Gone Fishin’—for Free

Sometimes, the best things in life really are free—like Free Fishing Days in New Jersey. There are only two each year; the next one is Saturday, October 21.

On Free Fishing Days, anyone is allowed to fish in the state’s public waters without a license or trout stamp. (A license is never required for youngsters up to age 16 in New Jersey. The license is $22.50 for ages 16-64; seniors pay $12.50.)

Where should you bait your hook? The choices are wide and varied, from large recreational lakes to rapid rivers and isolated streams. In many locations, the state Fish and Wildlife Division stocks the waters with trout and other species, including northern pike, striped bass hybrids and channel catfish. Wild species are also abundant. (For all species, the regular size and daily catch limits remain in effect on Free Fishing Days.)

Among recommended spots to be freshly stocked with trout this fall are Big Flat Brook (Sussex County), the South Branch of the Raritan River (Somerset County), the Musconetcong River (Hunterdon County), Giampetro Park Pond (Atlantic County) and Mary Elmer Lake (Cumberland County). There is also a handicapped-accessible fishing site along the Pequest River. For beginners, the Pequest State Trout Hatchery in Warren County offers free instructional programs on specific dates throughout the year.

Don’t forget the gear: To get started, you’ll need rod, reel, tackle box, hooks, line and a bunch of other essentials. A basic outfit should run about $50 to $100. If you want to go barebones, an old fashioned cane pole with line, bobber, sinkers and hooks costs under $25. Some shops also rent gear.

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