To most outsiders New Jersey is best known for its busy highways, less than scenic views from the turnpike, and as the home of HBO's hit series the Sopranos. However, those of us who live and kayak fish in the Garden state know better. The truth is that New Jersey offers a wide variety of both fresh and salt water fishing opportunities for kayak anglers.
Have Kayak, will Travel
The good news is that if you plan on kayak fishing in NJ you will not have to travel very far. In fact, you can drive from the top of NJ to the bottom in less than 3 hours making day trips very easy to plan. There are also many campsites, bed & breakfasts, and hotels throughout the state if you want to get away for the weekend or longer.
The northern part of the NJ is dotted with fresh water lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams that hold many popular fresh water game-fish and pan fish including: large mouth bass, small mouth bass, northern pike, muskellunge, pickerel, walleye, hybrid bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, Lake Trout, salmon, common carp, grass carp, channel catfish, bullhead catfish, yellow perch, white perch, white crappie, black crappie, blue gills, sunfish, rock bass, and more. All of these fish species are available within 1 hour drive of New York City and Newark Airport. If your are not sure what bodies of water are open to the public you can visit the NJ Fish and Game website. There you will find a list of places to fish, the state fishing regulations, licensing information, and a wealth of resources about NJ's fisheries.
Although the northern section of NJ is not well known for its saltwater fishery there is one noticeable exception. The NJ Meadowlands offers a relatively easy access to a salt water marsh system that holds a good number of fish species including: striped bass, blue fish, weakfish, winter & summer flounder, and many more. The Meadowlands is also a kayak friendly system complete with launch ramps, good parking facilities, and a River Keeper who is dedicated to protecting this fragile ecosystem from pollution and development. The River Keeper Center also offers guided kayak tours of the ecosystem for a reasonable fee.
Central & Southern Regions
The Central and Southern sections of NJ are also very rich with fresh fishing opportunities which include most of the species available up north. However, the largest draw to the central and southern portions of the state is the access to the salt water bays, beaches, and the open ocean. New Jersey has over 100 miles of beach front, many inlets, and an extensive intracoastal systems of bays, estuaries, salt marshes, and tidal rivers. The top saltwater game-fish in this region include: striped bass, blue fish, weakfish, winter & summer flounder, black fish, sea bass, false albecore, mackerel, porgies, cod, northern kingfish, hickory shad, many species of sharks, and the occasional red or black drum. For those willing to venture out a little farther tuna can also be targeted in season. All of the salt water fishing regulations can be found on the NJ Fish and Game website. NJ does not require a salt water fishing license at this time, but that may change in the near future.
New Jersey is a highly populated state with lots of private property and no trespassing signs, but there is still plenty of public access for kayak anglers to launch safely without breaking any laws. Always be sure to do your homework before launching to avoid unnecessary parking tickets or fines. Launch locations and public access points for NJ can be found online with a little effort. The NJ Fish and Game web site is great place to start. There are also online paddling resources that offer this type of information as well including the Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association, the Hackensack River Keeper Website, and Kayak Fishing Stuff. Great care should be taken when launching a kayak through the surf zone into the open ocean. If you have never surf launched a kayak before you need to practice in the warm summer months with no additional gear. Once you have become proficient at surf launching you should find a friendly group of kayak anglers to join out on the open water. When kayak fishing in the ocean there is definitely safety in numbers. Note: You can find home videos of kayak surf clinics online and will learn much from others mistakes.
Kayak anglers are required to carry a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), a whistle or sound making device (air-horn), and a signaling mirror. PFDs MUSt be worn by kayakers 14 and under, adults need only have it within reach, but why take chances with your safety. A PFD will only save your life if you are wearing it. Coastal kayak anglers should also carry a VHF Marine Band Radio, a compass, GPS, and possibly a satellite location device. It is also a very good idea for all kayakers to leave a float plan with a friend or family member. A responsible kayak angler should take every precaution to avoid becoming a statistic! When kayak fishing during the cold water periods of Spring, late fall, and winter it is very important to be wearing protective clothing in the event that you fall off of your kayak and into the water. Dry suits are the best option. Wetsuits will suffice, but will not be as comfortable as a good dry suit.
New Jersey is without a doubt one of the best kayak fishing destinations in the Northeast. Kayak anglers can fish from early spring until late fall for both fresh and salt water species all within a relatively short distance of home. If you live and fish in New Jersey and do not fish from a kayak – get one! It will greatly increase your fishing opportunities, get you closer to the action, and because kayaking is a green activity you will be doing your part to make the world around you a better place.