We also caught beautiful “hold over” trout with fair regularity. These were fish that had survived the high water temperatures of summer and made it to the following year. We could always identify them by their beautiful color, which was much richer than the fish that were fresh from the Hackettstown Hatchery. Additionally, prolific may fly and caddis hatches gave further testimony to the quality of the water which flowed past Pleasureland. Today, the New Jersey DEP classifies water of this quality as TM (trout maintenance), which is the second highest classification in the New Jersey “Surface Water Quality Standards”.
We also caught the occasional small wild trout, which I believe were procreated in Muller’s Brook, rather than in the main stem of the Ramapo. Tributary streams like Muller’s are now classified as TP (trout production), the highest water quality classification.
We also brought rakes and screens to THE RAPIDS, which was a fast moving reach of the Ramapo which flowed between Potash’s Island and Muller’s lower field. One of us would hold the screen on the bottom while the other raked the cobbles on the upstream side. When we were finished, we would have a can full of hellgrammites, (which would bite like the devil when you put them on the hook), but made exceptional bait.
Where, you may ask, is this story going? Well, hang on and I’ll let ‘er rip:
The MUD HOLE was not a mud hole back then. Some unknown benefactor(s), which I believe included Mr. Platy, filled THE BEACH with a large quantity of clean sand which formed a strand above the water line in front of the retaining wall. We could actually play in it and when we went up the steps for another trip to the diving board our feet actually came out of the water clean.
Shortly afterward, the sand disappeared and silt began to build up in its place; beginning on the downstream side of the wall and increasing with each successive year. My best guess is that Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Diane, which also went through our homes in 1954 and 1955, took away our sand. Next we began to see floating masses of algae coming down with the current. I remember our parents debating the cause of this phenomenon and calling it “purge”. We now realize it was caused by excessive nutrients in the water column, which were harbingers of seriously degrading water quality. Around this time kids started to experience serious ear infections. These infections never went away of their own accord and resulted in the inevitable trip to Doctor Davy or Dr. Canavan for a dreaded shot of Penicillin in our little caboose.
Next I watched as long beautiful strands of aquatic weed began to replace the native pond weeds in THE COVE. Once again we had no concept of what was going on at the time, but we now understand that this resulted from the introduction of an exotic aquarium plant named Eurasian Water Millfoil. It soon choked THE COVE and the seasonal die-off settled to the bottom and contributed to the sediment which had gradually transformed THE BEACH into the MUD HOLE.
The earaches continued until parents finally realized that our wonderful resource was now forbidden fruit.
The schools of perch no longer pass under the white bridge on their spawning run, Mitchell’s and Delmar’s ponds are gone forever, Muller’s brook is out of its channel, Potash’s Island is a memory, and our beloved Ramapo, which provided us with so much joy, is now classified as NT (non trout).