Fishing Without a License in New Jersey: Where You Can and Can’t

Fishing without a license in New Jersey is as big a law enforcement issue here as it is elsewhere. In other words, fishing without a license is the number one freshwater fishing law violation. The story is a little different in saltwater, however, so let’s look at New Jersey’s requirements separately.

NJ Freshwater License Requirements

For most of the year, if you’re 16 years of age or older, you must have a New Jersey-issued fishing license to fish in freshwater. That includes public and private lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks.

An exception is made for farmers and family members living on a farm; they don’t need a license but must adhere to general fishing regulations. Another exception is made for New Jersey residents who are 70 years old or older; they don’t need a freshwater fishing license at any time. Such a resident just needs to have a driver’s license or other evidence of their age and physical appearance while fishing in the Garden State’s freshwaters.

Free Freshwater Fishing Days

Maybe you’re wondering if there is any place where you can fish without a license in New Jersey. There are a couple of occasions each year when someone can go freshwater fishing without a license in New Jersey in freshwater.

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife offers a “free fishing day” in the spring and again in the fall. The objective is to encourage more people to get out and enjoy fishing in the state. On these days, you can legally go fishing without a license anywhere in New Jersey. In 2019, the fall free fishing day is October 19.

NJ Saltwater License Requirements

A freshwater license in New Jersey has no bearing on saltwater fishing. When it comes to saltwater angling - which includes fishing in a bay, in the ocean, or from the surf - New Jersey does not require residents or nonresidents to have a recreational saltwater license.

However, saltwater anglers 16 and older must register with the New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program if they are fishing on their own. Registration is not required if they are fishing on a for-hire vessel (which is registered with the program), such as a charter boat or party boat. When registered you receive a number, good for the year, and there’s no need to worry about fishing without a license in New Jersey’s saltwaters. Registration is free, and it enables the state to know how many people actually fish in saltwater in the state annually.

Get your fishing license today and help support the conservation of your state's aquatic resources.


Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar., and his writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.