TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance took a major hit this week when Governor Phil Murphy decided to close many of the wildlife management areas due to budgetary constraints. The organization released a statement on Murphy’s actions, saying that it makes no sense to furlough land management staff since they are paid by profits made from the users of the parks and license fees.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer agrees with the NJOA and called on Governor Murphy to reconsider these latest rounds of closures.
“Our park systems continue to get the short end of the stick,” stated Dancer (R-Ocean). “After fighting for weeks to get the parks to reopen, now Gov. Murphy restricts public access to the outdoor wildlife management areas. We cannot continue to allow the misuse of fees paid for fishing and hunting licenses that are dedicated to keep open, manage and maintain our wildlife management areas as pointed out by the NJOA.”
This isn’t the first time the group has challenged Murphy on his executive orders. For weeks, NJOA repeatedly called on Murphy to reopen parks which eventually led to the reopening of state parks.
These are some of the most popular fishing lakes in the Mid Jersey region that have been shut down. Even Govenor Phil Murphy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe talked about how great of an activity fishing is and being able to practice social distancing during COVID-19 briefings.
UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, MILLSTONE, (MONMOUTH), JACKSON, (OCEAN), NJ — Earlier today MidJersey.News has e-mailed the Division of Fish & Wildlife asking for a “clarification” on the “restricted areas” e-mail and what it means other than what is indicated on the website.
Late this afternoon MidJersey.News acting on a tip that entire lakes are shut down not just “boat ramps” as indicated on the State of NJ, Division of Fish & Wildlife’s web page. (see screen shots below)
MidJersey.News is perplexed trying to figure out why these particular lakes were targeted as “restricted” and shut down due to furloughs. There are no life guards since swimming is not allowed, no fees, no guard shack like at state parks, wildlife management areas are carry-in carry-out for trash = no trash pick up, emergency services such as EMS and rescue are handled by local fire companies and first aid squads, police matters are handled by NJ State Police. The wildlife management areas are low maintenance and are not labor intensive.
Fishing is a “great social activity” and using that 6 foot fishing pole is a great way to measure social distancing while out fishing. Now NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife has closed some of the most popular fishing lakes in the Mid-Jersey region a great activity that is COVID-19 compliant.
Even Govenor Phil Murphy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe talked about how great of an activity fishing is and being able to practice social distancing, see below transcript from March 31, 2020:
Commissioner of Environmental Protection Catherine McCabe:
“If you love to fish, a great social activity, we have good news for you. I shouldn’t say a great social activity – I actually meant to say a great solo, not social. Trout season will open ten days early tomorrow, Wednesday April 1st, for catch and release only. This is to help us to help you maintain safe social distance while fishing. We’ve released the state-raised trout early to disperse them before fishing season opens so that you can disperse, too as you move out to catch them, instead of everyone gathering around the hatchery on day one of Trout Season, which is traditional.
If you find others gathered at your favorite fishing hole, consider trying a new location this year. The fish have moved out and you should, too. And at a minimum, please spread out to at least the required six-foot social distance. Conveniently, this is the typical length of a fishing pole so it should be easy for you to measure. And for better fishing you’ll probably want more distance anyway. If someone gets too close to you, have a friendly conversation about that six-foot distance or find another spot.
So, please do feel free to go out there and get some exercise and enjoy yourselves, whether in a park or a forest or along a fishing stream. But please, please be responsible and remember that social distancing is absolutely essential to keeping you, your families and our communities safe, and to help us all flatten the curve of this serious viral outbreak. Thank you.”
Governor Phil Murphy:
“And the notion also, to be able to go outside and get some fresh air in a responsible way has to be a part of what our plan is about.”
“So, I just want to reiterate, whether it’s fishing on that six-foot pole, which I think is a great way to think about it, or outside walking, hiking, jogging, please, please, please keep your distance. Thank you. Again, it’s great having you and thank you for everything you do. And Sean, nice to have you with us as well.”
According to the NJ DEP, Division of Fish & Wildlife, The Wildlife Management Area System web page as currently posted as of 7/8/2020 it indicates that Assunpink: “Main Lake Boat Ramp” “Rising Sun Boat Ramp” “Stone Tavern Boat Ramp” “Shotgun and Archery Range” Prospertown Lake: “Main Lake Boat Ramp” Collier’s Mills: “Shotgun, Archery and Rifle Ranges”
The website does not indicate that the entire lake system would be shut down but signs and barricades as seen below indicate differently:
Entrances to Assunpink Lake, Stone Tavern Lake, Rising Sun and Prospertown Lake all closed as seen below, all lakes are labeled “Restricted Area” and closed:
FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Congressman Chris Smith, whose Fourth Congressional District includes several popular Jersey Shore fishing basins including Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant, welcomed the decision, effective today, to lift the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of anglers permitted on charter and head boats, as long as all anglers adhere to 6’ social distancing protocols.
“This could not have come a moment too soon. While overdue, this is still great news,” said Rep. Smith, who has been pushing hard for healthy, safe and economically-sound reopening of the Jersey Shore fishing boat industry.
“Unfortunately, anglers have missed the beginning of fluke season, but the original relief of 25 passengers and now the unlimited access, gives this critical industry, as well as the related businesses such as bait & tackle shops, a fighting chance to recover more quickly and fully. I want to thank Governor Murphy for lifting these restrictions and re-opening this vital part of the Shore economy.”
The COVID-19 quarantine has been especially hard for the for-hire fishing boats, many of which operate for only eight to ten months a year. Losing the months of March, April, May and half of June has been financially devastating.
On May 16, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 146 allowing up to 10 total passengers on party boats. However, sailing with less than a dozen paying passengers was not economically viable for the party boats, some of which can hold over 100 passengers. On May 22—the opening day of fluke season—the number of passengers was raised from 10 to 25.
“This decision does not allow the boats to run at full capacity due to social distancing requirements, but it will allow those in the fishing industry to earn a living and feed their families,” Smith added.
According to Smith, in addition to the party boat fleets in Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant in his congressional district, there are also party fishing boats in Atlantic Highlands, Barnegat, Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May and Fortesque.
In addition to advocating for the safe and economically-sound re-opening of the for-hire fishing industry, Smith has also supported federal emergency programs—such as the Paycheck Protection Program—to help the fishing industry, as well as tens of thousands of other small businesses in New Jersey, sustain operations while battling the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
This morning at 7:30 am, one and a half hours after the covid-19 chartered fishing ban was lifted the Golden Eagle heads out of the Shark River Inlet fishing for striped bass and blues. It appears that most everyone had masks on and well spaced on the boat.
May 16, 2020 UPDATEDAT 7:20 PM to include executive order and additional information provided by the Governor’s Office
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Murphy is expected to sign an executive order today to allow reopening of fishing charters and other chartered boating serviced, this will also include watercraft rentals. The executive order will take effect May 17, 2020 at 6 am. Once we receive the executive order will will post it here.
Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order to Reopen Charter Fishing and Watercraft Rental Businesses
TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 146, which allows charter fishing services and for-hire vessel activities, as well as watercraft rental businesses, to open with required social distancing measures. These businesses can open on Sunday, May 17 at 6 am.“Reopening charter fishing services and watercraft rental businesses restores an extremely important component of our Shore economy.” said Governor Murphy. “The social distancing measures that we are putting in place will ensure that these businesses can sustain themselves while still adhering to public health guidance.”Charter fishing services and for-hire vessels will be allowed to reopen to the public so long as they adopt policies that include:
reduced capacity to no more than 10 people on a vessel at any one time;
electronic or telephone reservation and payment systems;
no make-up or open boat trips;
social distancing measures on the vessels and in waiting and boarding areas, including demarcation and signage;
prohibiting sharing of fishing equipment, bait, and gear;
limiting the use of nets or gaffs to the crew;
infection control and hygiene practices;
providing sanitization materials to passengers and crew;
frequent sanitization of vessel and high-touch areas;
The crew and passengers must wear a mask while aboard the vessel;
prohibiting food and beverage service; and
briefing all passengers prior to embarking on social distancing, capacity limits, and hygiene requirements.
Watercraft rental businesses will be allowed to reopen so long as they adopt policies consistent with the “curb-side pickup” restrictions that apply to retail establishments pursuant to Executive Order No. 142. Copy of Executive Order No. 146
” I will sign an EO allowing for the resumption of: 🎣Fishing charters and other chartered-boat services 🛶Watercraft rentals
This Order will take effect tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM.
We will require specific social distancing and sanitation measures to be followed.”
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont today announced marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed. Chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed, and restaurant activity at these sites must be limited to take-out or delivery only, like anywhere else in the three states. This announcement aligns the policies of the three states on this particular service. “We’ve committed to working with our regional partners throughout this crisis to align our policies when and where appropriate,” said Governor Murphy. “A unified approach is the most effective way to alleviate confusion for the residents of our states during the ongoing public health emergency.”“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve worked closely with our friends in neighboring states to implement a uniform regional approach to reducing the spread of the virus,” Governor Cuomo said. “Aligning our polices in this area is another example of that strong partnership, and will help ensure there is no confusion or ‘state shopping’ when it comes to marinas and boatyards.” “Our states share workforces, resources, public transit, and we all have share a connection on the water,” Governor Lamont said. “This is yet another example of how our states have shared interests, which is all the more reason to collaborate on these kinds of decisions. This decision provides uniformity across our marinas.”
During the COVID-19 response, New Jersey Conservation Police continue working to protect New Jersey’s wildlife resources. This is evident from a March 30th case in Atlantic City involving the early morning apprehension of two men in possession of 66 undersize Atlantic striped bass.
The accused were caught by NJ Conservation Police Officers after they returned to a private dock after fishing all night from a small vessel. Earlier in the evening, they drew attention to themselves when officers observed them running their vessel at high rates of speed from various fishing locations under the cover of darkness and fog without any navigation lights. Despite the conditions, and losing sight of the vessel on multiple occasions, officers utilized their intimate knowledge of the area to relocate and ultimately inspect the vessel.
The Atlantic striped bass retention limits on March 30th were one fish from 28” to less than 43” and one fish 43” or greater per person. When inspected, sixty-six striped bass were found between 13” and 24” in length.
Charges for undersize and over the limit violations were written, which carry a penalty of $100 per fish/per violation, adding up to a potential of $12,800 in penalties for each angler. Additionally, the men were charged with unsafe operation of a vessel, operating a power vessel without valid registration, and failing to have appropriate vessel safety gear. Fishing gear was also seized for evidence and the Conservation Police Officers will seek forfeiture due to the severity of the violations. The seized fish were released to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
Due to recent stock assessment results that determined overfishing for Atlantic striped bass was occurring, mandatory coastwide reductions were put in place to end overfishing and reduce fishing mortality in 2020. Regulation changes effective April 1st aim to achieve an 18% harvest reduction. The current recreational limit is one fish per day, which must measure from 28” to less than 38” in total length. There is no commercial harvest or sale of Atlantic striped bass in New Jersey.
Yesterdays stories on park closures: Check the previous stories for links and information. All State and county parks are closed. Some local parks are closed and some remain open depending on town, check local parks before heading out. Sandy Hook, Gateway Recreation Area has also been closed. As of now there is no exemption for individual fishing as reported yesterday. It appears that Wildlife Management Areas remain open but check the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife before heading out for latest information.
Sandy Hook is temporarily closed as of April 8, 2020
Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Sandy Hook is temporarily closed. Updates will be posted on the park website and social media.
Gateway National Recreation Area, in response to New York and New Jersey’s Executive Orders to close all non-life sustaining operations to curb the spread of COVID-19, is announcing that all park buildings and restrooms are closed. Park grounds, roads, trails and parking areas will remain open to the public.
As of March 20th, Gateway National Recreation Area will not issue permits, conduct on-site public or educational programs, collect trash, operate or provide restrooms, maintain roads or walkways (including plowing and ice melting), or provide visitor information and services. This includes fishing/parking permits throughout Gateway.
The National Park Service (NPS) encourages people who choose to visit Gateway National Recreation Area during this pandemic to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees. As services are limited, the NPS urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS OPEN AT THIS TIME DON’T RUIN IT BARRICADES ARE READY AT THE PARKING LOT ON ASSUNPINK
It is kind of interesting the first day of trout season was moved up to April 1, 2020 from the official opening day of April 11, 2020 creating a lot of hype to entice people to get outside and enjoy an opportunity in the outdoors, while practicing safe social distancing.
The hype of an early season, nice weather and the willingness to get out doors to escape the COVID-19 pandemic, many anglers purchased trout stamps and fishing licences bringing in cash to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Then all of a sudden 7 days later the door was slammed shut on State and County Park lands with waterways that are now closed due to executive order.
Governor Murphy’s executive order left no exemptions for hunting and fishing on state parks or even county parks. This closed many miles of trout stocked waterways that licence holders have paid for though “trout stamps” as an add on to the licence fees.
The average fisherman spends $22.50 for a basic fishing licence and an additional $10.50 for a “trout stamp” allowing them to fish trout stocked waters. The investment is $33.00 before even tossing a line in the water.
Was that April 1 early opening date an April fool joke or a way to grab some quick money to solve a budget issue? This stinks like a dead fish.
As of right now as far as we can tell “Wildlife Management Areas” are still open for passive recreation. If that changes it will be posted on the Fish and Game website here
CHECK TO MAKE SURE YOUR TROUT STOCKED WATER IS NOT ON COUNTY PARK, STATE PARK OR A LOCAL CLOSED PARK BEFORE HEADING OUT TO FISH. MANY MILES OF TROUT STOCKED WATERS ARE CLOSED EITHER BY EXECUTIVE ORDER OR LOCAL ORDERS
All State Parks have recently been closed.The following waters are trout stocked and will not be open for angler access. These closures will also affect angler access areas on rivers within State Park boundaries:
STOCKED BUT CLOSED TO FISHING:
D&R Canal D&R Feeder Canal Green Turtle Pond Lake Aeroflex Lake Hopatcong (State Park/ramp) Lake Musconetcong (State Park/ramp) Lake Ocquittunk Little Swartswood Lake (State Park/ramp) Mingamahone Creek Ringwood Brook Round Valley (Park area) Sawmill Pond Sheppard’s Lake Swartswood Lake (State Park/ramps) Stony Lake Wawayanda Creek Wawayanda Lake
4/3/20 – Catch and release fishing for trout began at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1. Most trout waters will temporarily close to fishing again at 12:01 a.m. on April 11 and the season will re-open at the legal time of 8:00 a.m. on April 11 (the official Opening Day of Trout Season), at which time trout can be harvested within established regulations, including a creel limit of six trout per day where allowed. Gear restrictions on special regulated areas still apply.
This closure does not include several Federally owned parks such as Gateway National Recreation Area. You can visit Gunnison Beach “Gunny Beach” in Sandy Hook — a known clothing optional nude beach and let everything air out, but you can’t go to the Union Transportation Trail in Upper Freehold Township or fish on the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area and enjoy the outdoors.
OPINION: Governor Murphy’s Bait and Switch leaves trout anglers on the hook: It is kind of interesting the first day of trout season was moved up to April 1, 2020 to entice people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors while practicing social distancing. The state needed to get people to purchase trout stamps and fishing licences bringing in cash to the Division of fish and game. Then 7 days later most trout stocked waterways are closed since the majority are on now closed state or county property due to executive order. Was that an April fool? This stinks like a dead fish.
TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today announced Executive Order 118, closing all state parks and forests and county parks to further social distancing measures. “My Administration’s top priority is to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases, so we do not create a surge within our health care systems and overwhelm the health care professionals who are managing our response on the frontlines,” said Governor Murphy. “We have seen far too many instances in our parks where people are gathering and socializing in groups and by closing these areas, we are further limiting public interactions to only the most essential purposes. Data shows that our aggressive efforts to flatten the curve are beginning to make a difference; however, we must continue our push to flatten it to the point where our day-over-day increase is zero.”Under Executive Order No. 108 (2020), municipalities still have the authority to keep municipal parks open or closed.The order shall take effect on Tuesday, April 7, at 8:00 p.m.For a copy of Executive Order No. 118, click here.
ALL STATE PARKS AND FORESTS CLOSED To help limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy announced that effective at 8pm on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, all state parks and forests will be closed until further notice . This full closure includes all park lots, grounds, facilities, trails, playgrounds.
HIKING PROHIBITED All park gates and entrances are CLOSED. Trail use is PROHIBITED. Save yourself the trip and STAY HOME to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
AREAS PATROLLED New Jersey State Park Police will patrol park areas to ensure the public is following the Governor’s directives to stay home to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER To keep your family and our entire New Jersey family safe, stay home, practice good hygiene and follow all State and CDC guidelines concerning COVID-19.
MORE INFO To learn more about COVID-19 or find resources, go to COVID19.NJ.GOV, text NJCOVID to 898-211, or call 211.
For updated parks information, please follow this Facebook page or visit the Division of Parks and Forestry’s website: https://njparksandforests.org
Local Parks: Will add more to the list as closures expand:
Hamilton Township, Mercer County = Closed
In regards to the Governor’s decision to close all State and County parks beginning at 8pm tonight, April 7th, please see the below message from Mayor Martin:
As a result of today’s announcement by the Governor that he is closing all State and County parks as of 8pm tonight, I have ordered all municipal parks closed as of 8pm tonight. This order pertains not only to Veteran’s and Sayen park but all “neighborhood” parks as well. While I wanted all parks to remain open, I am concerned that if our parks remain open, they would not be able to safely handle the additional visitors. It would put your safety, and the safety of our parks employees, in jeopardy and I cannot take that chance. Please continue to keep up your social and physical distancing, washing your hands, and abiding by all CDC recommendations. By all of us working together, we will get through this together. You all continue to make me #HamiltonProud! For more information and to read the Executive Order click here.
Robbinsville Township, Mercer County = Open as long as people practice social distancing.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife made changes to the 2020 Trout Season to help redistribute angling pressure allowing anglers to better maintain proper social distancing practices in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Consistent with Governor Murphy’s orders that all New Jerseyans practice social distancing in order to limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), anglers must fish alone or with immediate family members and cannot fish in groups of any size (no matter how small), either on land or by boat. A minimum six-foot social distance between anglers must be maintained at all times. To disperse the fish and to help maintain social distancing among anglers, trout were released early and the NJ Fish and Game Council opened trout stocked waters for catch and release only for trout, from April 1 through April 10. Season, size, and creel limits for all other species apply, as well as any gear restrictions.
Anglers MUST NOT congregate in parking areas, boat ramps or at popular fishing locations. Conservation Police Officers, New Jersey State Park Police, and DEP staff are actively monitoring our parks and natural areas to ensure that individuals enjoying our natural resources are maintaining social distance. Any groups encountered will be instructed to disperse to maintain social distance, and if they do not comply, tickets will be issued by law enforcement.