New Jersey Fly Fishing
“Although one of the smallest and most densely populated state in the nation, New Jersey offers endless fishing opportunities. From spring migrations of striped bass and American shad in the Delaware River to bayshores and the Atlantic coastline, there’s something for all anglers.”- N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife
- Barnegat Bay Fly Fishing
- Bluefish: Fly Fishing for Bluefish in New Jersey
- Capoolong Creek Fly FIshing
- Flynn’s Knoll Striper Fishing
- Island Beach State Park Fishing
- Liberty State Park Fly Fishing
- Millbrook River Fly Fishing
- New Jersey Fall Run for Stripers, Blues, Weakfish
- Paulinskill River Fly Fishing
- Pequest River Fly Fishing
- Point Pleasant Bluefish
- Prissywick Shoals Stripers
- Ramapo River Fly Fishing
- Raritan & Sandy Hook Bay Fly Fishing
- Raritan River Fly Fishing
- Rockaway River Fly Fishing
- Saddle River Fly Fishing
- Toms River offers southern-exposure trout
New Jersey Saltwater Fishing
Hundreds of square miles of beaches, jetties, inlets, and flats make the Garden State one of the best saltwater destinations on the East Coast.
Because of its proximity to so many anglers, the Garden State’s beaches and estuaries have played a major role in the evolution of saltwater fly rodding. The waters of legendary Barnegat Bay were home to the first chapter of the Salt Water Flyrodders of America in the 1960s. Today, the Atlantic Salt Water Flyrodders carries the banner and several newer clubs have sprung up along this stretch of the mid-Atlantic coast. Fly shops, too, have appeared to address the needs of these anglers.
One reason that New Jersey fishing can sustain itself in the face of this onslaught of humanity is the variety of its offerings. Nearly every type of water is here to satisfy the tastes of any angler. First are the miles of pure white sand beaches. Next, manmade rock jetties that stabilize the beaches and limit sand transfer create prime gathering spots for bait and the gamefish that prey on them, as well as casting platforms for shore-based anglers.
Over a dozen inlets interrupt the coastline, meaning that river mouths and inlets provide thoroughfares for fish and the boat fishermen who pursue them. You’ll also find hundreds of square miles of open bays, wadeable flats, and sheltered marsh creeks, lined by seemingly endless grassy sod banks. Tidal rivers fish well too, for anglers who have spent time to learn their secrets. The inshore ocean waters are accessible to small boats from scores of ports, and offshore sites like Barnegat Ridge, the Mud Hole, and the Baltimore and Wilmington canyons are within reasonable range of more seaworthy crafts.
Mention saltwater fly-fishing venues and most anglers imagine sun-washed tropical bonefish flats or secluded mangrove creeks. Yet, great fishing locales aren’t always in distant or sparsely settled places. A double haul from the most densely settled corridor of the United States lies a fly fishers’ mecca. The 100-mile-long New Jersey coast, from Sandy Hook, within sight of the Manhattan skyline, to Cape May Point, at the entrance to Delaware Bay, can be reached by 50 million people in a day’s drive or less.
What to fish for
Add to the state’s wide range of water types the variety of target species attractive to fly rodders and you can understand why so many anglers trek along New Jersey’s beaches and boat its bays with long rods in hand. Striped bass are the bread-and-butter game species because of their numbers and the long season of their availability. They are viable fly-rod targets from April until December, and there is a chance of catching a trophy fish at any time. While these largely migratory fish are most abundant in fall, especially from Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet, as well as the rips off Cape May, some resident fish are available through the summer in most coastal waters.
Because the populations have increased in recent years, weakfish have become a target of many New Jersey saltwater fishermen.
One of the East’s pleasant surprises has been the return of the weakfish (known as gray trout in the South and squeteague [skwee-teeg] in New England) to New Jersey waters. Their numbers have increased dramatically over the past five or six years. Late April into June is the prime time for the largest numbers and sizes, and double-figure fish are commonly taken in all the major bays. Through the summer large numbers of smaller fish are present, especially during hours of darkness.
Though the numbers of larger specimens have been diminishing in recent years, bluefish still account for many exciting hours offshore, along the oceanfront, and in the bays from April until October or early November. They can show up nearly any time and any place.
False albacore, officially known as the little tunny, can lay claim to the title of most exciting inshore fly-rod species. They’re available for a relatively short time, yet these tackle burners attract hordes of fly fishers to the Jersey coast in September and October. The Atlantic bonito, a cousin to the false albacore, normally appear in late summer. Along the New Jersey coast, as opposed to New England, bonito tend to stay offshore and are generally regarded as a boat fisherman’s quarry. Nevertheless, in the immediate past few years more of these fish have come into range of beach and inshore anglers in August and September.
Striped bass are one of the most pursued gamefish off the coast of New Jersey. Though they are available April-December, your best chances of hooking a trophy fish will be in the fall.
Nearly all the state’s bays and beaches give up fluke (summer flounder) from June until October, and brackish waters of the bays yield wonderful fishing for white perch and young striped bass. While not popular as fly-rod fish, white perch offer an enjoyable change of pace.
Other species also provide sport when the prime players are not available. Spanish and bullet mackerel, which somewhat resemble small false albacore, appear in late summer during the years when Gulf currents push warm waters closer to shore. In deeper offshore waters, shark and tuna (yellowfin, bluefin, and skipjack), and occasionally white marlin, have been getting more play from anglers recently. Dolphin (dorado, mahi-mahi) can be numerous at times and easy to catch by casting to patches of floating grass, other flotsam, or lobster buoys. On occasion, jack crevalle, lesser amberjack, cobia, or other exotics, while they don’t offer a regular, viable fishery, nevertheless make for a novel outing. Juvenile bonefish and Florida pompano have even shown up in bait nets, and a few years ago Bob Popovics filmed a large tarpon lolling in the surf.
In addition to New Jersey’s location on the migratory and spawning routes of the bass, blues, albies, and bonito, a wide variety of baits draw predators into local waters. Sand eels, killifishes, spearing, herring, eels, shrimp, and crabs abound here in late spring and summer. Particularly beginning in September, 4 to 6 inch white mullet, small menhaden, locally known as “peanut bunker”, as well as specimens up to a foot in length, and huge schools of 2 to 4 inch bay anchovies (“rainfish”), attract most fish to the shore. The rich, warm bays and estuaries of major tidal rivers provide nursery waters for prodigious numbers of these forage species.
Because of the wide variety of water types, gamefish and baits, all flies and tackle have a place here, from 4- to 12-weight rods or even higher, and 1-inch to 1-foot flies. For small weakfish, white perch, young bass, and snapper bluefish, I recommend 6- or 7-weight rods. Eight-weight rods are ideal for slightly larger weakfish, school bass, and dolphin. Stripers, larger blues, and false albacore call for 9- or 10-weight rods, and offshore work may require considerably heavier sticks.
A wide range of lines to suit the range of fishing conditions is your most important asset. Although floating lines are best suited for popper fishing, most surf and bay anglers fish sunken flies with intermediate lines that get just below the chop and give better fly control. Most surf fish are taken with intermediate lines, which get just below the chop and give better fly control. When distance is paramount, many anglers use a shooting head setup. One-piece 300- or 400-grain heads are second in popularity only to intermediate lines when it comes to bass and albacore fishing. Most anglers fish the bays for weakfish and fluke with 200- to 500-grain, medium-fast sinking-head lines.
Far and away the most important accessory here is the stripping basket. There are numerous commercial models available though most Garden State anglers fashion their own from plastic dishpans or baskets fitted with bungee cords or belts.
In the summer the coastal waters warm enough for wet wading along the beaches. Other than the hottest months, however, waders are a must (preferably rubber-soled boot foot), with a good waterproof jacket, to fish the surf or wade the bays. Jetty fishing requires Korkers or other spiked footgear. Felt soles won’t work.
For flies, the ubiquitous Clouser Minnow and Lefty’s Deceivers are standards. I believe in carrying a wide range of sizes and colors, again because of the wide range of possible baits and species I might encounter. Of course, this is Bob Popovics country, and his influence on saltwater angling, though worldwide, is nowhere more evident than here. Nearly every New Jersey coastal fly fisher carries an assortment of Popovics’s Jiggies, Surf Candies, Ultra Shrimp, Siliclones, Bangers, or some individually customized versions of these and other Pop Fleyes.
Where to Go
The following represent a sampling of the rich smorgasbord New Jersey offers to saltwater fly anglers. Frank Daignault’s Striper Hot Spots (Globe Pequot Press) assigns a five-fish rating (his highest) to only one New Jersey locale, Sandy Hook. This barrier beach peninsula, running due north with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Sandy Hook Bay on the west, is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The Point is the best-known spot for shore-based anglers but on the bay side there are many great fishing locations, from the bridge at the mouth of the Navesink River to Fort Hancock, a distance of about 5 miles. The ocean-side beaches are also very productive.
I recommend the bay side particularly at night in the fall, although daybreak along the beaches can produce good action during the fall migrations. A small fee is charged to use the park in the summer. Fishermen can use the park after dark with a special pass sold at the ranger station.
Not far south of Sandy Hook, stretching down to Manasquan Inlet, you’ll find what Jerseyites call “jetty country,” because of its 100 or so beach-stabilizing rockpiles. These structures provide temporary residences for striped bass through the season and make excellent casting locations. During summer months, focus on the hours of darkness. Note that these jetties can be difficult to navigate, even with the best creepers. Some are slippery and jagged, so exercise extreme caution at all times.
Offshore fly rodding has been gaining popularity along New Jersey’s coast and Capt. Gene Quigley is one of several who have been tapping into this resource with consistent results. The interesting bottom structure of places like Monster Ledge, east of Manasquan, for example, draws many pelagic species to this part of the New Jersey coast. Due to deeper waters, fish sometimes must be teased or chummed into fly-rod range, but you have a chance to wrestle with some real brutes if that excites your interest.
Nearly midway down the coast is Barnegat Inlet, long ago explored by European seamen, including Sebastian Cabot and Henry Hudson, and dubbed the “inlet of breakers” by Captain Cornelis May.
Island Beach State Park
To the immediate north of the inlet and accessible from Seaside Park is Island Beach State Park, boasting about 10 miles of sand beaches. Seasonal and 3-day passes available at the entrance to the park, allow four-wheel-drive vehicles to cruise the sands. This narrow barrier spit ends at a long jetty that guards the north side of the inlet.
The south side of the inlet is bordered by an even longer jetty at the northern tip of an 18-mile long barrier island known as Long Beach Island. Beach buggies are allowed along much of that island too, but each township requires separate passes.
Famed Barnegat Bay lies between the mainland and the barriers of Island Beach and Long Beach Island (yes, the names do get confusing). Its shallow, fertile waters supply forage and refuge for weakfish, fluke, striped bass, and bluefish. You can reach the bay from either of the islands or a number of ports on the mainland. The east side of the bay is a bit shallower than the west, and the long flats on the bay side of Island Beach State Park are a delight to wade for weakfish and stripers, especially in spring and early summer. In May and June, casting popping bugs to small bluefish is popular throughout the bay.
Long Beach Island
You can launch your own from Beach Haven on Long Beach Island or from Tuckerton on the mainland to get to the waters of Little Egg Inlet and Great Bay, south of Long Beach Island. There is a lot of water here to explore, and shore anglers can access the grassy marsh creeks and sod banks via Seven Bridges Road from Tuckerton. Great Egg Inlet and the bay behind Ocean City, Corson’s Inlet, Townsend’s Inlet, and Hereford Inlets (north to south) can all be productive areas. Some shore access is available at each, and marinas are close to all. The topography of the shore between Ocean City and Wildwood is different from northern New Jersey (generally more gradually sloping) and the bars and inlets are more susceptible to change with seasonal flow changes.
Unquestionably, the best venue at the bottom of the state is the area around Cape May, at the southern extremity of the Garden State Parkway. Cold Spring Inlet, between Cape May and Wildwood Crest, is a prime location, and the jetties of Cape May Point, immediately to the west, is weakfish country. Daignault picked Cape May as the number one weakfish venue from Delaware to Maine, and with good reason. Delaware Bay’s spring weakfish run has been recovering in recent years and although it doesn’t approach the glory days of the ’60s and ’70s, double-figure fish are not uncommon.
Since many of the gamefish and baits are migratory, the New Jersey shore usually offers less consistent fly-fishing opportunities than many New England venues. Nevertheless, the longer season, accessibility, and various options balance the account. The late Frank Wentink, fly-tying author and traveling fisherman, claimed that he never experienced more exciting fishing anywhere than he had when the slammer bluefish (10-pound plus) invaded New Jersey’s beaches. If you want to pursue the opportunities and explore the potential of the New Jersey coast, I suggest you get a good road map and consult Jim Freda’s recently released book, Fishing the New Jersey Coast (Burford Books, 2001). While not exclusively devoted to fly fishing, it is filled with detailed information about New Jersey fishing. Finally, since the state has so many resort towns, like Cape May, Ocean City, Atlantic City, consider incorporating a family outing into your fishing excursion.
New Jersey Trout Fishing
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) partnered with Trout Unlimited and other organizations on stream improvement projects, and the NJDFW’s hatchery, built in 1980, is paying dividends. The 1,600-acre facility, one of the foremost trout-rearing facilities in the country, produces more than 700,000 disease- and parasite-free brook, brown, and rainbow trout annually. These stockers range from 10- to 12-inch to 16- to 20-inch trout. The hatchery’s proficiency has allowed the division to expand stocking to fall and winter, making trout fishing in New Jersey a year-round proposition.
In addition, New Jersey trout fishing continues to improve because the number of fishermen has declined, says NJDFW spokesman Al Ivany. “License sales have dropped because of the competition now for free time, and there have been two license price increases over the past few years. We always see a drop in sales after a price increase,” he adds.
Big Flat Brook
The Big Flat Brook starts in the northwest corner of the state and flows south more than 28 miles through mostly public land on the west side of Kittatinny Mountain until it joins the Delaware River at Flatbrookville. Some of the state’s most spectacular unspoiled panoramic vistas lie along its lengths. The river is a classic freestone stream with clear water tumbling over a rock-and-gravel bottom into deep pools and swift, oxygenated rapids and runs ideal for trout.
The Big Flat Brook, however, was almost a river that wasn’t. In the early 1960s, the river was doomed to be swallowed by a 37-mile lake as the result of a proposed dam at Tocks Island on the Delaware River.
The dam was a hotbed of controversy in the Delaware Valley for more than ten years, until Congress declared the area part of the national park system, prohibiting development and shelving the project.
The federal government collected nearly 70,000 acres of land on both sides of the Delaware during the dam preparations. After the project was scrapped, the land went to the National Park Service and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was born. [See www.nps.gov/dewa/ for maps and more information on the portion of the Big Flat Brook within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Editor.]
With the Big Flat Brook’s upper reaches surrounded by Stokes State Forest, and the lower reaches in the national recreation area, the river enjoys open space and habitat protection. It also holds a Category One classification from the NJDFW, meaning that it has the highest possible water quality to sustain a trout population.
The Big Flat Brook has several miles of public water above and below the concrete bridge on Route 206. The first 4 miles downstream from the Route 206 bridge to the Roy Bridge on Mountain Road is one of New Jersey’s two designated “fly fishing areas.” The half-mile Blewett Tract portion–the other–on the Big Flat Brook extends from Three Bridges Road to a point upstream of the junction of the Big Flat Brook and Little Flat Brook, and is clearly defined by markers.
Below Roy Bridge along County Road 615, the river widens to 40 to 60 feet. This deeper water holds some of the largest trout. There are posted areas south of Walpack Center at the Overlook Fish and Game Club and Brookhill Farm, but below that more public fishing can be enjoyed down to Flatbrookville and the Delaware River.
Links to Online Resources
Along the New Jersey coast the month of June traditionally holds some of the best fishing since the onset of the early spring
There is quite a lag between time of high and low tides and time of the change in direction in some of the favorite local haunts…
Now is the time when jumbo blues and cow stripers put on the feedbag in preparation for the long winter ahead.
general fishing guide for fishing in the Skylands
kayak fishing in New Jersey
Saltwater magazine with articles for the saltwater fisherman
Pound for pound, the hybrid striped bass rates right up there with the best of the fresh water fish when it comes to putting up a good fight once hooked
Shaped by storm and tides, Island Beach State Park is a narrow barrier island stretching for 10 miles between the restless Atlantic Ocean and the historic Barnegat Bay.
Trout and striper fishing on Lake Hopatcong
Flyrodding The “New” Jersey Shore & Teaching Others Saltwater Flyfishing
In Monmouth County, just to the south of Sandy Hook, there are approximately twenty-five miles of coastline that are available for the fly fisher to shoot the suds…
New Jersey saltwater flies from Bayshore Saltwater Flyrodders
Now is the time when jumbo blues and cow stripers put on the feedbag
Overlooked Angling in the Garden State
Saltwater fishing for bluefish in New Jersey
The northern portion of coastal Ocean County stretches from the Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet, a distance of approximately twenty-five miles…
The Pequannock River offers the longest stretch of wild trout waters in the state
Sandy Hook (above) is a seven-mile barrier spit surrounded by water on three sides. It offers public beach access to world-class striped bass fishing within sight of the New York City skyline.
Fly fishing for striped bass in New Jersey in winter
a great source for striped bass fishing information
A great resource for saltwater fishing in New Jersey
You’ll find bluefin tuna swinging into Sea Isle Ridge this year.
trout fishing in New Jersey today is better than it has ever been…
Bob Popovics’ Surf Candy, as shown here, had evolved from years of experimenting with epoxy.
Surf fishing from jetties in New Jersey
Saltwater fly fishing club in New jersey.
Bayshore New Jersey Saltwater fly fishing club .
Established in 1966, the Berkeley Striper Club is one of the largest and most active surf-fishing clubs in New Jersey.
The Pequannock River Coalition is dedicated to the preservation of the Pequannock River as a natural, recreational, aesthetic and water supply resource
dedicated to fly fishing in southern New Jersey
lots of topics and postings
various NJ saltwater fishing reports
Lower Delaware, Musconectong, Pequest, & So. Branch of the Raritan
featuring New Jersey fishing reports from charter boats, party boats and tackle shops
New Jersey Fly Fishing Forums
New York and New Jersey forums
all about striper fishing on the east coast
New Jersey Fly Fishing Shops
900 Pleasure Avenue, Ocean City NJ 08226-3408; 1-888-354-7335
28 Route 46 West, Pine Brook NJ, 07058; 973-244-5990