, sportsmen contributed $14.5 million, or 80 percent, of the funds used to manage fish and wildlife in New Jersey. Animal rights and environmental activists contribute nothing, but would be granted majority control over fish and wildlife policy.

The bill essentially guts the authority of the Fish and Game Council, and gives it to the Commissioner of Environmental Protection. It specifically grants the Commissioner the authority to suspend hunting seasons without a public hearing or the consent of the Fish and Game Council. All changes and decisions made by the council will have to be approved by the Commissioner as well.

The SJBCA voted on September 17, 2003, to officially oppose the State's efforts to revamp the Fish and Game Council. At the November 2003 SJBCA meeting, it was reported that neither the senate nor assembly versions of the bill are active at this time.  The SJBCA will withhold communicating their opposition to the bill until (if) it becomes active again.

ATCO LAKE DAM (updated 10/3/2007)

10/3/07 UPDATE:  We were informed by members of Friends of Atco Lake that the dam repair has been completed and that the water level has been brought back up to normal.  Shortly, Camden County should be assuming ownership of the lake property.  There are no plans to build a park or official parking lot at the lake, but we are gratified to see that this lake has been saved and restored to its former glory.

Regarding the general issue of dam removals (aka "lake drainings") in New Jersey, the State senate and assembly are currently working on legislation (Bill numbers S1895/A3538) that appears to change the State's emphasis from dam repair to dam removal.  This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the mulitple (and disastrous) dam failures in Burlington County in 2004.  If this legislation is what it appears to be, it doesn't bode well for fishermen who utilize any of South Jersey's non-State owned ponds that may have aging dams.

ATCO LAKE UPDATE: As of December 2004, the Camden County Open Space Advisory Committee was poised to recommend to the Camden County freeholders that they pursue the purchase of the lake property and repair of the dam.  Under this proposal, the lake would be refilled and be made public; however, there would be no development of recreational facilities at this time.   It appears this would accomplish the primary goal -- saving the lake!  The SJBCA supports this approach.  A meeting to discuss this approach is scheduled for Wednesday, December 8, at 7:00 pm at the Waterford Twp municipal building.  Jack Sworaski of the Camden County Open Space Advisory Committee will be in attendance.
An effort is currently underway by the Dam Safety division of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to breach the dam at Atco Lake.  Although the dam has been deteriorating for a number of years and the lake water level has been extremely low for years, the NJDEP is inexplicably declaring the dam situation an emergency and wants to remove the remaining portion of the dam as soon as possible.  Area residents fear that breaching the dam will result in the permanent loss of the lake and possible development of the then-dry lake bed.

The local residents would prefer to see effort focused on replacing the current dam (without draining the lake) and on buying the lake property & additional lakefront property for recreational use.  The "Friends of Atco Lake" are actively pursuing getting Camden County to purchase the lake and lakefront property and pursuing obtaining funds for rebuilding the dam.  They have set up a website with a history of the lake and details of their efforts at

The SJBCA voted on September 17, 2003, to officially oppose the State's efforts to breach the dam and drain Atco Lake.  This position is dependent on there being an objective to allow public fishing access at the lake after its restoration.

On September 26, 2003, our organization sent a letter to NJ DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell requesting that the proposal to breach the Atco Lake dam be canceled or postponed.


ANOTHER UPDATE: The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife informed us in late 2009 that we could assume that the permit is being waived every year until we hear otherwise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife informed us that the WMA tournament permit fee would be waived again for 2007.

The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife informed us that the WMA tournament permit fee would be waived again for 2006.

UPDATE: At the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife's public forum held on February 26, 2005, at the Salem County Sportsmen's Club, Freshwater Fisheries Bureau Chief Lisa Barno announced that they were taking action to waive the $17.00 WMA tournament permit fee for this year. While there are a variety of reasons for this decision, the biggest is the lack of a fee for other groups that make similar use of WMA facilities (no use of a building, no use of utilities, no extra clean up required afterward, etc).  Assuming all goes as expected, a process will be put into place to refund permit fee money to those organizations that have already submitted their applications.  Please note that, although the fee is being waived for this year, the fee requirement is still in the regulations.  Also, it will still be necessary for organizations to apply for WMA tournament permits and to promptly file a report of tournament results afterward. The SJBCA had been pushing strongly for the elimination of this permit fee, but also has supported continuing the permit issuance process and the results reporting.  The permit process helps with the coordination of various groups' use of the WMA facilities and the tournament results reporting helps with fisheries management in those lakes.

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife requires a permit for fishing tournaments held within the boundaries of a designated Wildlife Management Area.  The permits are required for any public or club tournament that has more than four boats or more than nine fishermen, whichever is less.  Obtaining a WMA tournament permit requires filing an application in advance with the NJDFW and paying a $17.00 fee.  Following the event, the host organization must file a report with the State which details the results of the tournament.  The member clubs of the SJBCA purchase approximately sixty WMA tournament permits each year.

Based on information we received from NJDFW, the WMA's in New Jersey include:  Lake Assunpink, Clarks Pond, Colliers Mill (Turn Mill) Pond, Columbia Lake, Delaware Lake, DOD Lake, Green Turtle Pond, Maple Lake, Maskells Mill Pond, Menantico Ponds, Pemberton Lake, Prospertown Lake, Rainbow Lake, Rising Sun Lake, Round Valley Reservoir, Shaws Mill Pond, Stone Tavern Lake and Union Lake.  We believe Elmer Lake is also a WMA.

The SJBCA supports the permit process, as it provides the NJDFW with advance notification that a group of people will be using its facilities.  In addition, it helps prevent multiple groups from unexpectedly attempting to use the same facility on the same day.  The SJBCA also supports the post-tournament reporting process, as it allows the NJDFW to gather data for its fisheries management program.  Because the NJDFW summarizes this report information and makes it available to the public, it also provides some benefit to the fishermen who use the facilities.  (It should be noted, however, that these summary reports are not deemed critical and, if they are a reason for the permit fee, we would support their elimination.)

The SJBCA believes that charging a fee for the use of New Jersey's Wildlife Management Area lakes is unjustified for a number of reasons.  All NJ fishermen are required to purchase a fishing license, and most also purchase a boat operator's license and boat & trailer registrations.  We believe imposing another fee for the privilege of fishing in these public waters is excessive.

The fishermen using the WMA lakes are, generally, not doing anything that would result in a cost to the State.  No utilities are used; no State employees are needed; no animals are killed.  In contrast, hunters are permitted to make use of WMA's without having to purchase a use permit.  It is important to note that the SJBCA does not support the imposition of a WMA fee for hunters or any other user groups that do not currently pay one.

In early October, 2003, the SJBCA contacted South Jersey assemblyman Jeff Van Drew seeking his support for the fee elimination.  In late October we received that support and notification that he had asked NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell for his input on the issue.

On December 1, 2003, the SJBCA received notification from Jeff Van Drew that NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell disagreed with our opposition to the fee.  Click here to see the text of Campbell's response.  Most of the information in Campbell's response provides evidence that he is misinformed (or uninformed) about typical bass tournaments and the use (or not) of the results reported.

This is not the end of this issue.

Currently, members of "fish and game protective associations" can legally proclaim themselves to be quasi- game wardens and exert certain authority in the enforcement of NJ fish and game laws.  These people are non-professionals with little or no training in law enforcement, natural resource management, environmental enforcement activities, and wildlife sciences.  Many fishermen and hunters have had negative encounters with these people.  Senate Bill S1680 (2006-2007 session) and Assembly Bill A3249 (2004-2005 session) would eliminate any authority these people may have to enforce any NJ fish and game laws.  The SJBCA voted in May of 2006 to support these bills.  We believe that only trained professional State conservation officers and other authorized law enforcement officers should enforce our State's fish and game laws.

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