March 1, 2024

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New Jersey Fishing Seasons. The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 11 minutes

From the Delaware River out to the Atlantic Ocean, the “Garden State” is full of fine fishing spots. Add a smattering of ponds and streams, along with bays, too, and you can expect some of the best angling action on the entire East Coast here.

It may get a little cold this far north in winter, but there’s still world-class fishing action year-round here. But not all of the fish will be biting at the same time. That’s why we’ve put this guide together. Read on to find out all about New Jersey fishing seasons. By the time you’re done, you’ll know exactly when to come to get your hands on the fish of your dreams. So let’s get started.

What fish are in season in New Jersey and when?

As we’ve already alluded to, the answer to this depends on when you come – and where you go. Saltwater fishing peaks in fall, for example, but is great from April onwards. Despite this, you may even find a hardy charter captain ready to take you out in winter, when Rockfish (Striped Bass) are available in the bays.

While fishing in the freshwater realm sees two peak seasons, in spring and fall, there’s also the possibility of an ice fishing trip in the depths of winter. And, if your heart is set on a summer fishing vacation, head out first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and the opportunities are endless. But let’s take a closer look at when you can catch what.

New Jersey Saltwater Fishing Seasons

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Black Drum Weak Weak Weak Weak Great Great Good Good Fair Weak Weak Weak
Black Seabass Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Closed Great Great Great
Bluefish Good Fair Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Cobia Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Great Closed Closed Closed
Cod Great Great Good Fair Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Great
Flounder / Fluke Fair Fair Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Good Fair Fair
Kingfish Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Great Great Great Good Fair Weak
Mahi Mahi Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Great Great Good Fair Weak
Marlin Weak Weak Weak Weak Fair Great Great Great Great Great Good Weak
Porgy Good Good Fair Weak Weak Weak Fair Good Great Great Good Good
Redfish Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Good
Rockfish Great Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Sharks Great Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Great Good Weak
Tuna Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Great Good
Weakfish Weak Weak Weak Fair Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Good

New Jersey Freshwater Fishing Seasons

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Largemouth Bass Fair Fair Fair Good Great Great Fair Fair Good Great Great Fair
Musky Good Good Fair Fair Great Great Good Good Great Great Good Good
Smallmouth Bass Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Great Great Great Good Good Great Good
Trout Fair Fair Good Good Great Great Good Weak Weak Fair Good Fair
Walleye Good Good Good Good Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed
Yellow Perch Great Great Great Great Great Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Good Great

You can see from the tables above that New Jersey’s fishing seasons are all about diversity. There really is something for everyone in this multi-faceted state, whenever you visit. Before we dive into a month-by-month breakdown of New Jersey fishing seasons, feel free to check what’s biting now with the latest fishing reports. Or, you can hone in on whenever you plan on visiting:


If you can’t wait to kick off the year with some angling action, don’t worry. While the depth of winter is not the most popular fishing season in New Jersey, with a bit of luck, you can end up successful. Ice fishing varies from year to year but the northernmost lakes in the state should be safe enough. You’ll want ice at least 4 inches thick before setting out, and then you could get your hands on Pickerel, Perch, Walleye, Pike, and even a Musky!

But we also get that it’s New Jersey’s saltwater fishery that’s earned it praise from all over the world. That’s why a trip to the bays may be your most desired option come winter. If you can find a hardy captain to take you to the reefs, there’ll be plenty of Cod biting. Otherwise, the bays are full of New Jersey’s favorite fish – Rockfish! And with Porgy also showing up in great numbers, you’re sure to land something to savor.


A closeup of a Crappie laying on the ice after being caught in the winter in New Jersey

It’s more of the same come February. Ice fishing will only be possible if it’s stayed cold enough – and if it was possible in January to begin with. The central portion of the state could even offer up some exciting action if there’s been a cold snap. Nothing is off-limits, with even warm-water creatures like Crappie and Black Bass varieties joining their cold-water brethren under the ice.

There’s no need to worry if it’s been too warm, though. On the contrary. The brackish waters around estuaries and bays offer a haven to plenty of prized fish creatures. While Striper Bass will be fewer in number this month, Flounder and Black Seabass begin to show up. They’re not quite ready to harvest yet, so make sure to practice catch and release. But if you’re feeling hungry, turn your attention to Porgy and Cod further out. – if you can find a captain to take you, that is.


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

While it’s not quite peak fishing season in New Jersey yet, there’s a sign that times are changing come March. With warmer weather comes more fish, and some restrictions start easing up too. Flounder season officially kicks off, so you can get your early fill of these delicious creatures in the bays and flats. Meanwhile, there’s always the chance of a Rockfish in Raritan Bay, and Cod out on the reefs.

Freshwater fishing season kicks off in earnest too with the first signs of spring. The upstate streams start seeing some Trout action, while Perch and Walleye are all the rage in lakes, such as Merrill Creek Reservoir. With most charter captains and freshwater guides waiting until April to kick off their season, March is the perfect time to get out on your own and practice your skills!


An elderly angler sitting on a New Jersey charter boat while holding a Flounder

Things really start to get going come April, with some early arrivers joining the old favorites inshore. Freshwater fishing is red-hot, too, with spawning season getting underway in the streams, while plenty of hatcheries also open up this time of year. We’re talking the first serious Trout action of the year, while Yellow Perch, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye are also going strong.

All eyes in saltwater are on one fish – Rockfish. These East Coast favorites hit their peak fishing season in New Jersey come spring, and you could grab a monster one if you hit the Delaware and Raritan Bays, along with Flounder and Tautog, too. The good news is that there will be plenty of charter captains ready to take you out. Book a trip with them and start the fishing season off in style!


A closeup of an angler holding a small Black Seabass, with the water behind him

If the loosening of regulations in March got you excited to hit the water, wait until you see what May has in store. As spring really kicks up a notch, so does the fishing – and New Jersey recognizes this. Fishing inshore and nearshore is all the rage, as Black Seabass join Rockfish to ensure you’re almost guaranteed a delicious dinner after a day on the water. Then, there are still Flounder, who are joined by Black Drum and Weakfish in the shallows. As if that wasn’t enough, Sharks start arriving to give you that adrenaline-pumping battle.

In freshwater, things keep on going from strength to strength. The Trout action in the Wanaque, Raritan, and lower Musconetcong Rivers is enough to entice even the most experienced fly angler. Meanwhile, Muskies steal the limelight for those using conventional gear. Hit Mercer Lake in central NJ or even the Delaware River, and you could get your hands on this ancient, battle-hard beast.


A smiling angler stands on a boat holding a Kingfish he just caught

You know that the end of spring and beginning of summer usually heralds in great fishing. The arrival of warm weather finally brings with it a load of fish who can now feel comfortable in the waters around the Jersey Shore, while calmer waters make an offshore adventure out of, say Atlantic City or Cape May possible. The Cobia and Kingfish seasons kick off just a few miles from shore, while the inshore favorites are all going strong. Some pelagics, like Mahi Mahi and Marlin also start showing up for those looking for a bucket-list catch.

With the good weather, there’s never been a better time to hit the state’s parks and set up camp for the day. Bring the whole family for some fishing fun in the lakes across the state, where Bass will be biting wherever they swim. There’s a reason the Big Bass Association’s tournament season gets underway in June, as Smallmouth varieties show up in good numbers to join their Largemouth cousins. With Musky and Trout fishing still going strong in the Round Valley Reservoir, you’ll be hard-pressed to make your mind up about where to go.


Two anglers hold a large Marlin caught while offshore fishing in New Jersey

June’s Bass tournaments were just there to get you warmed up for the offshore fishing treat that lies in store come July. Starting with the 4th of July Mid Atlantic Blue Marlin Cup, through the South Jersey Offshore Showdown, all the way to the Cape May Marlin Tournament that sees out the month. Check ’em all out here. This should tell you all you need to know, right? It’s Marlin fishing season in New Jersey!

It’s not just Marlin that’s available offshore. No siree. Mahi Mahi and a range of Tuna and Sharks provide a worthy supporting cast to the stars of the show. Meanwhile, nearshore, Kingfish and Cobia are on the menu. With Rockfish, Fluke, Bluefish, Weakfish, and Seabass in the cards, too, you won’t know where to look! And for those of you wanting a relaxing day near freshwater, it’s all about the Smallmouth Bass action.


Two anglers sitting and one standing while displaying two thumbs up after catching a Tuna in New Jersey's peak fishing season

There’s no letting up on the deep sea action side of things. And with school out, where better to head for summer vacation than the boardwalk and beyond? Billfish, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi are still the talk of the town when it comes to action in the Atlantic. And for good reason. All of these pelagics promise to put up a fight like you’ve never experienced before, with two of them offering up plenty in the way of delicious meat to light up the BBQ back on the beach.

Closer to shore, there’s plenty for you to target too. Redfish start to join the shallow water party, with Seabass, Flounder, Weakfish, Kingfish, and the evergreen Rockfish also going strong. These promise a bottom fishing frenzy, but you can also try trolling for Cobia, too. As we said, what better way to wrap up the summer than by getting out on the Garden State’s overflowing waters?


A closeup shot of a female angler holding a large Sheepshead during the fishing season in New Jersey

Now, you may think that it couldn’t get any better than the height of summer in New Jersey. We’re here to let you in on a little secret. Actually, fall fishing can be even better! Not only are the pelagics and nearshore creatures still on fire, but they’ve also grown to impressive sizes. And, with fewer holiday-makers out on the water, you’ll have more of the fishing grounds to yourself!

Whether hitting a New Jersey fishing pier, fishing from the surf, or heading out with a captain, you’ll be going after an enviable list of fish. From Red and Black Drum and oversized Sheepshead to Rockfish, Cobia, Porgy, and Kingfish, all the way to the world-famous pelagics offshore, you’re guaranteed to land something memorable. If you can, we suggest holding off on that summer vacation and coming to enjoy New Jersey’s fall fishing season.


An angler in sunglasses holding a Bluefish with the water behind him

You’d be forgiven for thinking that things would finally start winding down come October. But there’s still time to get in on the thrilling action that New Jersey has to offer. While you’ll need to beware that the Cobia season is closed once more, there are plenty of Kingfish, Porgy, and Sharks patrolling the waters a few miles offshore. Keep heading to the Gulf Stream, and you’ll still be able to land a Marlin or Tuna, too.

Despite this, most anglers turn their attention to the bays, where Rockfish are at their biggest and strongest. But there’s more. Weakfish and Bluefish provide serious backup, especially in the Great Bay. Meanwhile, Black Seabass are back on the menu after a month’s restrictions.

But let’s not forget inland! It’s all go once more when it comes to New Jersey’s freshwater fishing seasons. Trout are about to start their fall run, while both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass are available in good numbers, along with some Musky for good company. With all the above, you can see why one of New Jersey’s free fishing days takes place in October!


A view of four Trout tied together on the grass after being caught in New Jersey during the yearly freshwater fishing season

Finally, things start cooling down offshore and, with the potential for bad weather, you won’t feel too bad about it. That being said, if you find a clear day, there’s no reason not to head to the deep waters in search of Tuna, Marlin, and Mahi Mahi. It may be a safer bet to stay closer to shore, however. But that’s no problem. Redfish, Rockfish, Weakfish, and Bluefish, are all in the cards in the bays, while Cod and Porgy rule the roost near the reefs.

Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout return to the fore in freshwater streams, while Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike steal the show in lakes across the state. Wherever you head, you’ll have plenty of action to keep you warm as the cold starts to kick in. And why not land a tasty fish for the holidays? While it may not be traditional, we’re sure that the whole family will enjoy the fruits of your labor!


An angler holding a Smallmouth Bass caught in New Jersey in the winter fishing season

Just as we started the year with plenty of angling options, so we’ll see the year out. If you hadn’t already gathered by now, the fishing never stops in the Garden State. Much as in November, attention stays on the bays in December, with Rockfish and Bluefish enticing anglers to land something for a delicious dinner. And, if it’s calm enough, we suggest you head to the reefs, where Cod, Porgy, and Seabass won’t let you down, either.

Before the ice fishing season kicks in, there’s one last chance to hit some of the productive lakes and streams across the state. While Largemouths have gone into hiding for the winter, Smallmouths are still around in some numbers. But it’s really time for other fish to shine, with Yellow Perch taking center stage to get you excited for a trip on the frozen lakes. Not a bad way to end the year, eh?

NJ Fishing Seasons: There’s Always Something Going On!

A view along a pier towards the ocean on a quiet day in New Jersey

So there you have it! Whenever you visit, New Jersey has something to offer you. Top-grade Trout streams? Check. Productive reservoirs? You bet. Inshore fishing from piers? More than you could shake a stick at. And the might of the Atlantic Ocean, as well. What else were you expecting? Now all that’s left is to check again when your desired species is in season and make the Garden State your next fishing destination. Fish on!

And now over to you! What’s your favorite fishing season in New Jersey? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The post New Jersey Fishing Seasons: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Rhys
Title: New Jersey Fishing Seasons: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2023 18:17:31 +0000

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