All posts by Zach Merchant

In April 2013, Zach Merchant became a regular Contributor to Round Valley Fishing. In December 2013, Zach was promoted to Editor of Round Valley Fishing. Zach brings a wealth of knowledge to the readers of this website, sharing his reports, tactics, and techniques on all NJ waters.

Trolling Big Rainbow Trout – Video

A video my good friend Jimmy from Rawr fishing put together from back on Memorial Day weekend with Rob S. and myself. It was Jimmy’s first time trolling out on Round Valley, and boy did we spoil him! Despite the fact we had a rough start to our day and got out super late, we put somewhere around 2 dozen Rainbows in the boat, including three Round Valley Trout Association tagged Trophy Trout!

Evening Fishing at Spruce Run Produces Big Brown Trout

We started this Memorial Day afternoon fishing Spruce Run Reservoir for hybrid striped bass. We were trolling live herring and fished from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and ended the day with a really nice 24 inch, 7.20-lb Brown Trout.

Big NJ Brown Trout

The Hybrid fishing was pretty tough and really slow yesterday with only one Hybrid Bass in the boat for us that my buddy Jason landed; his first of the year!

Fish On

After the one hybrid and after a while of zero action, we began thinking about packing it in for the evening. But just then we had a rod go off and it seemed like a really nice fish so my good friend and usual partner-in-crime Rob S. got the camera rolling.

We weren’t able to really tell what I had on for almost the entire fight, which lasted about 7-minutes, until the fish came up behind the boat at the very end. Although we didn’t know exactly what we had hooked before we saw it, every one of us knew we had something very special on the end of our line as the fight progressed more and more. Several times I got it to within 6 or 7-feet of the boat only to have it bulldog its way straight back down to the bottom.

Brown Trout

Getting the fish into the boat was going to be an issue too since we forgot all our nets in the truck…talk about murphy’s law… My buddy Jason however, landed the fish by hand and he made it look easy!

We decided to keep this big beautiful brown trout and it will be mounted. Yes, we could have released it, but any good Trout fisherman will tell you that Trout stress out very easily; and when you add in a long hard fight like this one gave us in addition to almost 83 degree surface temperatures, release isn’t always the best option when it comes to Trout.

This fish is actually the 3rd Brown we’ve gotten out of Spruce Run over the past three weeks, and the other two (an 18-incher, and another that was 5+ pounds) were released safely since the water temps were still down in the low 60’s at that point and we didn’t have them on the line for anywhere near as long as this one was.

For more info and frequent reports about Spruce Run Reservoir, visit our Spruce Run Fishing Facebook Page.

Big Lake Trout Takes First Place in April Tournament

My buddy Rob S. and I had a long day of fishing in the first Round Valley Trout Association fishing tournament of the year this Sunday 17 April 2016 at Round Valley, but it was definitely worth it! This particular contest was scheduled from 6am to 3pm, however we were off the water by 1:30, eager to weigh in a Laker. Visit the RVTA website to learn more and get involved.

Our basic trolling spread for Round Valley consists of; two 10 color lead core rods (18lb Suffix) out of the back of the boat and two rods on downriggers for Lake Trout, as well as three planer boards out of each side of the boat with lead core for Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout. Here’s a sample of some go-to lures that are almost always productive Fishing on Round Valley, they’ve become a staple in my tackle box anytime I go out. In addition to these, meatheads are also a very effective lure when targeting Lake Trout.

Common Round Valley Trolling Lures

We had a tough start to the day trolling planer boards; at our first drop we connected with a big RVTA tagged Rainbow and fought it all the way in but lost it at the back of the boat. Our struggle for Rainbows continued for a while after and eventually we made the call to go out deeper for Lake Trout with downriggers and lead core.

Zach Merchant w/ Lake Trout

Once we went deep and got our Laker lines in it was game on for about an hour with hook ups left and right once we got dialed in on their location and depth. Before it was over we managed to get the fish pictured above, what would become the 1st place Laker for the tournament, weighing 6.90-lbs and measuring 29.25-inches. Slow pick of Lakers for the rest of the day after our morning bite, but overall a very rewarding day on the water.

Shout out to the local shop, Behre Bait & Tackle at 1239 Route 22 East, Lebanon NJ.

4th Annual Steve Welgoss Memorial Trout Tournament & Donation Basket Raffle

The Round Valley Trout Association will be hosting it’s 4th Annual Steve Welgoss Memorial Trout Tournament at Round Valley on Saturday, May 16th from 5:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Entry for the tournament is $50 and can be paid in cash the morning of the tournament at the top of the cement boat ramp; and also includes food and drinks throughout the day.  Along with the tournament this year there is also a donation basket raffle with an amazing prize pack for the winner, and best of all; all of the proceeds will be donated to The V Foundation For Cancer Research!  Tickets can be purchased (1 for $2, 6 for $10, or 13 for $20) at Behre Bait & Tackle anytime between now and the drawing, or at the tournament booth the day of the tournament.  The flyer for the raffle can be seen below for more information, as well as the list of what the lucky winner will walk away with!

Welgoss Memorial Tournament

Shore Fishing 101 – Slip Bobber Rigs

In my last “shore fishing 101” article we covered bait selection for fishing the shoreline of Round Valley for Trout, so I’m going to continue to cover the basics in this article by explaining the proper way to use a slip bobber while fishing from the shoreline.  Now, there are two basic rigs that I use when I’m fishing the shoreline for Trout, slip bobbers and slip sinker rigs; however I will be covering slip sinker rigs in my next article. Both of these rigs are simple and will produce a lot of fish if used properly.

Slip Bobbers
Slip Bobbers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, materials, and rigging options.

Why Use a Slip Bobber?

The slip bobber rig will allow you to suspend your bait at virtually any depth you want, while still allowing for easy casting. If you’ve ever tried to cast a traditional bobber setup with the hook any more than three feet away from your bobber you know it gets awkward to impossible.

When to Use a Slip Bobber?

In the hot summer months, trout go deep in search of cool water and your bait presentation is typically on the bottom. In the Fall, Winter, and Spring trout start moving around more in search of their comfort zone and it’s easiest to find that zone with a slip bobber.


To start out fishing with slip bobbers, you will need a fairly short, as well as cheap, list of tackle to set up your rig;

  • A small barrel swivel
  • Slip bobber (make sure it’s big enough to prevent your live bait from pulling it under)
  • Bobber stop (typically a small plastic tube with thread spooled around it, some also come with beads)
  • Small egg sinker or split shot
  • Size #6 or #8 bait holder or circle hook
  • Approximately 12-inch long fluorocarbon leader (Maximum 8-lb test)

Rigging the Slip Bobber

Visualize how the completed setup will look: hook > leader > swivel > sinker > bobber > bead > bobber stop > rod > reel > you!

Slip Bobber Rig
A complete slip bobber rig consists of a hook > leader > swivel > sinker > bobber > bead > bobber stop .

1. Start putting this rig together by opening the bail on your reel and threading your fishing line through the plastic tube of the bobber stop. The plastic tube needs to come off so it’s important to do this now before you forget. Slide the thread off the tube and gently pull the tag ends so you get a nice looking knot directly on your mono. get it snug but do not tighten it yet, you’ll want to do that after setting the depth. Discard the plastic tube.

2. Next, thread a bead onto your line and then your slip bobber. If your bobber stop came with beads, use one. The bead is there to prevent your knot from slipping through the opening in the top of your bobber. It’s a rare case when the bead should not be used.

3. Next, thread a small 1/8 or 1/4-ounce egg sinker onto your line after your slip bobber. Then tie on your barrel swivel. The swivel acts as a stop for you egg sinker and can help with line twist when bringing in a fish. If you chose to use a split shot, instead of the egg sinker, it should be placed directly above your swivel, above the knot. don’t clamp down on your knot!

4. Now, all you need to complete your slip bobber rig is a leader and hook. For a leader, as stated before, you will want to be using about a 12-inch long fluorocarbon leader made of up to 8-lb test fluorocarbon. I personally won’t use anything heavier than 4-lb because of Round Valley’s crystal clear water and the fact that Trout are very line shy. As for hooks, I always use size #8 Gamakatsu Octupus Circle hooks since the purpose of those hooks is for use with live bait, and the way they’re points are angled they usually end up setting right in the corner of the fishes mouth when used properly making for easier hook removal and is better for catch and release. But if you don’t have any of those, a size #6 or #8 Gamakatsu Octopus or any regular bait-holder hook will work perfectly fine.

5. You should now have everything on your line in the proper order and all you need to do before you start fishing is set the depth of your bobber stop. The way I usually go about this is using my rod as a measuring tool. So if you know you have say a 5-foot long fishing rod and want to set your bait down 20-feet, you would just simply slide out line from your reel while measuring the length of the rod four times since you have a 5-foot rod and want to get down to 20-feet. After you’ve done that all you need to do is slide the bobber stop knot to the 20-foot mark, pull the tag ends tight this time, clip off the excess and you’re ready to fish with a slip bobber!

Round Valley Brown Trout
23.5-inch Brown Trout caught in September 2014 on a shiner under a slip bobber; my first Fall 2014 slip bobber catch!
Round Valley Brown Trout
23-inch Brown Trout that caught on a Shiner under a slip bobber in December 2013.
Round Valley Rainbow Trout
23-inch Rainbow Trout that fell to a Shiner under a slip bobber in December 2013.