Welcome to 2022-23 New Jersey Saltwater Fishing
Great saltwater fishing opportunities always await anyone lucky enough to visit coastal New Jersey. Whether you fish the surf, back-bays or open ocean, the Garden State boasts one of the most active and productive recreational fisheries on the Atlantic Coast!
Of all the species in our marine waters, most anglers will fish for the “Big Five”. These include bluefish, striped bass, summer flounder, black sea bass and tautog. If these are the species you’re targeting, check out “The Big Five” article in this edition of the Marine Digest, where you will find details on current research, best fishing methods and some fun facts. For instance, did you know that in 1878, striped bass collected from the Navesink River were transported by rail and successfully introduced to the waters of California? See The Big Five for more.
The fun fact shows that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish and Wildlife staff has been managing the State’s wildlife resources for a long time. In fact, this year marks the 130th anniversary of our agency, when in 1892 the Board of Fish and Game Commissioners hired the first salaried “Fish and Game Protector” to enforce the fishing and game laws within the state. Since that time, our Law Enforcement bureau has expanded to include 56 highly trained Conservation Police Officers who patrol the marine and inland environments of New Jersey. They do their part to protect your natural resources and keep the public safe, so please do your part — understand and follow the marine regulations and properly handle fish being released.
As I’m writing this message, COVID cases are down, and life is slowly resembling pre-pandemic conditions. Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Fisheries staff are back out in the field. They conduct surveys and collect information vital to sustainable management of our state’s unique and important marine resources. All of this is very exciting! Our biologists like being on the water as much as you do, and prior to the pandemic I would have said there was nothing that would stop them from getting out there to carry out their sampling. When COVID hit, however, most of the agency’s marine fisheries sampling programs came to a halt. The health and safety of the public and our employees always comes first, and during the pandemic the logistics of sampling in close quarters on small vessels resulted in many of our surveys being pared back or fully cancelled for two full sampling seasons in 2020 and 2021.
Successful fisheries management depends on up-to-date and reliable data on stock condition, removals and fishing effort. While the agency’s Marine Fisheries staff were not able to get out on the water, New Jersey anglers remained active throughout the pandemic. Our staff’s “pause” on sampling provided a chance for us to re-think data collection in a digital age and resulted in the expansion of opportunities for anglers and other stakeholders to participate in the fisheries management process. As such, we developed additional platforms to report recreational fishing through the volunteer angler survey: www.nj.gov/dep/marineanglersurvey and for reporting endangered and protected marine species: www.nj.gov/dep/njmarinewildlife. The striped bass bonus program application process also went to a 100% online format: www.njfishandwildlife.org/bonusbas.htm.
Meetings of the Marine Fisheries Council and Shellfisheries Councils were also shifted to virtual platforms to allow continued public participation. This ability to pivot quickly to a virtual platform allowed the public to stay engaged and participate in marine fisheries management.
I urge you all to continue to participate in the management process and to attend an upcoming Marine Fisheries Council meeting. Information about upcoming meetings is posted on our website at NJFishandWildlife.com.
It's time to get out there — be safe on the water, enjoy your time outdoors, and catch some fish!