Fishing in New Jersey: A Complete Angler’s Guide
Apr 13, 2021 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

With the Delaware River on one side and the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other, fishing in New Jersey is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can find yourself having. From freshwater to ice fishing, to deep sea fishing, there’s something here for everyone.

The skyline and Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey

It’s the most densely populated state in the US. And not only when it comes to people! The waters of the “Garden State” are packed full of fish, with such a diverse composition. With many lakes, ponds, and rivers dotted all across the state, a day spent in New Jersey’s nature is a day to remember.

Let’s take a look at everything there is to know about New Jersey’s fishing scene. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to grab your rod and go on a new adventure.

What to Catch in New Jersey

An infographic showing the top fish species in New Jersey, including Bass, Trout, Pike, Tautog, Flounder, Marlin, Tuna, Swordfish, and Mahi Mahi

With so many possibilities, it can be hard to decide what to go after in New Jersey. Different species inhabit the freshwater rivers and lakes, the clear waters of the Delaware Bay, and the deep waters of the Atlantic. Let’s see what some of the most popular fish species in NJ are.

Trout

Trout is probably the most popular fish in New Jersey, so it’s no surprise that Brook Trout is the official state fish. These stunning creatures hold a special place in the hearts of New Jersey anglers. To what do they owe this pleasure? Well, they’re delicious for one, and they also put up a great fight at the end of a line.

An angler holding a big Brown Trout by the river

While Brook Trout may be the most revered, you’ll find the waters of the Garden State filled with Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout as well. Fishing for all of these species is excellent year-round, thanks to stocking programs in spring, fall, and winter. Mixed in with wild Trout, this makes for an amazing Trout fishing adventure any time of year! Round Valley and Merrill Creek Reservoirs are the most famous places for getting your hands on some monster specimens.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

When it comes to freshwater fishing, there’s hardly a fish species more coveted for their fighting abilities than Bass. And with an abundance of both Largemouth and Smallmouth varieties throughout the state, the New Jersey Bass fishery is exploding. You’ll find both species in many of the state’s lakes and rivers.

An angler holding a Smallmouth Bass on a boat

If you’re looking to hook into Largemouth Bass, the best time is in spring and early summer, as well as in fall. This is when they tend to feed in shallower waters. As for Smallies, head out in fall when they school up and feed before winter. Farrington Lake, Manasquan Reservoir, and Round Valley Reservoir are some of the most popular Bass fishing spots in the state.

Striped Bass

Coming up to the stars of the show, Striped Bass are truly a force to be reckoned with! They’re one of the most popular game fish in the Garden State, owing to their incredible fighting abilities, as well as delicious taste. They can be found in freshwater when spawning, moving to saltwater afterwards.

An angler holding a Striped Bass on a boat in New Jersey

Striped Bass migrate north in spring, which means you can find them all along New Jersey’s Atlantic shore. The Delaware River and Lake Hopatcong are some of the most famous freshwater fishing spots. This is where you’ll find some trophy ones in the spring months.

Tuna

Heading out even further into the ocean, you’ll start to run into some real monsters. The Atlantic waters off the coast of the state are just made for Tuna fishing. Sailing out into the blue waters of the Gulf Stream will bring you to the playgrounds of these revered fish.

Four anglers holding a big Tuna on a boat

You’ll find multiple varieties of Tuna in these waters, including Yellowfin, Albacore, and the most popular one – the mighty Bluefin. People flock to these waters for their taste of Tuna action, so if you’re looking for a new experience in the Garden State, this is one you shouldn’t miss. You’ll get the workout of your life and a delicious meal to take back home.

Swordfish

One of the most iconic deep sea fish, the elusive Swordfish is the stuff of legends. If you’ve ever wanted to battle the real king of the ocean, there’s no better place to try it than the waters of New Jersey during summer and early fall. The adrenaline rush is out of this world, and the adventure will stay with you for a long time.

An angler holding a Swordfish on a boat at night

Heading out to the deep waters of the Gulf Stream will put you in a prime position to reel in one of these stunning creatures. The waters off the coast of Cape May produce good-sized Swordfish, and the further you go the better your chances of breaking a record. Deep dropping is a technique specially designed for pulling these monsters out of the water. If you’re up for some excitement, this is the adventure for you!

And More!

That’s not nearly all. We’ve barely just scratched the surface of everything that makes New Jersey such a fishing haven. Pike, Perch, Walleye, and Pickerel are just some of the other freshwater species on offer. You’ll find even greater variety in saltwater, with Tautog, Black Seabass, Fluke, Marlin, Mahi Mahi, and many more fish waiting to take your bait.

How to Fish in New Jersey

It might not be the biggest state, but New Jersey boasts incredible fishing opportunities. Rivers, lakes, the ocean…there’s a variety of ways to explore the Garden State. Let’s check out some of the most popular ways of casting a line here.

Charter Fishing in New Jersey

If your type of adventure is exploring the open ocean, there’s no other way to do it than by charter fishing. The waters of the deep Atlantic are brimming with game fish ready to gorge on your bait. Hopping aboard a fishing charter is hands-down the best way to reel some of these monsters in.

A boat on the waters of a bay in New Jersey

What makes charter fishing so productive? Well, you can cover a lot of ground this way. If the fish aren’t biting, you can just keep going! Another reason is the fact that you can get to some of the abundant spots offshore, and the deep waters where trophy fish love to roam are within your reach. And not to mention you get the help of a professional captain who will set you up for success!

Shore Fishing in New Jersey

If you’re not looking to hop on a boat, shore fishing in New Jersey can be just as rewarding. With numerous beaches, jetties, and piers, your options are practically endless. Delaware Bay is one of the best places in the state to sit back, relax, and enjoy some fine angling.

Stone Harbor Dunes on an early morning

For those of you who enjoy a bit of surf fishing, Striped Bass is the ultimate prize. Sandy Hook, Shrewsbury River, and Great Bay are all amazing places to cast a line from a sandy beach. Black Drum, Fluke, and Tautog are some of the other iconic species you can expect to catch.

Kayak Fishing in New Jersey

While boats might be sturdy and reliable for fishing the Atlantic, a kayak is the perfect vessel for exploring the shallow lakes and ponds of New Jersey. It’s one of the most engaging ways of casting a line, and it’s been getting more and more popular in recent years. You’ll get a proper workout out of it, and you’ll get to spend time up close and personal with the stunning wildlife.

A smiling angler fishing from a kayak

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass are the most popular species to target from a kayak here, as they put up a great fight and you can really feel all the pulls and leaps they make. Raritan Bay is one of the most popular kayak fishing spots for Stripers, while Great Bay is a great place to go after Fluke. Whatever you decide to target, you’ll have a blast!

Ice Fishing in New Jersey

It might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about New Jersey, but ice fishing is a unique experience here. Although the winters here aren’t that harsh, it gets cold enough for many lakes and ponds to freeze over. In fact, the hardest part of your adventure is choosing what to catch.

A man ice fishing on a frozen lake

Walleye, Pike, Trout, Bass, and Perch are the most popular targets among ice fishermen in New Jersey. Whether you want to cast your bait or do some jigging, there’s something for everyone. Smartswood and Green Turtle Pond are some of the best spots to visit if you’re after some really big fish.

Where to Fish in New Jersey

New Jersey might be one of the smallest US states, but judging by its fishing spots, you wouldn’t know it. Whether you’re looking for inland freshwater fishing, coastal saltwater fishing, or going on a deep sea adventure, there’s a place for you here!

An infographic showing the top fishing spots in New Jersey, including Merrill Creek Reservoir, Round Valley Reservoir, Lake Hopatcong, Delaware River, Delaware Bay, Great Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean
  • Merrill Creek Reservoir: Best known for Brown Trout fishing, this stunning 650-acre lake is a sight for sore eyes. With protected nature and wildlife all around, it’s the perfect place to spend a sunny day. Lake Trout, Walleye, Bass, and Rainbow Trout are also on the cards.
  • Round Valley Reservoir: Known for pristine blue waters, this is a 2,350-acre artificial lake with some incredible views and fishing opportunities. You’ll be able to reel in Bass, Perch, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout, as well as Lake Trout.
  • Lake Hopatcong: As the biggest lake in New Jersey, Lake Hopatcong has the greatest diversity of game fish in the state. Bass, Perch, Catfish, Carp, Walleye, Musky…the list goes on and on!
  • Delaware River: This 388-mile long river is a natural border of the Garden State. Bass, Carp, Catfish, Musky, Trout, Perch, and Walleye are all on the cards. Cast a line anywhere along the river, and you’re bound to have fun.
  • Delaware Bay: Fed by the Delaware River and many smaller rivers, Delaware Bay has access to some amazing fishing. Its brackish waters hold a variety of species you can target, like Black Seabass, Bluefish, Tautog, Tilefish, and Striped Bass.
  • Great Bay: The calm waters of the Great Bay offer some of the best light tackle action in New Jersey. Bluefish, Flounder, Kingfish, Seabass, and Striped Bass are just some of the fish species you can expect to run into here.
  • The Atlantic Ocean: The deep waters of the Atlantic kiss the shores of the Garden State, and we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention it. Sail out towards the Gulf Stream for your chance to battle monsters like Mahi Mahi, Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Tuna.

What else do I need to know?

Now that you know what you want to target and how to do so, the only thing left is to figure out when you should go fishing in New Jersey. The answer depends on what you’re up for, as there’s something to do here all year round. Fishing tends to be the best in spring and fall, while winter is a great time for ice fishing.

An infographic with the New Jersey flag and text that reads "New Jersey Seasons and Regulations"

As for regulations, you won’t need a license if you’re exploring the saltwater fishery, but you still need to apply for the Saltwater Registry. If you plan on fishing in the many freshwater lakes and rivers, you’ll need to get a freshwater fishing license. Take a look at our simple guide to getting your license in New Jersey, and get ready to pack your bags!

Why go fishing in New Jersey? It’s the Best Type of Crowded!

While you might not think crowds are fun, New Jersey is so densely populated that it’s the norm. However, there’s a different kind of crowd you’ll find here – crowds of fish! You won’t easily find another place in the US that has so much variety and abundance of fish packed into such a small area. This is why your New Jersey fishing trip is long overdue!

Paterson Great Falls in New Jersey

Have you ever been fishing in New Jersey? Where did you go? How was it? Tell us all about it in the comments below, or ask any questions you might have. We love to hear from you!

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