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Finfish Regulations

This is not the full law. Consult the Division of Fish and Wildlife for further details. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal authorities.
Red text in regulations indicates a change for this year. Green text denotes proposed regulation changes anticipated to be in effect later in 2010. Purple text indicates an important note.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife informs anglers that rules for the recreational harvest of summer flounder (fluke), winter flounder, weakfish, black sea bass and coastal sharks have changed.

  • The summer flounder recreational season is now May 29–Sept. 6. The recreational minimum size and possession limit remains at 18 inches and six fish.
  • In an effort to rebuild the southern New England–Mid-Atlantic winter flounder stocks, the recreational bag limit has decreased from ten to two fish.
  • Due to the extremely low abundance of the coastwide weakfish stock, the recreational possession limit is now one fish, down from six fish in 2009. The weakfish season of Jan. 1–Dec. 31 and the minimum size of 13 inches remains.
  • Also, the black sea bass recreational season has changed in 2010 and is now May 22–Sept. 12. Note: The black sea bass season may change during 2010. Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.
  • At the time of publication, recreational measures for black drum had not been adopted but are expected to become effective during 2010. For the latest information on black drum visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083.
  • Lastly, in order to address the various conditions of the coastal shark resources, there are numerous changes to the size, season and possession limits for the recreational shark fishery (see below).

These changes were implemented for New Jersey to remain in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s management plans for summer flounder, winter flounder, black sea bass, weakfish and coastal sharks. 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.

Resource Information

Anyone who takes fisheries resources may be required to provide information on the species, number, weight or other information pertinent to management of resources.

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.

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.

Spear Fishing

Spear fishing 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.

Prohibited Species

It is illegal to take, possess, land, purchase, or sell any of the following species:

• Atlantic sturgeon • basking shark • big eye sand tiger shark • sand tiger shark • shortnose sturgeon • whale shark • white shark

  • See Sharks (below) for the full list of prohibited shark species

Sea Turtles & Marine Mammals

It is illegal to intentionally molest, kill or possess sea turtles or marine mammals, or to possess any part thereof.




The filleting at sea of all fish with a size limit is prohibited. No parts of any fish caught on a previous fishing trip shall be in possession. 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. See Summer Flounder, below.

Black Sea Bass

The minimum size limit for black sea bass is 12.5 inches measured along the midline from the snout to the end of the central portion of the tail, not to include the tail filaments. (See illustration above.) The possession limit is 25 fish with an open season of May 22–Sept. 12. The black sea bass season may change during 2010. Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.


The possession limit for bluefish is 15 fish.

Black Drum

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.

Proposed changes for black drum include a minimum size limit of 32 inches (total length) with a daily possession limit of two fish. The “no closed season” for black drum would continue. Visit our Web site at or call the 24-hour marine fish “listen-only” line at (609) 292-2083 for the latest regulation updates.

Red Drum

The red drum possession and size limits are one fish no less than 18 inches and not greater than 27 inches.

Striped Bass (includes Hybrid Striped Bass)

The possession limit for striped bass/hybrid striped bass is two fish with a minimum size limit of 28 inches for each fish. Anglers participating in the Striped Bass Bonus Program  may possess an additional striped bass at least 28 inches in length.

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. A person shall not fillet, or remove the head or tail, or parts thereof, of any striped bass at sea.

Harvest and possession of striped bass from federal waters (outside three miles) is prohibited.

Sale of striped bass in New Jersey is prohibited.

Striped Bass Closed Seasons

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 third striper at 28 inches or greater.

The current allocation from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is 321,750 pounds to be distributed between individual anglers and party/charter boats. 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 only available online. Go to, complete the application and immediately print one Bonus Permit (application fee, $2). The permit is non-transferable and valid for the current calendar year. Only one permit can be used per day. Harvest reporting also must be online.

The party/charter boat segment of the program remains the same, with the applications available only by contacting Fish and Wildlife at (609) 748-2020. The party/charter boat bonus program is not online.

Striped Bass Bonus Permit Harvest Reporting: All information on the Bonus Permit must be completed immediately after harvest and prior to transportation. After reporting harvest information at, anglers are then eligible to receive another bonus permit for the $2 application fee.
Note: Harvest information must be reported online.

Striped Bass Fishing Log: All participants receive a log with their Bonus Permit and are encouraged to report all striped bass fishing activity for the calendar year. Anglers now have the option to enter their striped bass fishing log online instead of mailing their paper fishing log. Go to



The minimum size limit for any species of shark, except small coastal group and dogfish (see Note at above) is 54 inches fork length.

Atlantic Coastal Shark Changes: In response to the October 2008 adoption of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks, New Jersey must implement new recreational and commercial management measures for Atlantic coastal sharks regarding prohibited species, size, season and possession limits plus commercial quotas. The ASMFC compliance requirements to be implemented in 2010 were developed to complement existing federal shark regulations (see 2010 Federal Recreational Regulations table). However, the following additional proposed measures are required:

  • In state waters, there is no minimum size limit for small coastal 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 large coastal group* will have a closed season within state waters from May 15 through July 15 to protect spawning female sharks during the pupping season.
  • See footnote for species list defining small coastal, large coastal and pelagic sharks.

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 Web site, 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 are the shark species that 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 white sharks.

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. Neither are present in sharks.

Summer Flounder (Fluke)

The possession and minimum size limit for summer flounder is six fish at 18 inches with an open season from May 29–Sept. 6.

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. No parts of any summer flounder caught on a previous fishing trip shall be in possession; only fish just caught on this outing.

Tautog (Blackfish)

The minimum size limit for tautog is 14 inches. There is a four fish possession limit from Jan. 1–April 30, a zero fish possession limit from May 1–July 15 (the season is closed), a one fish possession limit from July 16 through 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.

Winter Flounder

The minimum possession and size limit for winter flounder is two fish at 12 inches. For winter flounder the open season is March 23–May 21.

Additional Marine Fishing Regulations

See regulation charts and fish ID pages.

National Saltwater Angler Registry Program

The federal government’s National Saltwater Angler Registry Program requires most New Jersey saltwater anglers to register prior to fishing in 2010.

You must register if you…

  • Fish for or catch anadromous species (striped bass, shad, river herring) in state tidal waters
  • Fish in Federal waters (more than 3 miles from shore)

You do not have to register if you…

  • Are under 16 years of age
  • Only fish on federally licensed party or charter boats
  • Hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit
  • See our Web site for additional exemptions:

Register online at or call toll free (888) 674-7411. Registration is free in 2010. Note: registering with the Federal Registry Program does NOT exempt anglers from obtaining any state marine fishing license required when fishing those state’s waters.

Delaware Fishing License Requirement

A Delaware fishing license is now required for anglers aged 16 and over fishing the Delaware River and Delaware Bay between the upstream tip of Artificial Island and the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line. In that section of the river, the Delaware state boundary extends to the New Jersey shoreline. When fishing from shore in New Jersey along that section of the river, a Delaware fishing license is not required. Delaware fishing license information can be found at their website.

New York License Requirement

A New York license is now required for all anglers 16 and over fishing all waters of the Atlantic Ocean within 3 miles of the coast and all other tidal waters within the state, including the Hudson River up to the Gov. M. Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge. Visit

Bait Fish

No license is required for the taking of baitfish for personal use with the following gear:

  1. Dip nets 24 inches diameter or less for the taking of herring for live bait.
  2. Bait seines 50 feet long or less.
  3. Cast nets 20 feet in diameter or less.
  4. Lift or umbrella nets four feet square or less.
  5. Not more than five killipots.
  6. 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 a commercial bait net license is in possession.

No person shall take more than 35 alewife or blueback herring in aggregate per day by hook and line or with the above listed gear.

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.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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