A fisherman’s paradise, Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County stretches across 2,000 noise-free acres and is stocked with a lot of trout. On a great day, you can gaze down about 20 feet into its blue waters.
But there’s also a dark side to the well-liked Clinton Township fishing hole, New Jersey’s deepest man-made lake. Somewhere in its depths lie six presumably drowned men who’ve been missing for years, and surrounding it are tales about its death toll, which numbers roughly a couple dozen within the past 40 years.
Some locals call the reservoir “the Bermuda Triangle of New Jersey,” a nickname that’s getting uttered once again after a fishing hook snared a skeletal human foot earlier this month.
But don’t tell that to the authorities or neighborhood fishermen, who say there’s nothing supernatural at work right here. To them, the only monsters are the wind gusts that can kick up within minutes and the water’s cold temperatures, each of which have long brought on difficulty for those venturing out onto the lake.
“I doubt there’s a secret bogeyman somewhere who’s creating wind cycles to harm some poor sap of a boater,” said Manny Luftglass, a fisherman who’s written about the reservoir.
Round Valley Reservoir’s otherworldly mystique took shape in recent decades as the deaths mounted. Not only did they happen soon after fishing was allowed there in 1972, but they didn’t slow down, occurring as not too long ago as March when the body of a hiker — an apparent suicide — was located.
The legend took hold because six of the bodies have never been recovered, and authorities believe they’re somewhere in the reservoir’s 180 feet of water.
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The first victims to go missing had been Thomas Trimblett, 27, of North Arlington, and Christopher Zajaczkowski, age unknown, of Jersey City. Each males had been fishing in a 12-foot aluminum boat on May 4, 1973, when it capsized on the reservoir’s east side.
Four years later, Craig Stier, 18, and Andrew Fasanella, 20, each of Trenton, were last seen traveling along the north shoreline. Their canoe washed ashore days after their reported disappearance.
On March 18, 1989, John Kubu, 37, of Rahway, vanished throughout a fishing trip with Albert Lawson of Linden. Lawson’s body was identified in 1993.
The last to go missing was Jeffrey Moore, 27, of Ringwood, who was last noticed on a fishing trip on Oct. 22, 1993, with 26-year-old Raymond Barr. A passing boater was able to rescue Barr, who reportedly stated Moore drowned after their boat took on water.
There have been multiple attempts to find the missing — authorities scoured the lake with a submarine in 2006 — but no human remains have been located. The Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, meanwhile, is awaiting lab outcomes on the foot to figure out no matter whether it is a clue to where a physique may be.
All of this has helped the myth of the reservoir reach new heights, but local fishermen believe there really is no mystery. The answer is rather easy, they say: With the correct preparation, the danger can be tremendously minimized.
A typical thread in a lot of of the deaths is that the victims were in also modest a boat, said Anthony “Randy” Guerrera, president of the Round Valley Trout Association.