Announced late yesterday morning in response to rampant disregard of laws governing the 350,000-plus acres of the Garden State’s wildlife management area (WMA) system under the auspices of the Division of Fish & Wildlife, portions of five WMAs are now off limits to all public use through September 15.

These properties, largely paid for and maintained by funds derived from hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and various associated stamps and permits, have, since the COVID-19 closure of state parks and forests mandate from the Murphy administration, have been “discovered” and subsequently overrun by crowds of people “recreating” that conservation police officers who are in charge of enforcement of said properties, have been overwhelmed. Litter, alcohol consumption, swimming, open fires, rip-up-the-road ‘n terrain ATV and heavy truck use...it’s been ugly, for sure. The call for the closure came from the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s bureau of law enforcement in order to try and get a handle on the situation.

The part that stinks? That really, really stinks?

Four of the five WMAs, under yesterday’s proclamation are in the southern region of New Jersey.

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Sections of the Winslow, Cedar Lake, and Greenwood Forest tracts, and all of the Menatico Ponds WMA (474.14-acres) are closed until mid-September. Menantico in particular sticks in the craw as it offers solid fishing opportunities in the ponds and creek and is where the existing state record largmouth bass (10-lbs. 14-oz.) was caught in 1980.

Its easy access from Route 49 also makes it popular with the party crowd, off roaders, weenie roasters and s’mores fans, and those who appreciate a swim in the clear waters.

So let’s get this straight: because others are trashing the property and otherwise using it for purposes not intended, we, the anglers who helped purchase and maintain the property, can’t go fishing?

You read that correctly. Until September 16. Maybe.

Suck it up, buttercup.

The Department of Environmental Protection is supposed to be disseminating a more detailed press release today regarding this matter, no doubt the emphasis being on safety.

Is the edict etched in stone? I’d bet on it. Is it the new normal? I hope not.

Visit www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information and also maps illustrating the
WMA areas that are now forbidden territory.

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