Fishing in NYC: The Complete Guide

Nov 30, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Aptly nicknamed, the “City That Never Sleeps” is an endless source of entertainment. Iconic landmarks, rich history, enviable cultural diversity, electrifying nightlife, finger-licking good food – the list goes on and on. But did you know that angling is ranked high on the New York City list, too? Fishing in NYC is so epic that we won’t stop gushing about it in the text below.

An aerial view of New York City and its skyscrapers surrounded by water, fishing charters, and other boats

A place formed of over forty islands can offer nothing but superb angling opportunities. Be it a lake, river, bay, sound, or ocean, a New York City fishing adventure will leave you speechless. We’re aware that no words can do it justice, but we’ll do our best to paint a picture of what fishing in NYC can be like. 

Reading this article, expect to find out more about the prominent fish species and different approaches to landing them. You’ll also read about the places where you can wet your line and the rules and regulations surrounding your hunt. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s embody the New Yorker spirit and cut to the chase.

What fish are there in NYC?

Being engulfed in various fisheries means that NYC has a vibrant underwater. Let’s take a look at the celebrities together.

Striped Bass

There’s no dilemma about it – Striped Bass are the ultimate stars of the NYC fishing scene. It’s virtually impossible not to cross paths with them. These waters are teeming with trophy specimens, too. But how to catch these massive beasts?

A photo of an angler in a yellow jacket holding an impressive Striped Bass specimen with both hands caught while fishing in New York City

Before battling Stripers, you should understand where and when to find them. Striped Bass are migratory species spending most of their lives in the Atlantic. However, once the spawning season is around the corner, the Hudson River is their home. They return to the Atlantic before winter, so you’ll have several months between spring and fall to go after them.

To increase the likelihood of landing a monster, check out the rocky areas and jetties in the evening. They’ll be hungry and ready to mouth your bait. Small fish such as herring and smelt are particularly alluring to Stripers. As for the angling approach, don’t overthink it. Trolling, drifting, baitcasting, chumming, spinning, fly fishing – name it and it’ll work! 

Bluefish

If you’re up for breaking a sweat, there aren’t better opponents than Bluefish. Blues are known for their fighting abilities. But that’s not all. They’re equally famous for their delicious meat. So, should you overpower them, not only will you feel victorious but you’ll also reward your palate with mouth-watering bites. How to go about making them your meal? Well, there are a couple of things to remember.

A photo of an angler standing on a NYC charter fishing boat and holding big Bluefish with both hands

Bluefish are insatiable eaters. They’ll devour any fish that comes their way but they prefer live mackerel, especially if they chase it. So, fast-paced trolling will be the name of the game. Just make sure your lines are strong because their teeth will cut through anything below 40 lb test. You can battle them any time of the year, but the peak season is between August and October.

Flounder

Flounder fishing in NYC revolves around two big names – Summer and Winter Flounder. At first sight, you won’t be able to distinguish between them. Luckily, you don’t have to obsess about their looks too much. Both are equally delicious and fun to catch. If you, however, want to learn more about how to tell them apart, we recommend the Fluke vs Flounder blog.

A photo of an angler standing in the marina on a docked charter fishing boat and showing off Flounder  caught in New York City’s waters

Summer Flounder inhabit NYC inshore waters in spring, while Winter Flounder move further out in summer and return nearshore in winter. Both are bottom dwellers and are simply in love with muddy seafloor around underwater structures with thicker vegetation. Naturally, bottom fishing will be your go-to method of angling. Pair it up with shrimps or mussels, and watch the lines getting tight.

Black Seabass

Speaking of succulent bottom residents, we can’t go on with the NYC fishing list without mentioning Black Seabass. They’re the superstars of the northeast Atlantic Coast. Their reputation of being tasty and feisty precedes them. For this reason, many anglers flock to NYC’s jetties and pilings to try their luck at landing Black Seabass.

An excellent shot of a proud angler showing off his Black Seabass catch with both hands

If you’re a Black Seabass fan yourself, be sure to mark your calendar for June. This is when their season starts and the waters are brimming with Black Seabass. To easily land them, either try jigging with metal jigs or bottom fish with squids and clams. Those seeking a more challenging approach can test their skills against Black Seabass with light tackle. 

… And More!

With such prolific fisheries under its belt, it goes without saying that NYC fish species are numerous. Naming all of them is an impossible mission. We already mentioned the most popular ones you must know about. And below, we’ll give you a list of other commonly caught fish species in New York City.

A photo of an angler standing on a boat and holding Tautog with both hands during a cloudy and cold day

Saltwater Fish

  • Porgy
  • Sea Robin
  • Atlantic Mackerel
  • Weakfish
  • Tautog

Freshwater Fish

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Yellow Perch
  • Sunfish
  • Carp

When is the NYC fishing season?

While there are both saltwater and freshwater species like Weakfish and Yellow Perch that you can target year-round when fishing in New York City, the NYC fishing season peaks between April and November. What’s more, spring and fall are the most productive times of the year for angling in NYC.

A group photo of friends posing against the skyline of the city with Striped Bass they caught while fishing in New York City during fall

You can wet your line throughout the entire year and you won’t end up empty-handed. However, many fish species have their own schedule. So, if you have a specific target in mind, don’t forget to double-check if it’s up for grabs during your vacation. To plan ahead, visit New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation website and take a look at both freshwater and saltwater fishing seasons for each fish.

How to go fishing in NYC?

By now you’ve probably realized what our answer to this question is. And you’re right – you can explore New York City’s fisheries the way you like it. Be it on foot or by boat, fishing in NYC has something for everyone. Next up, we’ll tell you about four efficient ways to catch fish.

Charter Fishing

In case you’re unfamiliar with the area or unsure where to start, do yourself a favor and team up with a local captain. If you’re looking for the best bang for your back, this is it. You won’t only be paying for the boat and equipment, but you’ll be investing in the entire experience. And who can better show you around than seasoned guides born and raised in the area?

A photo of three anglers facing the city’s skyscrapers while bottom fishing from a NYC charter boat

New York City fishing charters are the ideal choice for everyone who would love to see what NYC fisheries are all about. You’ll get the chance to move around and take advantage of more hotspots in search of your trophy fish. And the crew will do their best to take you where the fish are biting and show you tips and tricks on how to land your monster successfully.

Kayak Fishing

If you’re more interested in getting up close and personal with your fish then try out kayak fishing. While it sounds serene and easy, it can be far from it. Once you hook the fish, things can get pretty intense. For this reason, it’s imperative that you have previous practice. First-timers are welcome as well but highly recommended to go out on the water with kayak fishing veterans. 

A photo taken from a kayak facing New York City’s skyscrapers and a bridge

Depending on the body of water you want to explore, kayaking conditions will differ. There are, however, a couple of areas proven to be great for both professionals and novices alike. Jamaica Bay and Raritan Bay are among those. Both are equally popular Striped Bass fishing grounds.

Pier Fishing

Now, should you opt for staying dry at the dock, a fishing pier is an excellent spot to wet your line from. New York City is a proud owner of many fishing piers scattered throughout its coastline. So, the only thing you should do is obtain a valid fishing license, gear up, and find the closest pier to fish from. Each pier offers decent angling opportunities.

A side view of the sandy beach and famous Pat Auletta Steeplechase Fishing Pier in New York

Steeplechase Pier is a good location to kick off your pier fishing adventure, but it can get crowded. Alternatively, you may go with Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier. It’s equipped with a bathroom and playground, so it’s suitable for kids as well. During late spring, it turns into a Fluke hotspot. Christopher Street Pier is also a solid option. It even has a picnic area. 

Shore Fishing

With more than 500 miles of shoreline, New York City is every shore angler’s heaven. There are both freshwater and saltwater corners to cast your line from. The majority of angling spots are under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks. You can easily find your perfect location for surf casting by browsing through their official website

A photo of an angler in a red jacket standing against the rocky shoreline in the background and holding Bass caught while shore casting in New York City

Whichever site you choose, you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view and, hopefully, go home with a delicious dinner. Except, maybe, if you opt for angling in New York City’s ponds. You’re obligated to return the fish caught in lakes and ponds. Otherwise, you’re in for a treat. 

Where to fish in NYC?

Being surrounded by water suggests that you can fish almost anywhere in and around New York City. We’ve already mentioned some prolific pier and bank fishing spots. Below, you’ll see a breakdown of the most productive angling grounds in New York City.

An infographic featuring the best fishing spots in New York City and text that says "New York City Fishing Spots" and names of the hotspots against a blue background with FishingBooker logo
  • The East River. How do you feel about fishing at night? The East River is home to some dusk-loving creatures such as Stripers, Blues, Tautog, and Fluke. Shore fishing is also possible, but angling from a charter is safer and more efficient. 
  • The Hudson River. Abundant in Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, the Hudson River is a beloved freshwater fishery. Apart from those two, you can stumble on Shad as well. The river also hosts Stripers during their spawning season. 
  • Jamaica Bay. Speaking of Stripers, there’s no better place to battle them than Jamaica Bay. Thanks to its calm waters, the bay is suitable for kayak fishing trips and it’s an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. 
  • Raritan Bay. The abundance of man-made structure makes the bay a perfect site for crustaceans and baits. This means a plethora of fish for you as Stripers won’t be able to resist those free snacks. 
  • Central Park. It’s a truth universally known that Central Park is a piece of natural art. But did you know that you can fish there, too? You can either fish on foot or by boat for species such as Bass and Carp.

Anything else I should know?

An infographic featuring the state flag of New York and the title "New York City Fishing Regulations" and text below it that says "what you need to know."

The most important part of your NYC fishing adventure is knowing the rules and regulations surrounding your pursuit. If you’re fishing with a certified charter operator, the chances are you don’t have to worry about your permit. On the other hand, should you decide to venture out there on your own, you must get a valid fishing license. 

Depending on the fishery, different rules apply. For example, you’ll need a freshwater fishing license for Bass and Carp, but a saltwater permit to target bays. Additionally, season, size, and bag limits also vary based on the fish you want to catch. So, the wisest thing to do is to consult the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation official website before heading out.

Frequently Asked Questions

A lovely photo of a family with two kids sitting on a NYC charter fishing boat with an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty in the background
  • Do I need a license to fish in NYC?

    In most cases, you'll need to buy a freshwater fishing license if you're 16 or older. This slightly differs for saltwater fishing. You don't need a permit if you're angling aboard a certified charter boat. But you need to enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry if you're planning to fish bays and the ocean on your own.

  • Can I fish for free in NYC?

    Yes. The Recreational Marine Fishing Registry comes at no cost and each year there are a couple of free freshwater fishing days as well.

  • How long does a typical NYC fishing trip last?

    Depending on the type of angling you'd like to practice and the fish species you'd like to pursue, you can book anything from a 3-hour trip to a full day adventure. If heading offshore is on your agenda, longer trips are recommended.

  • What do I need to bring for my NYC fishing trip?

    If you're angling with a captain, only pack your personal items and snacks. In case you want to venture out on your own, check out this gear checklist. Depending on the fishery you want to explore, you may need a fishing license, too.

  • Are NYC fishing charters kid-friendly?

    Yes. New York City fishing charters welcome children aboard.

Fishing in NYC: An Oasis in the Concrete Jungle

An aerial view of lush greenery of Central Park in New York City during a bright sunny day

When the opportunity for an angling getaway presents itself, you shouldn’t miss out on it. This is especially true for a beehive-like metropolitan city such as New York. Fishing in NYC will give you a fresh perspective on the “Big Apple” and a chance to observe it from another angle. So, ready, steady, go!

Have you ever been fishing in New York City? How was your experience? Any cool hotspots to share with us? Hit the button below and drop us a line or two.

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