New Jersey Saltwater Fishing
Regulations in red are new this year.
Regulations remain in effect until changed. For the most current regulations, go to NJFishandWildlife.com/njregs.htm#marine or call the marine fish “listen-only” information line at (609) 292-2083. The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife informs anglers that at press time, new rules for the recreational harvest of black sea bass were not yet finalized for the fall season. Regulation updates are anticipated soon. Visit our website at NJFishandWildlife.com/njregs.htm#marine or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen only” information line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.
- The recreational summer flounder open season has been modified to include May 25 to Sept. 5. For Delaware Bay and tributaries, west of the COLREGS line which delineates Delaware Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, the size limit is 17 inches and the possession limit is three fish. The 17-inch minimum size limit applicable to Delaware Bay does not include the waters of the Cape May Canal east of the Cape May Ferry Terminal. Transport of summer flounder caught in Delaware Bay, greater than or equal to 17 inches but less than the 18 inches, may occur in waters east of the Cape May Ferry Terminal to the George Redding Bridge (Rt. 47) located at the entrance of Wildwood provided all fishing gear aboard the vessel is stowed with rigs removed and the vessel may not stop to fish for any species. In all other waters, the size limit is 18 inches, the possession limit is three fish and transportation of summer flounder less than 18 inches is prohibited.
- The recreational black sea bass regulations have been modified to include an open season of May 26 – June 18 with a 10 fish possession limit and a 12.5-inch minimum size limit; an open season of July 1 – Aug. 31 with a two fish possession limit and 12.5-inch minimum size limit; The fall open season regulations for black sea bass have yet to be finalized. For the most current regulations, see our website at NJFishandWildlife.com/njregs.htm#marine.
These changes were implemented for New Jersey to remain in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s management plans for summer flounder and black sea bass. 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. Saltwater anglers must comply with the requirements of the New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program. See page 16.
Anyone who takes fisheries resources may be required to provide information on the species, number, weight or other information pertinent to management of resources. Anglers are encouraged to report all fishing activity after each trip. Visit Fish and Wildlife’s Volunteer Angler Survey at NJFishandWildlife.com/marinesurvey.htm.
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.
Delaware Fishing License Requirement
A Delaware fishing license is required for all non-resident anglers aged 16 and over fishing either fresh or tidal waters of Delaware. Delaware fishing license information can be found at http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/NewFishingLicense.aspx.
New York Fishing Registry Requirement
New York offers a free registry to all marine anglers fishing in New York. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html.
No license is required for the taking of baitfish for personal use with the following gear:
- Dip nets 24 inches diameter or less for the taking of Atlantic herring only (does not include river herring — alewife and blueback herring) for live bait. The taking or possession of river herring is prohibited.
- Bait seines 50 feet long or less.
- Cast nets 20 feet in diameter or less.
- Lift or umbrella nets four feet square or less.
- Not more than five killipots.
- Not more than two miniature fykes or pots for the taking of eels for bait.
Fish taken in this manner may not be sold or used for barter unless the angler is in possession of a commercial bait net license.
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.
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.
Spearfishing 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.
It is illegal to take, possess, land, purchase, or sell any of the following species:
- Atlantic sturgeon
- basking shark
- big eye sand tiger shark
- diamondback terrapin
- sand tiger shark
- sandbar shark
- shortnose sturgeon
- whale shark
- white shark
- river herring (alewife and blueback herring; see herring illustrations, page 18)
- See Sharks (page 16) for the full list of prohibited shark species
Sea Turtles &
Top 8 Tips for Releasing Fish Unharmed
Proper handling and releasing techniques reduce fish mortality.
- Land fish as quickly as possible, except not 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 with pliers.
It is illegal to intentionally molest, kill or possess sea turtles, including terrapins, or marine mammals, or to possess any part thereof.
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, page 17. Anglers shall possess no parts of any fish caught on a previous fishing trip. 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.
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.
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 on page 14.) The recreational black sea bass regulations have been modified to include an open season of May 26 – June 18 with a 10 fish possession limit and a 12.5 inch minimum size limit; an open season of July 1 – August 31 with a two fish possession limit and 12.5 inch minimum size limit. The fall open season regulations for black sea bass have yet to be finalized. For the most current regulations, see our website at NJFishandWildlife.com/njregs.htm#marine.
The possession limit for bluefish is 15 fish. This includes juvenile bluefish commonly known as snappers.
The red drum possession and size limits are one fish no less than 18 inches and not greater than 27 inches.
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 page 18 for herring species identification.
The hammerhead shark recreational size limit is 78 inches fork length (FL). The minimum size limit for authorized shark species of the Aggregate Large Coastal and Pelagic groups remains at 54 inches fork length while all others do not have a size limit. See dogfish Note and measuring illustration for fork length.
The 2017 shark regulations complement existing federal shark regulations (see 2017 Federal Recreational Regulations table, page 22). However, the following additional measures are required for state waters:
- In state waters, there is no minimum size limit for non-blacknose small coastal sharks and blacknose 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 Aggregate Large Coastal and Hammerhead groups* will have a closed season within state waters from May 15 through July 15 to protect spawning female sharks during the pupping season.
* See page 22 footnote for species list defining shark groupings.
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 website, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/08/docs/rec_shark_id_placard_2010.pdf 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
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 along the topline of the shark’s back. Neither are present in sharks.
The possession limit for striped bass/hybrid striped bass is two fish. The size limits are one fish at 28 inches to less than 43 inches and one fish equal to or greater than 43 inches. Anglers participating in the Striped Bass Bonus Program may possess a striped bass at 24 inches to less than 28 inches in length. Fish may be harvested in any order.
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 unless in possession of a Striped Bass Bonus Permit which allows the possession of one fish at 24 inches to less than 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.
No person may take, attempt to take, or have in possession any striped bass from the following closed waters:
Jan. 1–Feb. 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 1–May 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 striper at 24 inches to less than 28 inches. The open season for this program will be September 1 through December 31.
The current allocation from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is 215,912 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 issued via mail only. Go to NJFishandWildlife.com/bonusbas.htm to download the application. The permit is non-transferable and valid for the current calendar year. Only one permit can be used per day and harvest reporting is mandatory. For regulation or program updates, visit NJFishandWildlife.com/bonusbas.htm or check the marine fish “listen only” information line (609) 292-2083.
Striped Bass Bonus Permit (SBBP) Harvest Reporting: The SBBP Permit must be securely attached to fish through the mouth and gill immediately upon capture and prior to transportation. Harvest reporting is mandatory and must be reported online or by leaving a message at (609) 748-2074.
The recreational summer flounder open season has been modified to include May 25 to September 5. For Delaware Bay and tributaries, west of the COLREGS line, which delineates Delaware Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, the size limit is 17 inches and the possession limit is three fish. The 17 inch minimum size limit applicable to Delaware Bay does not include the waters of the Cape May Canal east of the Cape May Ferry Terminal. Transport of summer flounder caught in Delaware Bay, greater than or equal to 17 inches but less than the 18 inches may occur in waters east of the Cape May Ferry Terminal to the George Redding Bridge (Route 47) located at the entrance of Wildwood provided all fishing gear aboard the vessel is stowed with rigs removed and the vessel may not stop to fish for any species. In all other waters, the size limit is 18 inches, the possession limit is three fish and transportation of summer flounder less than 18 inches is prohibited.
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. Anglers shall not be in possession of any parts of any summer flounder caught on a previous fishing trip; only fish just caught on the current outing.
Shore-based anglers fishing at Island Beach State Park (IBSP) may retain 2 fish greater than or equal to 16 inches (total length) only at IBSP during the current open summer flounder fishing season. Shore-based fishing is defined as fishing from a pier, jetty, beach, bank, or marsh.
The minimum size limit for tautog is 15 inches. There is a four fish possession limit from Jan. 1–Feb. 28, a closed season from March 1–March 31, a four fish possession limit from April 1–April 30, 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.
The possession minimum and size limit for winter flounder is two fish at 12 inches. For winter flounder the open season is March 1–Dec 31.
Additional Marine Fishing Regulations
Motor Boat Registration & Title Requirements
NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC)
Most boats must be registered to operate on New Jersey waterways.
- All titled boats must be registered also.
- Any boat (including jet skis and non-titled watercraft), mechanically propelled (incl. electric motors), regardless of length, must be registered.
- Boats greater than 12 feet in length, regardless of propulsion means, must be titled and registered at an MVC office.
Boats and marine equipment which need not be registered:
- Those not based in New Jersey or operating here less than 180 consecutive days that are operating under a federally approved numbering system from another state
- Ship’s lifeboats
- Non-motorized vessels used exclusively on small lakes and ponds on private property
- Racing vessels with New Jersey State Marine Police permit
- Non-motorized inflatable device, surfboard, racing shell, dinghy, canoe or kayak
- Non-motorized vessel less than 12 feet in length
For use on New Jersey waterways, all boats more than 12 feet in length must be titled, with the exception of ship’s lifeboat, canoe, kayak, inflatable, surfboard, rowing scull, racing shell, tender/dinghy used for direct transportation between a vessel and shore for no other purposes.
Boat Operator License (MVC)
An operator license is required to operate power vessels on fresh, non-tidal waters such as lakes, creeks and rivers. (Minimum age 16 years; with certain exceptions.)
For More Information:
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission
(888) 486-3339 toll free in NJ or (609) 292-6500 from out-of-state
Boat Safety Certificate (NJSP)
A boat safety certificate (from an approved boat safety course; see NJSP website, below) is required to operate a personal watercraft or power vessel, including electric motors, in NJ waters (tidal and non-tidal).
New Jersey State Police (NJSP)