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.
Highlights of Regulation Changes:
Rules for the recreational harvest of striped bass and cobia have changed.
- A new interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) mandate requires using inline (non-offset) circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with bait. See New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife for more information.
- The recreational cobia regulations are: 1 fish per vessel per trip with a minimum size of 37 inches and no closed season.
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.
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 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 www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html.
No license is required to take baitfish for personal use with the following gear:
- Dip nets 24 inches diameter or less for taking Atlantic herring only for live bait. The taking or possession of river herring (alewife and blueback 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.
Sea Turtles & Marine Mammals
It is illegal to intentionally molest, kill or possess sea turtles, including terrapins, or marine mammals, or to possess any part thereof.
It is illegal to take, possess, land, purchase, or sell any of the following species:
- Atlantic sturgeon
- Diamondback terrapin
- Shortnose sturgeon
- River herring (alewife and blueback herring; see herring illustrations, Marine Species Identification)
- Various shark species (See below for the full list of prohibited shark species.)
Regulations for most finfish are listed in the table on State Size & Possession Limits.
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, below. 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 available from Fish and Wildlife’s Bureau of Marine Fisheries.
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 image, above.) The recreational regulations for black sea bass are: open May 15–June 22 with limits of 10 fish possession and 12.5-inch minimum size; open July 1–Aug. 31 with limits of 2 fish possession and a 12.5-inch minimum size; open Oct. 8–Oct. 31 with limits of 10 fish possession and 12.5-inch minimum size; and open Nov. 1–Dec. 31 with limits of 15 fish possession and a 13-inch minimum size.
Bluefish recreational regulations: 5 fish (no size limit, open season all year) while fishing from a party/charter vessel with a valid federal party/charter vessel permit and captained by a properly credentialed operator with a valid U.S. Coast Guard endorsement (see important additional information regarding for-hire trips at: NJFishandWildlife.com/pdf/marine/bluefish4hire.pdf); 3 fish (no size limit, open season all year) for all other anglers.
The taking or possession of any river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in New Jersey is prohibited. See the fish ID illustrations on Marine Species Identification for herring species identification.
Some species of sharks may be harvested by recreational fishermen from the shore or from a boat only by hand line or rod and reel. If a shark is caught but not kept, it must be released immediately. Anglers should access the following National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resources/educational-materials, to download helpful materials such as the NOAA Fisheries Shark Identification Placard and the Careful Catch and Release Brochure, which provide a pictorial guide to identifying sharks and tips on handling and releasing large saltwater pelagic fish.
All sharks harvested must have heads, tails and fins attached naturally to the carcass until landed, although anglers may still gut and bleed the carcass. Filleting sharks at sea is prohibited. Recreational size limits for sharks are specified in the state and federal regulation charts on State Size & Possession Limits and Federal Size & Possession Limits. Refer to the illustration, below, for the proper measurement of fork length.
Dr. William Driggers, III/NMFS
The 2021 shark regulations complement existing federal shark regulations (see Federal Size & Possession Limits). 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 Aggregated 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 Federal Size & Possession Limits footnote for the species list defining shark groupings, including species prohibited from harvest.
Note: To differentiate sharks from dogfish—dogfish have flat, tiny teeth; spiny dogfish have dorsal spines in front of the dorsal fins. Neither are present in other sharks.
The possession limit for striped bass/hybrid striped bass is one fish with a size limit of 28 inches to less than 38 inches total length. 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, attempt 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. It is illegal to possess any striped bass 38 inches or greater.
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 its 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 release mortality while fishing with bait. See New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife for more information.
The recreational summer flounder open season is May 22 to September 19. 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. 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. 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.
Additional Marine Fishing Regulations
Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact
New Jersey participates in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact which means that a violator with repeat convictions of New Jersey marine fishing laws may face license suspensions in participating states.
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Top 8 Tips for Releasing Fish Unharmed
Proper handling and releasing techniques reduce fish mortality.
- Land fish quickly, except when retrieving from depths of 40-feet or more. Fighting a fish to exhaustion increases mortality as does rapidly bringing fish up 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 eyes. Support the weight of the fish along the length of its body. Do not allow fish to flop around on deck.
- Carefully remove hooks using a dehooker or needle-nose pliers.
- Use plain hooks, not stainless, which rust away quickly if one must be left in a gut-hooked fish. Be prepared with a long-reach tool to cut the leader at the hook, 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.
Striped Bass Bonus Program
The Striped Bass Bonus Program will continue in 2021, where anglers possessing a bonus permit may keep a striper at 24 inches to less than 28 inches. The open season for this program is May 15 through December 31. Check website for updates at NJFishandWildlife.com/bonusbas.htm.
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 apply and for regulation or program updates. The permit is non-transferable and valid for the current calendar year. Only one permit can be used per day. Fishing logs must be kept and harvest reporting is mandatory.
Striped Bass Bonus Permit Harvest Reporting: The Striped Bass Bonus Permit must be securely attached to the 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.