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!