Highlights of Changes
New Jersey Freshwater Fishing
General Regulation Changes
Bowfishing Regulations Expanded to Allow Crossbows
Crossbows may now be used when bowfishing except for Greenwood Lake. For consistency with equipment allowed for hunting, crossbows must have a stock length of at least 25 inches, a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds and a working safety. Crossbows must be uncocked during transport or when not actively fishing. They may not be permanently mounted. All arrows—regardless of the type of device (long, compound or crossbow)—must be tethered. Since New York State does not allow the use of crossbows for either hunting or fishing, crossbows are NOT permitted on Greenwood Lake which lies partly in Passaic County, New Jersey and partly in Orange County, New York.
Bow anglers are permitted to take carp, including bighead, common, grass and silver, eels, flathead catfish, American shad (Delaware River only), gizzard shad, snakeheads, and suckers or hybrids of these species.
In 2009, crossbows, which were previously restricted for use by only handicapped hunters, were permitted for use by all bowhunters in New Jersey. As more states have allowed the use of crossbows, manufacturers have increased the availability of accessories to modify crossbows for bowfishing. Availability of these accessories has resulted in increased interest in the use of crossbows for bowfishing, especially for the physically impaired. Anglers should be aware that some municipalities ban the discharge of bow and arrow, tethered arrow or not. As such, anglers are strongly urged to check with the waterbody owner and/or individual municipality prior to engaging in bowfishing.
Striped Bass Size Limit Increased
In accordance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass, requiring a 25 percent harvest reduction of stock sized striped bass, the size limit for striped bass has been increased from two fish, 28 inches or greater, to one fish at least 28 inches and less than 43 inches in length, and one fish at least 43 inches in length. The size increase was effective for New Jersey marine waters in the spring of 2015. Anglers should be aware that there are differing size limits and seasons for striped bass for each of the three states bordering the Delaware River. Anglers must obey the regulations for the particular state where they land (catch) striped bass.
Due to the difficulty in identifying pure-strain striped bass from hybrid striped bass on waters where the two species are found, regulations regarding length requirements for hybrid striped bass are adjusted to match the pure strain striped bass regulations.
As both striped bass and their hybrids are present in the Raritan River below Duke Island Dam and in the Delaware River, the increased size limit for striped bass will also apply to hybrid striped bass within these waters. Regulations for hybrid striped bass in all other waters remain unchanged.
The existing seasons for striped bass and hybrid striped bass for all waters remains unchanged.
Trout Regulation Changes
Opening Day Set for 2017 to 2020 Trout Seasons
Trout Stocking Season Dates for the 2017 through 2020 trout seasons have been established. Trout season opens at 8 a.m on all dates listed below.
- April 8, 2017
- April 7, 2018
- April 6, 2019
- April 11, 2020
Trout Stocking Discontinued on One Stream
Beginning in 2016, Trout Brook, located in Hackettstown, will no longer be stocked with trout. Discontinuing trout stocking in Trout Brook has been under consideration for several years due to low angling interest. No anglers were documented fishing the stream on Opening Day in 2012. The stream was not stocked in 2014 as a result of the furunculosis outbreak at the Pequest Trout Hatchery so no angler counts were conducted.
Trout Stocking Boundaries Extended on Two Waterbodies
Trout stocking boundaries on the Passaic River and Lockatong Creek have been expanded. Currently trout are stocked at various locations in the Passaic River beginning at White Bridge Road and extending downstream to the Rt. 24 Bridge in Chatham Borough. Due to the current delineation, fishing is prohibited during the pre-season period downstream of White Bridge Road Bridge but not prohibited on the immediate upstream side of the bridge. This change would properly extend the pre-season fishing closure an additional one-quarter mile upstream to the river’s confluence with Black Brook.
The current limits for Lockatong Creek, Opdyke Road Bridge to the creek’s confluence with the Delaware Raritan Feeder Canal, do not encompass the entire trout stocked section of Lockatong Creek. The upstream boundary has been expanded from Opdyke Road to the Route 12 Bridge. This proposed change will properly identify the creek’s upstream boundary and extend the pre-season fishing closure an additional three miles.
Fish and Wildlife’s Pequest Trout Hatchery the Sole Source of Trout for Pequest River Drainage
The change is in response to an extensive outbreak of furunculosis, a fish disease caused by the bacterium Aeromonas salmonicida, that occurred at the Pequest Trout Hatchery in 2013 and 2014. The bacterium is believed to have been introduced from birds preying on infected trout dwelling outside the confines of the hatchery and then feeding on trout within the hatchery’s raceways, thus introducing the infection to the hatchery stock. Ensuring that the Pequest Hatchery is the only source of trout for the Pequest River Drainage will reduce the risk of disease transmission from sources outside the state’s control. According to the Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Stocking Permit records, two organizations are currently stocking trout within the Pequest River Drainage. A Fish Stocking Permit is required for the introduction of fish into any waterbody, regardless of ownership. For more information on placing fish in any waterbody, see Yes, You Need a Permit to Stock Fish –Even There!, or consult our website at NJFishandWildlife.com.
Trout May No Longer Be Used as Bait Within the Pequest River Drainage
Trout may no longer be used as bait within the Pequest River Drainage including Furnace and Mountain lakes. Small trout are purchased as bait by some anglers targeting larger trophy-sized species such as muskellunge. A common practice for some anglers is to keep unused bait trout obtained from outside the Pequest River drainage area in submerged cages between fishing trips or to release them directly into the lakes. This practice can result in a transfer of disease from a private fish culture facility into waters within the Pequest drainage where the state trout hatchery is located. Birds of prey feeding between these waters and the hatchery’s nearby raceways can transfer these pathogens into the facility.
Boundary Water Regulation Changes
Reduced Creel Limit for Channel Catfish in the Delaware River
A minimum size limit of 12 inches and a daily limit of five per day has been established for channel catfish in the Delaware River. Channel catfish are distributed throughout the Delaware River and are a popular species targeted by anglers. Previously, New Jersey had no minimum size or creel limit. The harsh winter of 2014-15 resulted in extensive ice forming on the river from Trenton through the Delaware Water Gap allowing anglers to target many previously inaccessible areas on the river. The extended ice cover and liberal regulations resulted in unprecedented numbers of channel catfish being harvested by anglers. The event emphasized the need for more stringent regulations. These limits are consistent with current size and creel limits for channel catfish in all other fresh waters in New Jersey.
Reduced Creel Limit for Certain Species on Delaware River
A daily creel limit of 25 is in effect for freshwater fish species in the Delaware River that do not have specific daily creel and possession limits (“all other freshwater species”). This change provides protection to species such as pumpkinseed, bluegill, bowfin, brown bullhead, rock bass and white catfish which are routinely caught in the Delaware River plus other non-typical game species. This is consistent with provisions already afforded these species in other waters of the state.
Daily Limit Reduced for Recreational Harvest
The daily limit of snapping turtles allowed to be harvested with a recreational fishing license has been reduced from three to one. Reducing the limit better aligns recreational harvest with personal use. Turtles taken under a recreational fishing license are for personal consumption only and may not be sold.
Season Closures Expanded and Minimum Carapace Length Established
The nesting closure for snapping turtles has been expanded from the former May 1 to June 15, now being May 15 to June 30 to more closely correspond with the peak nesting period. A hibernating closure of October 31 to April 1 is also in effect. Snapping turtles are vulnerable to harvest during hibernation and in early spring when they first become active. The closures will help protect the turtles during these particularly susceptible periods. Turtles may not be taken from land where they are most vulnerable.
A 12-inch minimum carapace length is established for both recreational and commercial harvest to protect turtles until they reach sexual maturity. Snapping turtles do not reach sexual maturity until 8 to 10 years of age. They grow approximately one inch (shell length) each year. Carapace length is measured in a straight line (not along the curve of the shell) along the midline of the shell at its greatest length.