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[C] Freshwater | Regulations & Permits




Know before you go. Get up to date with our latest freshwater fishing regulations. Visit the links below or consult our Freshwater Fishing Digest to learn about season dates, creel sizes, and much more.


NJDEP’s Fish and Wildlife issues a variety of permits related to the long-term protection and wise use of the state’s freshwater aquatic resources. Applicants should carefully review both the information below and the  Attention Applicant Information Document to avoid common mistakes that delay the processing of an application. Incomplete applications, or those lacking the required additional information (photos, maps, etc.), will be returned. Questions concerning this information can be directed to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries staff at 908-236-2118 (north) or at 609-259-6964 (south). Checks are to be made payable to NJFW.

frequently asked questions

A Boat Ramp Maintenance Permit is required for any vehicle used to transport or launch a boat or other water conveyance by persons who do not possess and display a copy of their current valid New Jersey hunting, fishing or trapping license at the following boat launch sites: Assunpink WMA, Dennis Creek WMA, Mad Horse Creek WMA, Menantico Ponds WMA, Prospertown WMA, Round Valley Recreation Area (angler access ramp), Tuckahoe WMA, and Union Lake WMA. Boat Ramp Maintenance Permits are sold through Fish and Wildlife’s license web site ( and at all license agents. The permit is valid for the calendar year.

Valid Boat Ramp permits, or copies of valid hunting and fishing licenses, must be displayed in the rear driver’s side window while using areas designated above. Personal information, such as name, address and date of birth, may be blacked out. New Jersey residents 70 years and older are not required to obtain a boat ramp maintenance permit and need no license but must affix to their driver’s side rear window proof of age, such as a former license displaying your date of birth. The permit helps cover the costs of maintenance for these areas that are otherwise the sole burden of hunters and anglers.

License Web Site

License Agents
A Commercial Baitfish Permit allows the taking of baitfish, other than alewife (anadromous and landlocked) and blueback herring, from the fresh waters of the state, in numbers greater than the recreational daily limit. Only alewife (landlocked) may only be taken from lakes, 250 acres or greater. Only one device may be operated per permit. Gear types/size are dependent on the size of the waterbody.

In lakes and ponds under 100 acres, a seine net not over 30 feet in length may be used, and in lakes over 100 acres, a seine not over 50 feet in length may be used. Minnow traps not larger than 24 inches in length with a funnel mouth no greater than two inches in diameter, and an umbrella net no greater than 3.5 feet square may be used in any of the freshwaters of the State with this permit. All traps must be marked with the name and address of the permittee.

Monthly harvest reports are required, and must be submitted to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries by the fifteenth of the following month for the duration of the permit even if no baitfish were harvested. Failure to comply with reporting requirements may result in permit revocation or denial of future applications.

In trout stocked waters and special regulation areas (Trophy Trout and Holdover Trout Lakes, Seasonal and Year-Round Trout Conservation Areas, and designated Catch and Release Areas, Trout Stocked Wild Brown Trout Managed, and Wild Trout Streams) baitfish may not be taken during the pre-season stocking closure through June 15. At all other times in these waters, baitfish may only be taken up to the daily limit with a seine not over 10 feet in length and four feet in depth or a minnow trap not larger than 24 inches in length with a funnel mouth no greater than two inches in diameter or an umbrella net no greater than 3.5 feet square. The use of cast nets is not permitted in these waters at any time.

Baitfish Application (pdf, 150kb)

Baitfish Species (pdf, 17kb)

Baitfish Harvest Report Form (pdf, 21kb)
This license is for the operation of a public “pay-for-fishing” establishment. For information, contact 609-984-0530.

Application for Commercial Fishing Preserve License(pdf, 58kb)
The harvest of certain species of wildlife from fresh waters of the state in excess of established recreational daily limits is permitted under special commercial permits issued by Fish and Wildlife. Commercial permits are issued for the taking of snapping turtles, bullfrogs and green frogs, and various species of fish other than baitfish using certain gear types (haul seines, gill nets and fykes). Each permit carries specific timing, gear, and species restrictions to afford protection to targeted and non-targeted wildlife species. All permits require the submittal of monthly harvest reports. Except for snapping turtles, only one device may be operated per permit. All commercial harvest permits issued by the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries are valid in fresh waters of the state only; separate rules apply in marine waters.

Commercial Harvest Permits Include:
Bullfrog/Green Frog – Bull frogs and green frogs may be taken by means of spears, hooks, dip nets (not more than 24 inches in diameter), traps or by hand. A person shall not take, kill or have in possession a bull or green frog from April 1 to June 30. Taking, or attempting to take any other species of frog is prohibited.

Fykes – Fyke nets may be used from November 1 to April 30 for all species of foodfish. Leaders must not exceed 30 feet, and mesh size must be at least ¾ inch, and no greater than 3 inches (stretched).

Gill Net (Drifting/Staked) – Drifting gill nets may be used from March 1 to June 15 for all species of food fish. Gill nets must not exceed 100 feet in length, with a mesh size of 5¼ inches or greater (stretched). Gill nets with a mesh size of 2¾ inches or greater, and not greater than 200 feet in length may be used from May 1 to June 10 for the purpose of taking white perch only. No more than one gill net may be used from a boat. Gill nets, drifting or staked, may not be used in freshwaters rivers or streams where migratory Alewife or Blueback Herring are known to occur.

Haul Seine – Haul seines may be used from November 1 to April 30 for all species of foodfish. Hauls seines must not exceed 420 feet in length, with a mesh size of 2¾ inches or greater (stretched). Only one haul seine may be used from a boat.

Miniature Fykes – Miniature fykes or pots may be used from March 15 to December 15 for the taking of carp, catfish, suckers and eels. Fykes may not exceed 16 inches in diameter. All other species of fish caught incidentally must immediately be returned, unharmed, to the waters from which they were taken.

Snapping Turtle – Effective June 25, 2016, commercial harvest permits for snapping turtles will only be issued to permittees who have received a permit(s) from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2014, and have submitted a harvest report(s) prior to January 1, 2015, indicating the harvest of at least one turtle during that time period.
Only snapping turtles with a minimum carapace length of 12 inches may be harvested. Snapping turtles may be taken by means of spears, angling with hook and line, dip nets not more than 24 inches in diameter, traps, or by hand. Turtles may not be taken with a gun or bow and arrow. Traps must be designed to provide a means of escape, or survival, of species of turtles other than snapping turtles. As such, they must be designed so that at least the topmost two inches of the trap remains exposed, at all times, above the surface of the water, and must have an escape hole of sufficient size to permit the escape of other turtle species. Flotation devices that have sufficient strength to support the weight of the trap and keep it afloat for at least 24 hours must be used.

All traps must be identified with the name and address of the permittee and must be tended at least once every 24 hours. No more than 30 traps may be set. A person shall not take, kill or have in possession snapping turtles from May 15 to June 30, or from October 31 to April 1. The Department of Health and Senior Services may have additional regulations regarding required testing for turtles sold or used for human consumption. Permits are issued for a maximum of ten waterbodies per permit. Permits expire on October 31 of each year. Annual harvest reports must be submitted by December 31 of the current permit year. The possession, taking, or attempting to take any other species of turtle is prohibited.

Commercial Harvest Permit Application (pdf, 68kb)
List of Foodfish Species (pdf, 32kb)
Commercial Turtle/Frog Harvest Permit Application (pdf, 345kb)
Commercial Harvest Report Form (General) (pdf, 20kb)
Commercial Snapping Turtle Harvest Report Form (pdf, 150kb)
Commercial Frog Harvest Report Form (pdf, 105kb)
State Fish Code
Additional Information Required (attach and send with application):
– Map depicting waterbody location (with major roadways/intersections marked)
– For the stocking of grass carp, close-up photos of pond’s inlet/outlet structures

For the protection of the state’s freshwater fisheries resources a fish stocking permit from NJDEP Fish and Wildlife is required prior to introducing any fish, including their fry or eggs, into any waters, regardless of ownership. In order to reduce the risk of the introduction of disease and/or parasites fish must be purchased from a Fish and Wildlife “approved hatchery source.” The release of any fish from private aquariums, food markets, or the transfer of fish from one waterbody to another, is expressly forbidden and poses series threats (transfer of disease, parasites, or introduction of invasive species) to the state’s fishery resources. The introduction of even commonly encountered fish species can pose a threat to established fish populations, resulting in increased competition, stunting, transfer of disease, or parasites resulting in a decline in the overall fishery. A fish stocking permit assures against the release of invasive fish species, minimizes the risk of disease or parasite introduction, assures fish are stocked at proper sizes and rates, and that the stocking is consistent with established management goals for specific waters.

Fish stocking permits are not issued prior to March 15 of each year to allow time for commercial hatcheries to submit necessary forms to Fish and Wildlife.

Fish stocking applications require the approval and signature of the waterbody owner or managing organization. Required signatures must be obtained prior to application submittal.

The stocking of any type of carp is prohibited with the exception of sterile grass carp (white amur). Stocking permits for sterile grass carp are approved, as a biological form of weed control, under strict guidelines to ensure this exotic species does not escape from the impoundment. Close up photos of the waterbody inlet and outlet structures are required to be submitted along with the fish stocking application for grass carp. Only lakes less then 10 acres in size and determined to provide adequate containment will be approved.

Attention Commercial Hatchery Owners: Commercial hatcheries seeking to be an “approved hatchery source” must annually submit a completed Fish Health History form, along with pertinent bacterial, viral or parasitological test results. For hatcheries obtaining fish from another culture operation be sure to secure the most current health testing and submit along with your Fish Health History form to avoid unnecessary approval delays. To remain as an approved source this information must be submitted, annually, to the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries no later than February 28 of each year to allow time for processing the numerous early spring stockings requests.

Fish Stocking Information (pdf, 14kb)
Grass Carp Information (pdf, 23kb)
Fish Stocking Application (pdf, 75kb)
Commercial Fish Hatcheries (pdf, 485kb)
Commercial Fish Hatcheries Approved for Holdover/Trophy Trout Lakes and the Musconetcong River (pdf, 570kb)
Fish Health History Request Form For Private Hatcheries (pdf, 260kb)
Additional Information Required:
– For research-based sampling, a copy of the research proposal must be submitted with the application.
– The proposal must clearly indicate the use of the specimens collected and that the research is solely for environmental purposes.

A Scientific Collecting Permit is required to sample or collect wildlife. Permits are issued to paid consultants, educational, or scientific organizations that provide environmental or natural resource education to its students or a governmental unit or private institution whose primary service is the evaluation of environmental or natural resource conditions. In most cases specimens are to be released immediately and unharmed.

A Scientific Collecting permit is also required for the salvage or collection of fish related to a water lowering where the remaining water level is insufficient to support fish. Retaining specimens beyond the time of collection may require an additional holding permit. Specimens may not be sold or used for any other purposes, such as medical research, or any other activity that does not provide a natural resource educational experience or scientific investigation that is consistent with the goals of Fish and Wildlife.

Application requirements vary depending on wildlife/habitat type being sampled. If purposed sampling will encompass more than one type of habitat/resource, more than one Fish and Wildlife issued Scientific Collecting Permit may be required. For example, if proposing to collect migratory fish from both fresh and marine waters, both a freshwater scientific collecting application and a marine scientific collecting application must be submitted.

Scientific Collecting Permit Application for Freshwater (pdf, 26kb)
Scientific Collecting Application for Marine Waters (pdf, 155kb)
Scientific Collecting/Holding for Endangered and Nongame Species
Organizations, governmental or licensed private care facilities that are responsible for the physical or mental developmental health of persons who have a lifelong need of supervised care may apply for a special limited-use fishing license for patients under their care. The license allows patients to fish, without a license or stamp in specified waterbodies provided they are escorted by the staff of the organization.

Applications, in the form of a letter of request, should be submitted at least 21 days prior to the event on the organization’s official letterhead stationery. The letter must contain the date(s) of the proposed event or time frame, the specific waterbody name(s), and the number of disabled persons requesting to be covered. Send the letter to:

NJDEP Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
PO Box 394
Lebanon, NJ 08833.

The established season, size and creel limits apply. This license does not cover staff members.
In order to protect aquatic biota, a water lowering permit is required to partially or completely lower a body of water, regardless of ownership. Water withdrawal activities (water supply, irrigation, etc.) which are specifically permitted or exempted by the Department of Environmental Protection do not require a water lowering permit. If uncertain whether a permit is required contact the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries at 908-236-2118 for clarification.

For lowerings associated with dam repair/dredging type projects it is imperative to contact the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries early in the planning process to discuss proper timing of the project to avoid unnecessary delays. Every lowering has an impact to aquatic biota present both within the waterway and downstream. No waterway should be lowered on a routine or annual basis.

The timing, duration, and extent of lowerings are tailored to each situation and are designed to avoid or minimize the loss of fish and impacts to other biota, both within the waterway and downstream. Permittees are responsible for protecting aquatic biota while the waterway is lowered.

Waters lowered for the winter months must be lowered to their approved extent by November 1 (waters located north of Rt 195), or by November 15 (waters located south of Rt. 195) to protect hibernating biota. With few exceptions water lowering applications will not be approved for lowering during the summer months (July 1 through September 15).

A water lowering permit does not relieve the permittee from any liabilities to any persons or property affected by the lowering. It is the responsibility of the applicant to coordinate lowering activities that may affect other water users such as state or local water supplies, area businesses, and/or surrounding homeowners prior to application submittal. Application requires the approval and signature of the waterbody/dam owner(s). In the event, there are multiple owners, not otherwise coordinated through an association, board or commission, all owners must sign the application.

When a waterbody is completely drained or lowered beyond the extent able to support fish the fish must be collected and relocated (salvaged). The salvage is the responsibility of the permittee and should be conducted during the early spring or fall (from September 15 to November 1 for northern waters, and from September 15 to November 15 for southern waters) when handling and transportation is less stressful on the fish and reptiles and amphibians have yet to begin hibernation. Allowing fish to be flushed downstream is an unacceptable practice as it overloads the receiving waters with fish and can result in fish mortality downstream.

A Scientific Collecting Permit and Fish Stocking Permit are required to perform a fish salvage.
Please review carefully the Water Lowering Information linked below. Complete the application leaving no blank fields. Obtain all necessary signatures prior to submitting your application. Failure to follow these instructions will cause your application to be returned or greatly delay processing time.

Completed applications must be submitted at least two months prior to the requested lowering date. A separate application is required for each waterbody requested to be lowered. A map must be submitted with each application, clearly showing the location of the waterbody in relation to the closest public road or intersection.

Water Lowering Permit Information (pdf, 34kb)
Water Lowering Permit Application (pdf, 54kb)
Aquatic Consultants List (pdf, 705kb)
NJDEP Fish and Wildlife requires tournament permits only for waters on Wildlife Management Areas. A WMA Fishing Tournament Permit is required to conduct a fishing tournament on any water within a designated state Wildlife Management Area. For the purposes of this permit a “fishing tournament” is defined as any organized fishing event, from shoreline or boat, with more than 10 anglers or more than 5 boats participating, whichever is less.

A written report of the tournament results is required and must be submitted within two weeks after the date of the event. A report form is supplied with approved permits. Waterbodies managed by other entities, such as state parks, local municipalities, etc., may have separate permitting requirements. Tournament organizers are advised to check with the specific waterbody owner for additional permitting requirements or restrictions regarding tournaments.

Fishing Tournament Application (pdf, 30kb)
List of State Wildlife Management Areas

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625
Last Update: June 24th, 2022