Highlights of Regulation Changes for 2018

Fishing Regulations New Jersey Freshwater Fishing

General Regulation Changes

Size Limit Increased for Muskellunge

The Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries sampled 10 waterbodies stocked with muskellunge between 2013-2016, eight waters covered under the general, statewide size limit of 36-inches and two waters regulated as trophy waters with a 40-inch size limit. Data collected—including data from hatchery broodstock collection efforts and data supplied by Muskies Inc., a muskie-focused angling group—indicate that muskies reach, and often exceed, current size limits. Overall, 74 percent (57 of 77 captured individuals) were larger than 36 inches, and 25 percent were at least or greater than 44 inches. As muskie populations are innately sparse, and most individuals captured were larger than 36 inches, the statewide minimum size limit for muskellunge has been increased to 40 inches. This increased size limit aligns regulations more effectively with the current size structure of the population while still allowing harvest.

Data from four waterbodies, Echo Lake Reservoir (Passaic), Greenwood Lake (Passaic), Lake Hopatcong (Morris) and Monksville Reservoir (Passaic) indicate that 40 percent to 70 percent of the muskies captured were at least 40 inches in size and 20 percent to 26 percent exceeded 44 inches. Three of the lakes had muskies over 50 inches. These waters will be managed as Trophy Muskie Waters with a minimum size limit of 44 inches. This aligns regulations with the exceptional fisheries that has developed while allowing some anglers the opportunity to keep a trophy specimen. As Greenwood Lake is also located in New York State the increased size limit will not take effect until April 1, 2019 to allow NYSDEC to consider a similar regulation change. To find out more about the assessment of the state’s Coolwater Fisheries Program be sure to read the article Managing Monster Muskies and to visit Fish and Wildlife’s website for the final results of the three-year assessment.

Statewide Bass Regulations for Lake Audrey

Lake Audrey, a 120-acre borrow pit, limed in 2006 to neutralize pH, was stocked from 2007 to 2012 with smallmouth bass to provide a unique fishery in the southern portion of the state where they are rare. In 2008 the lake was close to all fishing and re-opened in 2010 with catch and release regulations to continue to protect the developing fishery. Unfortunately, catch and release regulations have not provided the intended results due to illegal harvest of smallmouth bass, angler introduction of largemouth bass and declining pH levels. These low pH levels are not conducive to supporting a reproducing bass population. Discussions on future management strategies concerning Lake Audrey are underway.

List of Baitfish Species Amended

Several fish species that warrant concern due to a significant decline in their distribution were formerly harvested as baitfish under the general reference of “all shiners, dace and minnows.” These fish have been removed from the list of baitfish species. To simplify the list of allowed baitfish, ten species that are common and well-distributed throughout the state, plus landlocked herring in select counties, are specifically identified. Baitfish may be taken recreationally with a limit of 35 per day—or commercially, in excess of that limit—by permit. For compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission management plans, the minimum size for American eel has been increased from 6 inches to 9 inches.

Trout Regulation Changes

Trout Stocking Boundary Limit Changes

After careful comparison of the delineated boundaries for all 90 trout stocked sections of streams with our current stocking practices and with updated maps, Fish and Wildlife has made numerous changes to upstream and downstream boundary limits. Most of these changes have little impact to anglers. The more significant changes are depicted in red. Although most are technical changes, it is important that anglers review this information carefully as these changes can affect pre-season and in-season fishing closures. Appropriate municipality information, for trout stocked streams and lakes has also replaced unincorporated towns or local references that do not appear on most maps,

Catch and Release Only for Brook Trout Within the Brook Trout Conservation Zone

Due to growing concern over the plight of New Jersey’s state fish and only native salmonid, all brook trout caught within the Brook Trout Conservation Zone must be released immediately, unharmed. The zone consists of all waters within the northwest region of the state, where most remaining wild brook trout populations occur. The zone is delineated by Interstate 287 to the east, Route 202 to the south, the New York state border and up to—but not including—the Delaware River. A catch and release regulation protects larger brook trout allowing them to survive, reproduce and perpetuate the species. See the article Wild Trout Get a Helping Hand for more information.

New Wild Trout Stream Category and Other WTS Changes

(See the article Giving Wild Trout a Helping Hand for exciting new changes to Wild Trout Stream Regulations.)

New Trout-Stocked Streams—Wild Brown Trout Managed Category

Fish and Wildlife’s recent three-year effort to reevaluate the state’s Wild Trout Streams identified five streams that provide anglers opportunities for both cultured and wild trout. These streams not only receive generous stockings of rainbow trout but also support an abundance of wild brown trout that can reach an impressive size. To protect the wild brown trout while minimizing impacts to cultured trout fishing opportunities, these streams will be regulated as Trout-Stocked Wild Brown Trout Managed Waters, with a reduced creel and an increased size limit for brown trout. Daily creel limits of six per day from opening day till May 31, and four per day at all other times, except during pre-season closures, still apply, however, only two may be brown trout. The minimum size will be 12 inches for brown trout compared to 9-inch limit for brook and rainbow trout. Conservation measures for brook trout (catch and release) apply on those waters within the designated zone. As brook trout are not present within these stream sections, these protective regulations for exotic brown trout will not hinder brook trout conservation efforts. Unlike regulations pertaining to designated Wild Trout Streams, anglers fishing these waters will continue to be allowed to use bait and up to nine hook points. All pre-season and in-season fishing closures that apply to the streams as a whole remain in effect.

These streams include: Hakihokake Creek (Little York-Mount Pleasant Rd. to Delaware River); Lopatcong Creek (Rt. 519 to Delaware River); Pophandusing Creek (entire length); Raritan River S. Br., dam just upstream of Schooleys Mountain Rd. to Lake Solitude dam, excluding 2.5 mile catch and release only stretch within Ken Lockwood Gorge WMA); and Saddle River (Lake St. to West Century Rd.)

In-Season Closures Removed for Black and Walkill Rivers

The Black and Walkill rivers were two of sixteen trout-stocked waters closed to fishing from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on designated weekdays during the seven-week stocking period that follows opening day. Beginning in 2018, after opening day, anglers may now fish these streams on the days they are stocked. The trout-stocked section of the Black River lies primarily within Hacklebarney State Park where parking access to this section is nearly a half mile from the water’s edge, hampering proper enforcement of the in-season fishing closure and limiting angler use.

Stream levels on the Walkill River are often quite low nearing the end of the stocking season. The lower 2.2 miles of the trout-stocked section supports only a seasonal fishery for trout. Fish and Wildlife’s trout stocking formula requires waters with in-season closures to be stocked each of the seven weeks following opening day. Removing the in-stream closure will allow our agency to better align stocking with the seasonal nature of the fishery. Now, stocking will be limited to the first few weeks after opening day when water temperatures and stream flows are more conducive to the survival of stocked trout. Stocking frequency for the upper section of the Walkill will occur at a greater frequency than the lower section because the upper supports a year-round trout fishery.

Trout Stocking Discontinued on Three Waterbodies

Beginning in 2018, three waterbodies—Beaver Brook (Hunterdon), Rockaway Creek, S. Br. (Hunterdon), and Trout Brook (Sussex)—will no longer be stocked with trout. These waterbodies are small streams for which there is little angling interest; all have reproducing brown trout populations. Beaver Brook, which has a more robust brown trout population than the other two streams, will be regulated as a Wild Trout Stream. There are many other angling opportunities both for stocked and wild trout within a short distance of all three streams.

Hook Restrictions for Catch and Release Areas

Due to continued angler interest in limiting the number of hook points and use of barbs when targeting wild trout, a new regulation is in effect. Lures used when trout fishing in the state’s two designated Catch and Release Only areas may have no more than three hook points, all of which must be barbless. These areas are limited to the use of artificial lures and flies only. This hook restriction also reduces the potential for injury to fish that continually will be caught and released. In the absence of specific hook restrictions back when these areas were first designated in 2014, the default statutory hook point limit applied: three treble hooks for a maximum of nine hook points. A 4.2 mile stretch of the Big Flat Brook, and a 2.5 mile stretch of the Raritan River S. Br., known as the Ken Lockwood Gorge, are the state’s two catch and release-only areas for trout. Both areas support wild trout populations and are also stocked weekly with trout.

Claremont TCA Now Part of Raritan River S. Br. Wild Trout Stream Section

The 1.1-mile section of the Raritan River S. Br. known as the Claremont Stretch will no longer be regulated as a Year-Round Trout Conservation Area. The Claremont is one of New Jersey’s most productive stream sections for wild brook and brown trout and is not stocked with trout. Regulating it as a Wild Trout Stream is consistent with the fisheries present and streamlines regulations pertaining to this popular river. This section of the river will continue to be open year-round to fishing; the use of bait is still prohibited. As most wild trout within the Claremont Stretch are less than 9 inches, the minimum size decrease from 15 to 9 inches, along with a creel increase to two per day, will have little impact on the fishery. As the Claremont is located within the Brook Trout Conservation Zone, all brook trout must be released immediately and unharmed.

Trout Stocking on Rahway River Extended an Additional Two Miles Downstream

Trout stocking on the Rahway River has been extended an additional two miles, from St. Georges Ave. to Lawrence St. in Rahway. This section of the Rahway River offers great angler access along the Rahway River Park greenway. It is one of the more scenic sections of the river with an abundance of pools that can be fished easily.

Trout Stocking Discontinued on Uppermost Section of the Raritan River S. Br.

The Raritan River S. Br., from Flanders-Drakestown Road downstream to the Bartley Wildlife Management Area, will no longer be stocked with trout. Although the stretch encompasses a three-mile section of the river, only five stocking points are now removed. The Raritan River S. Br. is one of the state’s most productive areas for wild trout. The most upstream section, from Budd Lake to the dam just above Flanders-Drakestown Rd., is a stronghold for native brook trout, with the mainstem and most tributaries supporting exclusively brook trout. The dam above Flanders-Drakestown serves as a protective barrier to these populations. This section will be regulated as a Native Brook Trout Stream.

The section of the river from the dam 400 ft. above Flanders-Drakestown Rd. to the dam 200 ft. above Schooleys Mountain Rd., including the former Claremont TCA, will be regulated as a Wild Trout Stream. It supports a more diverse wild trout population dominated by brown trout, intermixed with brookies with a few wild rainbows scattered in as well. These sections are better suited to be managed for wild trout.

The remaining section of the river, from the dam 200 feet above Schooleys Mtn. Rd. downstream to the confluence with the N. Br., will continue to be stocked. Due to the impressive wild brown trout found between Schooleys Mtn. Rd. to Lake Solitude, there will be a 12-inch minimum size limit for brown trout. See Trout-Stocked Streams—Wild Brown Trout Managed, above. Also, see the map of the Raritan River S. Br.

15-inch Size Limit for Landlocked Atlantic Salmon for Trophy Trout Waters

The state’s two Trophy Trout Lakes were stocked with both rainbow and brown trout until 2014 when Fish and Wildlife discontinued rearing and stocking brown trout due to a disease at the Pequest Trout Hatchery. Landlocked Salmon are closely related to brown trout. The stocking of salmon in one or both of the Trophy Trout Lakes fills a void left from the discontinuation of brown trout stocking, expanding recreational opportunities for anglers interested in catching this novel sportfish. In keeping with the “trophy trout” strategy for these reservoirs, the 15-inch minimum size and daily creel/possession limit of two in total for brown and rainbow trout was expanded to include landlocked Atlantic salmon.

Private Fishing Clubs Located on Publicly Stocked Waters May Fish During the Three-Week Pre-Season Closure.

Beginning in 2018, private fishing clubs located within the boundaries of publicly stocked sections of rivers (see trout-stocked water listings) may now fish during the pre-season closures provided all fish are released immediately and unharmed. The exemption applies to only sections of river where the club leases—or owns—both sides of the river, where club boundaries (upstream and downstream limits) are clearly marked and when the club has obtained fish stocking permits for trout. Clubs wishing to participate must submit a written request to the Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries each year by March 1. The request shall include copies of previous year’s stocking permits, map of the club property where catch and release fishing will occur and a letter of intent to practice catch and release during the pre-season fishing closure. This regulation change does not result in any revision to our existing stocking practices.

New Buddy Fishing License*

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is rewarding anglers for introducing a “buddy” to freshwater fishing by offering a nearly half-price license to both qualifying anglers!


Regular Price

Fishing Buddy Price

Resident Fishing


$ 11.75

Non-Resident Fishing


$ 17.50

All-Around Sportsman



Eligibility requires at least one new angler:

  • A new angler, together with an existing angler, each purchase a discounted fishing license.
  • Two new anglers each purchase a discounted fishing license together.

(A new angler is a resident or non-resident who has not purchased a fishing license since 2011.)

Save Close to 50%

  • Discount price is offered to both license buyers in the buddy team.
  • The buddy fishing license is available ONLY at license agents; cannot be purchased online.
  • BOTH anglers must be present at the time of purchase.
  • Disabled veterans, National Guard personnel, senior license buyers (age 65 and over) and residents over 70 (licensed not required) are not eligible for the “Fishing Buddy” license as they already receive special discount pricing.

For more information, visit www.NJFishandWildlife.com/fishbuddy.htm