New Jersey Free Fishing Day: June 4

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am an avid fly angler. My husband and I write, lecture, and teach about the subject whenever we can. Well, this weekend, we are hopeful everyone in New Jersey will give fishing a try on Saturday, June 4th during the Free Fishing Day.

Free Fishing Day

So what is Free Fishing Day? This means you do not need a license to legally fish. Not that I really trust the weather reports all that much, but it is expected to be beautiful on Saturday, so I encourage everyone to head outside and give it a try!

OK, you want to go but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:

Rod & reel: Get a basic rod and reel. You can start out with a spinning rod or go right to fly fishing. There are plenty of great basic combos available and the guys working in the fishing department are happy to help you pick something. Purchase a combo for simple freshwater fishing in your local ponds. Remember, every town has a local pond that is stocked with plenty of panfish and bass.

Pond in Morris Plains, NJ
A beautiful pond in Morris Plains, NJ in the fall.

Lures & flies: Just like your rod and reel combo, stick with the basics. Try a crawdad soft plastic with some split shot set as a weedless Texas rig to go deep. If you are looking to go just sub-surface, try one of my all-time favorites when I used to spin fish, a rooster tail with a gold blade. Want to go completely top water? Try a crankbait with a fat lip for maximum water disturbance. If you want to give fly fishing a try, think about muddler minnows, wooly buggers, poppers, gold ribbed hare’s ears, sponge spiders, and of course, Clouser minnows.

Now remember, when you go look at all these wonders, I always say they are there to catch the angler more than to catch the fish. Don’t go overboard. Get a variety, but you don’t need much.

Other equipment: There are a few other items you should have on hand. First, it may sound ridiculous, but have a good pair of sunglasses (polarized, if possible) and a hat. You will be out in the sun and want to stay protected. Polarized sunglasses will help you see down into the water by cutting the glare and will also protect your eyes from a wayward hook that catches air if a stiff breeze blows unexpectedly. Also pick up a good pair of hemostats. This looks like a surgical tool with a clamp and often a pair of scissors in it. Do yourself a favor and get the one with the scissors. Two tools in one. Have a bandana on hand to keep something wet on your neck to avoid overheating if it gets too hot. Also, keep water on hand to stay hydrated.

What happens June 5th?

Damage at Hedden Park, Morris County
Damage at Hedden Park, Morris County

So you have a great time on your Free Fishing Day. What happens on June 5th? Well, if you want to continue to fish, you will need to purchase a New Jersey state fishing license. I will tell you, sadly, many will continue to fish without a license. I ask that you do not. First, it is against the law. If you get caught, you will face a very expensive fine. Second, it is one of the few fees you will pay in the state where you are guaranteed to know where your money will go. The politicians in Trenton cannot access this money at all. The money you pay in fees will go right back into the resource you use. I implore you to spend the money and pay for your license.

Carry in, carry out

One more point, if I may. During the last few years, many people stuck at home due to the pandemic discovered all the wonderful parks in New Jersey. The bad news is not every visitor treated them with the care they deserve. In 2020 I wrote about Hedden Park in Morris County, which had to be closed for two weeks due to extensive damage from park visitors. So go out and take advantage of Free Fishing Day. Just remember to take your garbage with you. And if you see someone left something behind, grab it on your way out. Leave the area better than when you arrived.

I hope you enjoy your day outside!

Get Ready for Fishing Season 2022

After a brutal two years, we as a nation are starting to head back to some level of normalcy. And for many of us, that means spring fishing season.

2022 Fishing Regulations

The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is returning to a normal stocking schedule with three weeks of pre-season stocking and seven weeks of in-season stocking with in-season closures in effect. It is important to note, however, there will be a change in the stocking frequency to help minimize staff exposure to COVID-19 and to help ensure healthy trout by moving them out of the raceways faster than usual.

The change will shift 68,000 fish from in-season to pre-season stocking, with no change to the total allotment of fish per waterbody. Ultimately, a total of roughly 68,000 more fish will be available to anglers across the state on opening day.

Planned Schedule

The upcoming season schedule:

March 21 – April 9 at 8:00 a.m.: Waters closed to trout fishing

April 9 at 8:00 a.m.: Opening day of trout season!

It is important to note, the minimum legal size is 9″ with a daily limit of 6 trout in most trout waters from April 9 to May 31. Additionally, trout stocked waters will not be open to catch-and-release during the pre-season this year.

In addition to approximately 570,000 production trout, approximately 6,000 two- and three-year-old broodstock, ranging in size from 14″-26″ and weighing up to 7 pounds will stocked this spring. These trophy-size fish are slated for waters across the state which are suitable for fish of that size and which do not conflict with management goals.

Important Reminders for 2022 NJ Trout Season

According to the 2022 NJ Freshwater Fishing Digest, Brown and brook trout are still available, and regulations are in place to keep it that way (refer to the 2022 Freshwater Fishing Digest for specifics). There are several waters that remain open for catch-and-release trout fishing: Lake Hopatcong (Morris/Sussex), Mountain Lake (Warren), Prospertown Lake (Ocean), Lake Shenandoah (Ocean), Swartswood Lake (Sussex), and the section of Lawrence Brook from Davidsons Mill Rd. to Farrington Lake dam are open year round to fishing.

2022 Freshwater Fishing Digest
The 2022 Freshwater Fishing Digest

Catch and Release Only, Seasonal, and Year-Round Trout Conservation Areas and designated Holdover Trout Lakes are also open to fishing. However, trout caught in any of these waters during this period must be released immediately. Note that, fishing is not permitted on Seasonal Trout Conservation Areas from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. on April 10, 2022. Trout can be harvested from the state’s two Trophy Trout Lakes, Merrill Creek and Round Valley Reservoirs. Remember, check the Freshwater Fishing Digest for all the complete 2022 season regulations.

The “Hook a Winner” program is also in effect! Over 1,000 trout with a tag in its jaw will be stocked. Make sure to take note of the tag and send in your catch info!

Get a License!

It is also important to remember to purchase a NJ fishing license. Everyone knows it is all-too-easy to get away with fishing sans license, due to limited NJ Conservation Police staff, but just don’t. You are only hurting the hunting and angling community, and ultimately, yourself. The money from your license goes right back into our state’s open spaces.

So get out and enjoy!

Get Ready for Fishing Season!

As the latest round of snow slowly melts away and we officially enter spring, that means one thing for anglers in New Jersey – fishing season!

LafayetteBridge

Paulinskill River, Lafayette – Sussex County

Waters that are stocked by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife are now officially closed to fishing until April 8th, 8:00 a.m. It is incredibly important to leave these waters as they are while staff and volunteers stock and allow fish to become acclimated to their new surroundings.

It is also incredibly important that those required purchase a fishing license and know the fishing regulations for New Jersey. I know many people complain about the cost of the licenses for fishing and hunting, but they really are important. These fees help make sure our rivers are stocked, and rules are enforced through conservation officers. They also provide other great programs like Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs (Glenn and I are proud to be a part of) and free licenses for specific groups of people, such as handicapped, senior citizens, and active military. My husband and I always catch and release, but we still purchase a trout stamp because we believe in the work Fish and Game does and we know how limited their budget is. So I ask each and every one of you who requires a fishing license to spend the $22.50 and make the purchase. The cost of a ticket for fishing without a license is FAR more expensive.

Enjoy the fishing season, follow the regulations, fish ethically, and remember to “carry in/carry out.

Tight lines!