New Jersey Saltwater Anglers Can Now Fish for Free

The state's new web-based registry eliminates licensing fees and helps with fishery management

The state has set up a web-based saltwater fishing registry, a system that is keeping recreational saltwater fishing in New Jersey a sport anyone can enjoy without having to pay fees.

Before the registry was put in place, saltwater anglers in New Jersey had to pay $15 to a federal agency for a fishing license. The system is part of an effort to improve the quality of data used in fisheries management, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Creating a free state registry was lauded by the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, which worked closely with the governor’s office and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We realize the DEP has profound responsibilities to protect public health, safety and the environment, all with increasingly limited room for budgetary maneuvers,” said Anthony Mauro, chairman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance. “So we applaud DEP Commissioner Bob Martin for working to implement this system in the most efficient means possible within his agency’s current budget.”

Saltwater fishing is an important economic engine for New Jersey, providing 38,000 jobs and a $1.2 billion annual boost to the state’s economy, according to officials. Upward of 1 million people fish in New Jersey’s coastal waters.

“This registry allows us to comply with a federal mandate to have a system in place to collect better data from recreational anglers and better manage fishery resources that are so important to our economy, at the same time exempting anglers from fees and keeping saltwater fishing in New Jersey free,” said Martin.

Legislation creating a free saltwater registry was signed by Gov. Chris Christie in February. Martin signed an administrative order creating the registry.

The Garden State’s new saltwater system replaces a fee-based federal registry that New Jersey was required to participate in and which has been in effect since January. All saltwater anglers and for-hire vessel operators will now be able to register through the state system rather than the federal system.

Anglers still must register with the state system even if they already registered with the federal system and will not get their $15 fee refunded.

Those who fish from a for-hire party or charter fishing vessel that is registered with the New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program are not required to register for individual licenses. Everyone 16 or older must register and carry the printed registration with them when fishing. People who fish for shellfish, such as crabs, clams or lobster are not required to register, though licenses or permits may be required, depending on the gear used.