New Jersey Fly Fishing

It’s true, this humble little state has come to be associated with obnoxious reality television and really bad luck with the weather. While these aspects of NJ may be undeniable, the tiny treasure also serves as home to thousands of miles of rivers and streams, as well as an impressive coastline peppered with jetties that serve as the perfect angling platform for the experienced and adventurous fly fisherman.

New Jersey Fishing Map

map of places to fish in New Jersey

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish in New Jersey

Whether you want to hit the ocean for some saltwater action or tuck yourself away under a shelter of branches over a secluded stream, NJ has the ideal experience for you. The state stocks over half a million rainbows each year, in addition to the naturally reproducing browns and brookies, providing a balanced and plentiful blend for the trout fishing devotee.

The Jersey Shore

No mention of fishing in The Garden State would be complete without talking about the infamous Jersey Shore. From Monmouth County down into Raritan Bay, there are plenty of fly fishing opportunities along this 127-mile long coast. Species you might encounter throughout the year include bluefish, striped bass, weakfish, and false albacore (albies – “little tuna” - are incredibly fast and strong, posing an enticing challenge to the angler).

There are nearly 400 jetties along this stretch, and the beauty of these structures is that they allow fly fishermen to engage in saltwater fishing that would typically only be available to boaters. The good thing is that trophy-sized fish often linger around the jetties and groins in order to take advantage of baitfish being banged about by the waves. The challenge, however, is that you still need to read the water the same way as you would with any trout stream. The tip of the structure is typically the most lucrative, but the beach end and the middle can also yield action as bass scope out rock outcroppings for food.

You can also go for the beaches, although these can get crowded. That can be an advantage, though, because a crowded parking lot can translate to some robust fishing action. Other anglers can also be your friends, sharing information on what and where things are happening in the area. Good locations to check out for fly fishing the Jersey Shore include Manasquan Inlet, and beaches from Sandy Hook around into Raritan Bay. Use caution if fishing alone, as there can be hazardous drop-offs.

Musconetcong River

This world-class New Jersey fly fishing destination offers a wide variety of water conditions, from serene to wild, along its 46 mile journey from Lake Hopatcong’s southern side all the way to the Delaware River. Public access abounds as the Muskie wends its way through Allamuchy Mountain State Park and Stephens State Park. Anglers will find several species in this waterway including catfish, stripers, largemouth bass, and of course, stocked trout.

The area around Saxton Falls down to Stephens State Park features riffles, pools, runs, and convenient access. The stretch from I-80 to Kinney Road is a local favorite, well-stocked and offering stunning scenery. Hackettstown is another well-stocked, easily accessible area of the Muskie. If bridges are your thing, County route 645 has four of them perfect for a little casting. No matter where you choose to situate yourself for the day, you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view along the tree-lined banks of this character-filled waterway.

Relevant hatches for the Muskie include:

  • Blue quill – April to May
  • Red quill – April to May
  • BWO – April
  • Sulphurs – May to June
  • Light cahill – May to end of June
  • Tan caddis – April to early July
  • Slate drake – May to early October
  • Green drake – May
  • Trico – June to July
  • White fly – August to September

South Branch Raritan River

Located in central Jersey, the South Branch of the Raritan River stems from headwaters at Budd Lake. This waterway contains brookies, browns, and rainbows, and is known as one of the premier nymphing locations in the state due to its excellent hatches. The best public access for the South Branch is between Long Valley and High Bridge – this stretch features deep pools, tumbling pocket waters, and great stocking.

Access is good along the South Branch Raritan due to the major roads that follow and/or cross it. Routes 46, 78, and 513 all offer points at which you can find non-posted land, along with parking areas.

There are some fantastic hatches, unusual for the state, along the South Branch Raritan. These include:

  • Blue quill – April to May
  • Red quill – April to May
  • March brown – May to mid-June
  • BWO – May to mid-June
  • Sulphurs – May to mid-June
  • Light cahill – May to end of June
  • Tan caddis – May to end of June
  • Slate drake – May to early October
  • Olive caddis – mid-May to early July
  • Yellow drake – June to July

Pohatcong Creek

This lower profile waterway begins in Washington Township, flowing through breathtaking landscapes, bustling metropolises, and even tunneling through mountains, until it joins up with the Delaware River. The Pohatcong offers the benefit of some truly isolated fishing – like the area below the SR 31 bridge. The creek is stocked at multiple locations, including the SR 57 bridge, and various sites between routes 173 and 519. Even in areas where the stream becomes little more than a brook, keep your eyes peeled for deep pools.

This 35-mile long Delaware tributary has it all – stocked trout, parking, short and wading access, riffles, bridges, and serene, secluded areas to simply drink in the striking scenery and clear your head for a while as you practice your cast.

Best Time to Fish in New Jersey

There is plenty of year-round angling in New Jersey, but there are some times that may suit your preferences better than others.

On the Jersey short, autumn is rife with baitfish migrating to southern feeding grounds. This frequently causes them to become trapped by the jetties, which of course draws the bigger fish that you as the fly fisherman are aiming for.

On the Musconetcong River, you have a good chance of hooking something all year round, but April and May are the most productive due to stocking schedules.

On the South Branch Raritan, the area below High Bridge all the way to South Branch is particularly lucrative from early in the season until late June.

Essential Fishing Gear

Basic gear is a must – waders, a hat, rain jacket with hood, polarized sunglasses, first aid kit, vest or pack, and whatever personal items you need.

Fishing the shore is a completely different animal from trout stream angling. You want bibs rather than waders, short, cleated boots, and a stripping basket that has ample drainage. You should also be able to move your stripping basket around your back so that you can see your feet when you walk. During the warmer months you can forego the bibs, but during the fall and winter you’ll need them for protection for the cold waters.

For the saltwater, you want a 9- to 10-weight rod and both intermediate and heavier sinking lines (for rougher surf), with a 5-7 foot 30 lb. leader. The lighter you travel, the safer you’ll be – only take what you absolutely need when fishing the jetties. Flies for the shore could include minnow, crab, or baitfish imitations.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Best Flies for Fishing in New Jersey

Keep some dry flies, nymphs and streamers on-hand for trout fishing on the South Branch Raritan River. In addition, trout responds well to terrestrials like ants, grasshoppers, and beetles, from late June through September. 

A Clouser Minnow or similar baitfish imitation is a good bet when fishing the salt.

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

New Jersey Fishing Regulations

People age 16 and over require a fishing license and trout stamp in the state of New Jersey. The license can be obtained for $22.50 for residents and $34 for non-residents, and $10.50 and $20 respectively for the trout stamp. Those between ages 65 and 69 get a discounted rate, and those age 70 and up can simply use their driver’s license as their fishing license and trout stamp.

There are no saltwater license requirements aside from the Striped Bass Bonus Permit program. This is a program through which the state passes their allotted quota of commercial striped bass on to the residential angler, allowing individuals to keep one striped bass that is 24-28 inches in size. You must apply for the program, which opens in September. You may also purchase a crab pot license for $2, or a recreational shellfish license for $10.

Fishing regulations in New Jersey are varied by body of water, and a special set of rules applies to trout fishing, so you’ll want to be sure and review the regulations before setting out on your NJ fly fishing venture.

Get Hooked on Fly Fishing in New Jersey!

From the rocky shore to the vast array of inland freshwaters, New Jersey has something to offer fly fishermen of virtually every bent. From nymphing on the Musconetcong to casting baitfish imitations from a crowded beach, the variety of experiences available to the angler make the state a surprising source of exciting fly fishing action.

Don’t overlook this sometimes looked-down-upon state when planning your next getaway – you may just find yourself wanting to return again and again.

Ken Sperry

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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