“If it’s free, it’s me!”

This especially goes for anyone who has never tried, or been away from, the fantastic freshwater fishing opportunities the Garden State has to offer.

Yeah, it’s a freebie freshwater fishing day, no license and/or trout stamp is required, as per a long-running program with NJ DEP’s Fish & Wildlife.

This year, the first was June 3rd, the Saturday after the final springtime trout stocking and, at that turn of the calendar page, freshwater fishing is firing on all cylinders.

The same goes for this Saturday, as October through November is prime time to indulge oneself in the sweetwater scene, as the feedbags are on in preparation for the winter slowdown in appetites.

Tom P.
Tom P.

Even better is that the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries concluded its autumn trout stocking in select southern tier counties waters this past week, with hundreds of chunky two-year-old rainbows averaging 16 inches (along with a scattering of breeders from 18-25 inches, released. A bonus in the form of thousands of channel catfish averaging 12.5 inches was also stocked in central and southern swims this past week. The daily limit is four.

At the minimum legal length of 12 inches, these kitties can be immediately harvested. The daily limit is five. By the way, channels get really hefty in Jersey waters, with double-digit-weight fish not at all uncommon.

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It’s an autumn cornucopia. Besides the ‘bows and cats, there are largemouth bass (some smallmouth found in Union Lake), pickerel, white and black crappies, yellow and white perch, and sunfish. Not to forget they are an invasive species that are making a huge splash: the flathead catfish and the northern snakehead.

Tom P.
Tom P.

Farther north, add walleyes, hybrid stripers, pure strain and tiger muskies, northern pike, wild brook, brown and rainbow trout, and lake trout.

And landlocked salmon.

Salmon? In New Jersey? Oh yeah. Big, fat ‘n sassy, and oh so tasty.

Go to www.njfishandwildlife.com for information about New Jersey’s great freshwater fishing opportunities. Looking for a place to give it try? The Great Fishing Close to Home app is the gateway to 290 ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. It’s available at njfishandwildlife.com.

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