Director’s Message

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations New Jersey Saltwater Fishing

The primary mission of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is to maintain stable populations of fish and wildlife throughout the state.

Good species management always begins with good habitat management. Our hardworking staff knows this better than anyone, taking an integrated approach to species management, one that includes protecting and enhancing habitat. Packed with important information on species identification and fishing regulations, this issue of the New Jersey Marine Digest also highlights the importance of enhancing habitats in the state’s marine ecosystem.

Improving habitat for marine species has many benefits. Those who have fished over any of the 17 artificial reef sites established by Fish and Wildlife knows that great fishing is one of a reef’s main benefits. The article on The Artificial Reefs of New Jersey describes the history and objectives of the Artificial Reef Program which has been creating hard-substrate habitat off the coast of New Jersey for more than 30 years. This program is a great example of how strong partnerships between state agencies, industry and non-profit organizations can benefit natural resources. Anglers in New Jersey can expect the Artificial Reef Program to remain strong, with more reef fishing opportunities in the years to come.

New Jersey’s coastal ecosystems are energetic and dynamic, with changes that sometimes result in habitat loss. Such has been the trend with many tidal marsh habitats in New Jersey. Wave energy from storm surge, boat wake and sea-level rise has accelerated the rate at which marsh edges are eroding along the Delaware Bayshore and within the back bays. Working with conservation partners, Fish and Wildlife staff are working to reverse this trend along an important marsh edge at our Sedge Island Natural Resource Center (Sedge Island). This novel form of marsh edge stabilization uses natural materials to absorb wave energy while creating habitat for fish and other marine species. The Horseshoe Crab profile (Horseshoe Crab: A Profile) also illustrates how a species can be impacted by habitat loss and reinforces the need for management agencies to stay involved in protecting species and the habitats upon which they depend.

Some actions taken this year to reduce size limits, bag limits and seasons are in direct response to reductions in certain fish populations. Working with other Atlantic states and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, recreational harvest limits are set to regulate harvest and maintain robust marine fish populations. Managing species in the complex marine environment becomes even more challenging when multiple states must coordinate their marine fishing regulations. Reductions in coastwide recreational harvest limits have led to significant changes in both striped bass and blue fish regulations. The new size limits, bag limits, and season dates can be found for these and other species beginning on State Size & Possession Limits.

Whether you agree with the new recreational harvest and size limits or you think they are too conservative, one thing we can all agree on is that great fishing in New Jersey begins with getting outside and dropping a line in the water. Anglers fishing offshore, inshore, back bays, or from the beach, a jetty or pier all share a common bond of loving the outdoors and the excitement of fishing. The therapeutic value of being outside was reinforced for many New Jerseyans this spring as the state came together in its response to the threat of COVID-19. Remember how nature helped us through a challenging period. Respect nature by obeying all published fishing regulations along with managing your trash and waste while on the water and in our marshes. Wildlife — and our access to it — is not something we should take for granted. Wildlife is something for which we must work together to maintain. Enjoy your time outdoors in this great state!

Fish and Wildlife shares an obligation with the rest of the state to protect our public health against COVID-19. I encourage you to check the state’s COVID-19 information hub at covid19.nj.gov for the most up to date guidance on social distancing and other measures necessary to stop the spread of the virus in New Jersey.

After all, the sooner we can get back to normal, the sooner we can go out in larger groups to enjoy New Jersey’s wildlife and fishing.