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Finfish: Marine Regulations

This is not the full law. Consult the Division of Fish and Wildlife for further details. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal authorities.

Red text in regulations indicates a change for this year.

Green text denotes possible regulation changes anticipated to be in effect later in 2013.

Purple text indicates an important note.

Regulations remain in effect until changed. For the most current regulations, go to or call the marine fish “listen-only” line at (609)292-2083. The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife informs anglers that rules for the recreational harvest of summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, American shad and lobster have changed.

  • The summer flounder recreational season is now May 18Sept.16. The recreational possession limit remains at five fish while the minimum size remains at 17.5 inches. Note: The summer flounder season may change again in 2013.
  • At press time, the recreational black sea bass regulations had not been determined. Regulations updates are anticipated in mid to late May.Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.
  • Due to concerns regarding the decline of American shad stocks, the taking or possession of American shad in New Jersey’s marine and tidal water is prohibited except for the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries. The recreational possession limit in the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries has been reduced from six fish to three fish with no minimum size or closed season.
  • The Southern New England stock of American lobster has been at low levels of abundance and experiencing low recruitment. In an effort to reduce harvest and promote stock rebuilding, no one shall harvest or possess lobster from February 1March 31.

These changes were implemented for New Jersey to remain in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s management plans for summer flounder, black sea bass, American shad and American lobster. The new rules are aimed at providing adequate protection to these fish stocks while allowing New Jersey’s saltwater recreational anglers to participate to the fullest extent possible in these various fisheries.

New Jersey recreational marine regulations apply to all fish species when they are possessed in state waters or landed in New Jersey regardless of where they are caught.

Resource Information

Anyone who takes fisheries resources may be required to provide information on the species, number, weight or other information pertinent to management of resources.

Methods of Recreational Fishing

No person shall take, catch, kill or attempt to take, catch or kill any fish within the marine waters of the state by any means except in the manner commonly known as angling with hand line or rod and line unless specifically provided for by statute or regulation.

Wanton Waste Prohibited

Fish of any species which are purposely killed shall become part of the angler’s daily possession limit and shall not be returned to the water from which they were taken. This does not apply to fish which are released alive and subsequently die, but does apply even to species without size/possession limits.

Spear Fishing

Spear fishing may be conducted by means of a spear, harpoon or other missile while completely submerged in the marine waters of the state for any species, except lobster.

Persons who fish with a spear for species with size limits are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure the fish meets the minimum size limits before being killed or injured.

Fish Measurementfishscale2_opt.jpg

1. Lay fish flat on top of, or alongside a measuring rule, not measured over the body.

2. Fish are measured
from the tip of the snout (mouth closed) to the longest part of the tail.


Prohibited Species

It is illegal to take, possess, land, purchase, or sell any of the following species:

Atlantic sturgeon basking shark big eye sand tiger shark sand tiger shark shortnose sturgeon whale shark white shark

• River herring (alewife and blueback herring; see herring illustrations,)

  • See Sharks below for the full list of prohibited shark species

Sea Turtles & Marine Mammals

It is illegal to intentionally molest, kill or possess sea turtles or marine mammals, or to possess any part thereof.


How to Release Hooked Fish

Proper handling and releasing techniques reduce fish mortality.

  • Land fish as quickly as possible, except when retrieving from depths of 40-feet or more. Fighting a fish to exhaustion increases mortality as does rapidly bringing up a fish through the changing water pressure and temperature gradients.
  • Keep fish to be released in the water as much as possible. Plan ahead with tools and camera.
  • Minimize physical injury. Do not touch gills or allow fish to flop around on deck.
  • Carefully remove hooks using a dehooker or needle-nose pliers.
  • Use plain hooks, not stainless, to rust away quickly if one must be left in a gut-hooked fish. Be prepared with long-handled dykes. Cut this line close to the hook’s eyelet.
  • To bring a fish out of the water momentarily, use a neoprene net or one of knotless nylon. Handle the fish carefully using wet hands, wet cotton gloves or similar material to minimize loss of the fish’s protective slime layer.
  • To revive lethargic fish hold in a normal, upright position. Move the fish forward in an “S” or figure-8 pattern so that water flows over the gills only from front to back.
  • Use circle hooks (not offset) for species that bite and flee, such as striped bass, weakfish or sea bass. Consider pinching hook barbs.


The filleting at sea of all fish with a size limit, or any species of flatfish, is prohibited except for summer flounder; see Summer Flounder below. No parts of any fish caught on a previous fishing trip shall be in possession. Party boats may fillet fish at sea if they obtain a Special Fillet Permit. Applications may be obtained from Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Marine Fisheries.

Black Sea Bass­­

Black sea bass are measured along the midline from the snout to the end of the central portion of the tail, not to include the tail filaments. (See fish measuring example above.) At press time, the recreational black sea bass regulations had not been determined. Regulations updates are anticipated in mid to late May. Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.


The possession limit for bluefish is 15 fish.

Black Drum

The minimum size limit for black drum is 16 inches in total length and the daily possession limit is three fish. There is no closed season for black drum.

Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.

River Herring

The taking or possession of any river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in New Jersey’s marine, tidal and freshwaters is prohibited. This prohibition does not include Atlantic herring which may be retained and used as bait. See the fish ID illustrations on Herring Identification for herring species identification.

Red Drum

The red drum possession and size limits are one fish no less than 18 inches and not greater than 27 inches.

Striped Bass (includes Hybrid Striped Bass)

The possession limit for striped bass/hybrid striped bass is two fish with a minimum size limit of 28 inches for each fish. Anglers participating in the Striped Bass Bonus Program may possess an additional striped bass at least 28 inches in length.

It is illegal to take, catch or kill any striped bass from or in any marine waters of this state, by means of a net of any description, or by any methods other than angling with a hook and line or by spear fishing.

It is illegal to possess any striped bass which is less than the legal minimum size of 28 inches.

Harvest and possession of striped bass from federal waters (outside three miles) is prohibited.

Sale of striped bass in New Jersey is prohibited.

Striped Bass Closed Seasons

No person may take, attempt to take, or have in possession any striped bass from the following closed waters:

Jan.1Feb.28: All waters closed except the Atlantic Ocean from zero to three miles offshore. All inlets and bays are delineated from ocean waters by a Colregs Demarcation line.

April 1May 31: Delaware River and Bay and their tributaries closed from the upstream side of the Calhoun St. bridge downstream to and including the Salem River and its tributaries.

Note: Non-offset circle hooks are required to reduce striped bass bycatch mortality while fishing with natural bait during the striped bass springtime spawning area closure within the Delaware River and its tributaries. This restriction does not apply to hook sizes smaller than size 2.

Striped Bass Bonus Program

The Striped Bass Bonus Program will continue this year, where anglers possessing a bonus permit may keep a third striper at 28 inches or greater.

The current allocation from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is 321,750 pounds. Should New Jersey exceed this quota, any overage would be subtracted from the following year’s quota.

Application Process: Striped Bass Bonus Program permits are only available online. Go to to complete the application and immediately print one Bonus Permit (application fee, $2). The permit is non-transferable and valid for the current calendar year. Only one permit can be used per day. Harvest reporting also must be online.

Striped Bass Bonus Permit Harvest Reporting: All information on the Bonus Permit must be completed immediately after harvest and prior to transportation. After reporting harvest information at, anglers are then eligible to receive another bonus permit for the $2 application fee. Note: Harvest information must be reported online.

Striped bass anglers are encouraged to report all fishing activity after each trip. Visit Fish and Wildlife’s Volunteer Angler Survey at


The minimum size limit for any species of shark, except small coastal group and dogfish is 54 inches fork length. See dogfish Note and measuring illustration for fork length below.



The 2013 shark regulations complement existing federal shark regulations (see 2013 Federal Recreational Regulations table, Federal Limits). However, the following additional measures are required for state waters:

  • In state waters, there is no minimum size limit for small coastal sharks* in the recreational fishery, but federal regulations include a 54-inch minimum size limit for blacknose and finetooth small coastal sharks.
  • All sharks within the large coastal group* will have a closed season within state waters from May 15 through July 15 to protect spawning female sharks during the pupping season.
  • * See State Size & Possession Limits footnote for species list defining small coastal, large coastal and pelagic sharks.

All sharks harvested by recreational fishermen must have heads, tails and fins attached naturally to the carcass until landed. Anglers may still gut and bleed the carcass as long as the tail is not removed. Filleting sharks at sea is prohibited.

Recreational anglers should access the following National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site, to view the publication Sharks That Can Be Legally Retained By Recreational Anglers In The Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea And Gulf Of Mexico, an excellent pictorial guide to identifying sharks that are legal to harvest.

These shark species are prohibited from possession: Atlantic angel,basking, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bigeye tiger, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandbar, sandtiger, sevengill, silky, sixgill, smalltail, whale and white sharks.

Note: To differentiate sharks from dogfish—the smooth dogfish has flat, tiny teeth; the spiny dogfish has strong, dorsal spines, shorter than, and in front of, the dorsal fins. Neither are present in sharks.

Summer Flounder (Fluke)

The possession and minimum size limit for summer flounder is five fish at 17.5 inches with an open season from May 18–Sept.16. Note: The recreational summer flounder regulations may change again in 2013.

Anglers may fillet one legal-sized summer flounder from their daily possession limit catch for use as bait. This carcass, commonly known as the rack, shall be kept intact so it can be measured for compliance with the minimum size limit. No parts of any summer flounder caught on a previous fishing trip shall be in possession; only fish just caught on this outing.

Tautog (Blackfish)

The minimum size limit for tautog is 15 inches. There is a four fish possession limit from Jan. 1–Feb. 28, a zero fish possession limit with a closed season from March 1–March 31, a four fish possession limit from April 1–April 30, a zero fish possession limit with a closed season from May 1–July 16, a one fish possession limit from July 17–Nov. 15, and a six fish possession limit from Nov. 16–Dec. 31.

Weakfish (Gray & Spotted Seatrout)

The current possession and minimum size limit for weakfish is one fish at least 13 inches in length.

Winter Flounder

The possession minimum and size limit for winter flounder is two fish at 12 inches. For winter flounder the open season is March 23May 21.

Additional Marine Fishing Regulations

See Marine Species Identification for the fish ID pages and State Size & Possession Limits for the regulation charts.

Delaware Fishing License Requirement

A Delaware fishing license is now required for all non-resident anglers aged 16 and over fishing either fresh or tidal waters. Delaware fishing license information can be found at

New York License Requirement

New York’s marine fishing license requirement has been suspended. New York is offering a free registry to all marine anglers. Visit

Bait Fish

­No license is required for the taking of baitfish for personal use with the following gear:

  1. Dip nets 24 inches diameter or less for the taking of herring (excluding river herring — alewife and blueback herring) for live bait.
  2. Bait seines 50 feet long or less.
  3. Cast nets 20 feet in diameter or less.
  4. Lift or umbrella nets four feet square or less.
  5. Not more than five killipots.
  6. Not more than two miniature fykes or pots for the taking of eels for bait.

The taking or possession of river herring is prohibited.

Fish taken in this manner may not be sold or used for barter unless a commercial bait net license is in possession.

No person shall take or attempt to take fish by any means from the Deal Lake flume, Lake Takanasse spillway or Wreck Pond spillway on any Monday, Wednesday or Friday during the months of April and May.


Ray Ringen

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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