Freshwater Fisheries FAQ’s Answered

Fishing Regulations New Jersey Freshwater Fishing

When will Fish and Wildlife restore stocking of Brown (and/or Brook) Trout?

This may be the most frequently asked question in recent years. Brown trout will be reintroduced to the Pequest Hatchery once the raceways are covered. Although there are select strains of brown trout that are resistant to furunculosis — the disease that necessitated euthanizing nearly 230,000 trout at Pequest — it’s important to know that other pathogens also pose a potential fish health threat. Covering the raceways is the best protection we can provide for the hatchery’s valuable fish stock. Covers prevent pathogens from being introduced by birds that regularly prey on raceway trout despite the numerous deterrent devices already in place. There are no plans to bring back brook trout. However, in the future, Fish and Wildlife may investigate other trout strains to provide a diverse fishing experience for our coldwater anglers.

Is a license needed to fish private waters? Or in tidal waters?

Yes, a fishing license required to fish all fresh waters of the state, including private and tidal waters. However, when fishing below or downstream of the designated freshwater license boundary line (designated locations where a river changes from freshwater to saltwater) a fishing license is not required. See Fishing License Boundary Lines for the fishing license boundary line for designated waters.

Do I need a trout stamp if I don’t keep the trout I catch?

Yes, a valid fishing license and trout stamp are both required to fish for or possess trout and salmon for all anglers (resident and non-resident) age 16 and over plus residents under age 70. No license or trout stamp is required for residents age 70 years and over.

May I stock bass or other fish in my local pond or other water?

In most cases, stocking of fish is not necessary and can be detrimental to the fishery. Since largemouth bass and sunfish reproduce naturally in most waterbodies, stocking is usually not necessary. Stocking fish on top of an existing fishery can cause it to become unbalanced and overpopulated, resulting in lots of small, stunted fish. A stocking permit is required before any fish may be introduced into a waterway and will only be approved if fisheries biologists determine that stocking is beneficial to the fishery. The Division of Fish and Wildlife typically handles stocking of waters open to the public for fishing after biologists complete an assessment of the existing fish population and it is determined stocking would be beneficial such as to bolster a weak year class, to re-establish a population or to create new fisheries.

Is a permit needed to stock fish in my pond? Or in a local lake?

Yes and yes. The stocking of any fish species (or their eggs) into any water, requires a permit from the Division of Fish and Wildlife, regardless of ownership. That includes waters owned by the state, a municipality, private property, a lake owner association and all other waterbodies. If you belong to a private lake association, please check that your organization has received the proper state permit. The permit protects against stocking exotic fish species, assures that healthy fish are purchased only from an approved source and that the quantity and species are appropriate for the waterbody. A Fish Stocking Permit application only costs $2.

Do I need a license to help a child to fish?

That depends on the level of assistance. For baiting a hook or netting and unhooking a fish, a license is not required. If you cast, retrieve or fight the fish for a child, a license is required.

I have a fishing license. May I fish anywhere in a stream or lake?

A fishing license does not include the right to trespass. In New Jersey, property rights are assigned to the landowner — the key part being land. When wading in a stream or standing along a shoreline to fish, you may do so only from property that is open to the public; if not, you must have permission from the landowner. The same applies for launching a boat or kayak. However, while in a boat or kayak, and not standing on the bottom (land) of the stream or lake, you are allowed to fish and navigate anywhere in the water. Remember, getting out of a boat or kayak must be at a location open to the public unless you have previous permission from the landowner. Fish and Wildlife urges all anglers and boaters to be respectful of private property and to be courteous to landowners.

Where can I find information about places to go fishing?

To find places to fish in New Jersey, visit our website at https://www.NJFishandWildlife.com/fishplc.htm to find a list of waterbodies, by county, open to the public. Information includes the acreage, type of boat access and whether the use of an outboard is allowed. For trout fishing, visit https://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/accesswater.htm. Specific driving directions are included for several access points on trout-stocked waters.

I caught a snakehead/flathead catfish/invasive species. May I release it?

No. The northern snakehead and flathead catfish are two of the 10 fish species listed as Potentially Dangerous Fish. (See Summary of Fishing Regulations). The possession or release of live potentially dangerous fish is prohibited. Anglers must destroy these species if encountered while fishing and are directed to submit a specimen or email a photo to NJFWFISH@dep.nj.gov or call the Lebanon Field Office at (908) 236-2118.

I found many dead fish along the bank of my favorite pond. What should I do?

For large numbers of dead fish (at least 50 or more), immediately call (877) WARN-DEP. Next, call any Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries field office: (908) 236-2118 for north Jersey, (609) 259-6964 for central Jersey and (856) 629-4950 for south Jersey. Report the estimated number of fish, location, fish species and general size (all small, all large or a mix), plus the location within the waterway (as specific as possible) as well as any odd coloration or odor of the water.

What should I do if I catch a fish that looks diseased?

Do NOT release a fish that looks ill or diseased! Please keep the fish and report it to our fish pathologist at (908) 637-4173 ext. 120 or to any of the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries offices at (908) 236-2118 for north Jersey, (609) 259-6964 for central Jersey and (856) 629-4950 for south Jersey.

I purchased my license online but it would not print. How do I get my license?

For difficulty printing in the new license system, FIRST ensure that your version of Adobe Acrobat Reader is current. Otherwise, log out then log in again to the system and choose “Reprint Documents.” Look for pop-up PDF.

If that fails to print your license, call Aspira at (888) 773-8450 for additional assistance.

Are fish safe to eat?

Fish are an excellent source of protein and other essential nutrients, are low in fat and cholesterol and can play a role in maintaining a healthy diet. However, some species of fish, or species in certain waters, may contain high levels of environmental contaminants. The NJDEP provides guidance on limitations to consumption. Moderation is important. Be aware that certain waterbodies may have different advisories than the general advisories. Refer to https://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njmainfish.htm for the most current information on consumption advisories for the waterbodies you fish.

What should be done when I see people fishing without a license? Keeping short fish? Keeping fish over the limit?

Never confront a suspected violator. Instead, contact the appropriate Fish and Wildlife regional Law Enforcement Office, (908) 735-8240 for north Jersey, (609) 259-2120 for central Jersey, and (856) 629-0555 for south Jersey. Weekdays after 4 p.m., or on weekends, call (877) WARNDEP to report the violation. Be sure to include your name and phone number so a conservation police officer can contact you directly if more information is needed.

What are the regulations for crayfish?

Crayfish are currently not regulated or protected under the state Fish and Game Code except within the Delaware Water Gap Natural Recreation Area where the use of crayfish, clams, mussels, reptiles or amphibians as bait when fishing is prohibited unless it is a commercially produced, preserved and packaged product.

Can I use as bait the sunfish I caught when fishing for a muskie/pike/walleye?

Once in your possession, the sunfish you catch may be used as bait. Sunfish used as bait still count towards an angler’s daily possession limit. If you caught 25 sunfish and use two as bait, you are still considered to have possessed 25 sunfish. Since sunfish are not considered baitfish, they may only be harvested by hook-and-line, not by other bait-collecting methods like a seine or minnow trap. Additionally, sunfish used as bait may only be used in the waterbody in which they were harvested. As it is illegal to transfer fish from one waterbody to another.

Does a kayak need to be registered as a boat?

No, unless the vessel is motorized, i.e., powered by a gas or electric motor. Those must be titled and registered. See https://www.state.nj.us/mvc/vehicles/boating.htm. Be aware that to operate a power vessel on non-tidal fresh waters, a boat license and New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate are generally required. See https://www.njsp.org/marine-services/boating-safety-certificate.shtml for details and exclusions.

Where can I get a map of the lake I fish?

A list of lake maps can be found by visiting our website at https://NJFishandWildlife.com/lakemaps.htm. Click on the lake name to view a printable topographical map of the lake.

I need to change the name on my license due to marriage/divorce/etc. How is that handled?

For assistance in changing your name in our licensing system please call the Division’s General Information line in Trenton (609) 292-2965 and you will be forwarded to the appropriate staff to assist you.

What are the license requirements for the Delaware River?

License requirements for the Delaware River varies depending on the section of the river you fish and whether it is saltwater. See the rules governing the Delaware River on Delaware River.