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May 15, 2001


For more information contact:
Al Ivany at 609-292-2084

As part of National Boating and Fishing Week, June 1-10, the Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife has announced that Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, are this year's annual Free Fishing Days in New Jersey. On these days anyone may fish the Garden State's public waters without a license or trout stamp. All other regulations, including size and daily limits, remain in effect.

"Free Fishing Days are a great opportunity for parents who don't fish to join their children or friends who do," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "We also invite individuals from out of state to take advantage of not having to purchase a license to sample some of the finest freshwater fishing opportunities in the Northeast."

This year, the Division has undertaken a special effort to promote Free Fishing Days through radio and television public service announcements produced in partnership with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. In addition, banners were placed on selected wildlife management area signs statewide to encourage individuals to visit the website at where a custom page has been set up especially for Free Fishing Days.


Freshwater fishing in New Jersey has never been better. There are more kinds of fish and more places for the public to catch them than ever before. Muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish and lake trout now roam New Jersey's larger lakes such as Round Valley Reservoir, Spruce Run Reservoir, Monksville Reservoir, Manasquan Reservoir, Swartswood Lake, Union Lake and Lake Hopatcong. New state records are established for these species often as our stocking programs expand and fish sizes increase. Even the fisheries biologists are amazed at how well some of these stocking programs are working in regard to both the numbers of fish and the size of fish available. With the newly renovated Hackettstown Hatchery in full production, fishing in New Jersey can only get better.

Although trout stocking will be over by the end of May, many anglers feel that June is one of the best months for trout fishing. Most of our better, larger trout streams such as the Big Flatbrook, Pequest, Paulinskill, Musconetcong and the South Branch of the Raritan River will still be loaded with trout from the previous two months of stocking. After several weeks in the stream, the condition of trout improves and they look and act more like their wild counterparts. Trout conservation areas are highly recommended, but please abide by the special regulations in effect for these waters.


Free Fishing Days provide the perfect chance to become acquainted with a terrific outdoor activity. For beginners, classes are also offered free of charge at the Division's Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center in Warren County on both days. Fishing classes at Pequest are by registration only, and the public is urged to call early (908-637-4125) to register. In addition to fishing classes, Pequest offers many exhibits and displays about wildlife, a butterfly garden, picnic areas and hiking trails. There is also a handicapped-accessible along the Pequest River. The facility is located on Rt. 46, nine miles west of Hackettstown in scenic Warren County.

For beginners who may not be able to attend a class, the Division's website has a wealth of information on how to get started. The page offers information on current regulations, equipment, species fact sheets, valuable links to related fishing sites and much more.


As far as waterways are concerned, New Jersey hosts more than 8,600 miles of streams and over 4,100 freshwater lakes, ponds and impoundments larger than one acre. In addition, the Division acquires several new Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) each year that are open and available to the public. Some of these areas boast additional fishing opportunities for Garden State anglers. Most areas are posted with Division property signs and have ample parking areas and fishing access points.

Those who are in need of a place to fish can pick up a copy of the Division's Places To Fish brochure at the nearest Division office or purchase a copy of the Open Spaces and Wild Places map available for an over-the-counter cost of $3. Similar to a road map, it offers wildlife enthusiasts information on accessing public open space in the Garden State and is presented in an informative, easy to read format. Information on where to fish is also available online at the Division's website.


Anglers should also note that New Jersey has two official fishing recognition programs -- the State Record Fish Program which honors the largest species of fish caught in the state and the Skillful Angler Program which recognizes anglers who catch fish of "not quite record," but nonetheless substantial size. Each revolves around a specific list of eligible freshwater and saltwater species. The Record Fish Program is based on weight alone (there are no line classes) and the Skillful Angler Program involves a minimum weight requirement for each species category listed. Scale certification documentation and a weighmaster's signature are necessary. Other specific rules apply. For more information or to request an application, call 609-633-7768.

In addition, the International Game Fish Association honors line-class categories in New Jersey. In fact, the categories for brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass and channel catfish are currently vacant. Any catch over a pound, in any qualifying species could qualify for a New Jersey freshwater line class record recognized by the IGFA. Catch and release is acceptable. For a list of eligible record species and an application form visit