Kid-friendly places to go fishing abound in New Jersey, which boasts more than 400 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs available to residents and visitors. Fishing is a family activity that works for all ages. Even teens have been known to enjoy a fishing outing.
Not sure where to go fishing? We’ve scoped out a dozen places ideal for some rod-and-reel time in New Jersey.
Looking for more great NJ places to explore this summer? Check out Mommy Poppins’ New Jersey Kids Summertime Activity Guide and make the most of the dog days. And be sure to look at our Guide to Playgrounds & Parks in New Jersey for other outdoorsy things to do
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Kid-Friendly Places to Go Fishing in New Jersey
Smaller fishing venues are ideal for kids new to fishing. These 12 New Jersey fishing hot spots offer an array of freshwater and saltwater fishing in an environment that is manageable and family-friendly. Be sure to keep an eye out for New Jersey Free Fishing Days, which allow adults to cast a line without needing to pay for a license. October 22 is the next New Jersey Free Fishing Day for 2022.
1. Old Bridge Waterfront Park – Old Bridge Township
Located in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township, the Old Bridge Waterfront Park is nestled right along the Raritan Bay. Entrance to the park is FREE, as is parking. The park offers 1.3 miles of boardwalk connecting three sections of the park. This saltwater fishing spot is a great place to introduce kids to angling. Fishing can be done from the beach, jetty, or one of the fishing piers. Old Bridge Waterfront Park has a walking path, playground, restrooms, and seasonal concession stands. The park is open from dawn to dusk.
Bayshore Waterfront Park
2. Bayshore Waterfront Park – Port Monmouth
Another saltwater fishing place ideal for families is the Bayshore Waterfront Park in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown. This quiet park is located in two sections along Port Monmouth Road with a marina in between. It’s also the home of New Jersey’s infamous Spy House, which is known on the internet as one of the most haunted houses in the United States. This may be an interesting attraction for tweens and teens. Fishing in the Sandy Hook Bay can be done from the jetty, which is closer to the Monmouth Cove Marina or the pier by the Spy House. Parking and access to the beach is FREE. The beach is unguarded, but kids will enjoy collecting rocks and other sandy treasures along the shore when they’re done fishing. Many families also enjoy crabbing from the pier on the marina side of the park. The park is open from dawn to dusk.
3. Keansburg Fishing Pier – Keansburg
If you are completely new to fishing and are interested in renting rods, the Keansburg Fishing Pier is a good place to try saltwater angling for the first time in the Raritan Bay. There is a fee involved, though. The Keansburg Fishing Pier charges $8 per person and $5 for children under 48 inches. Babies and toddlers in strollers are FREE. Rods are available for rent for $6. Fresh and frozen bait is on hand for purchase. Peak season on the Keansburg Fishing Pier is Memorial Day through Labor Day. The pier is open Monday through Friday from 7am-8:30pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 6am-8:30pm. Fishing is available in late spring and early fall, but check the website before heading out. Each angler gets a wristband and may come and go from the time of purchase until closing. The Keansburg Amusement Park and Arcade are located nearby.
Molders Fishing Preserve
4. Molders Fishing Preserve – Monroe Township
For families trying freshwater fishing for the first time, Molders Fishing Preserve comes highly recommended. There is a fee attached to fishing at the private preserve, which contains seven ponds. Adults are $12 per person and children under 12 are $10. Pole rentals are available for $8. Live bait is also on hand for purchase. Admission is for the day and once checked in, families are free to explore all seven ponds. Fishing is catch-and-release, but there is an option to keep any fish caught for a fee. A pricing list is posted in the check-in area. Depending on the fish caught, there is either a flat fee or pricing by the pound. Adults do not need a license to fish at the Molders Fishing Preserve.
Davidson Mill Pond Park.
5. Davidson Mill Pond Park – North Brunswick
A popular fishing spot with locals, Davidson Mill Pond is an inviting freshwater pond surrounded by trails. The pond is easily accessible from the parking area. Fishing can be done from the shore or by boat. Large mouth bass, pickerel, sunfish, catfish, and bluegill call the pond home. Davidson Mill Pond Park itself makes for a fun day out for the family. Admission and parking are FREE. In addition to fishing, the park offers trails, a nature center, a walking and jogging path, benches, and a Butterfly House. Portable toilets are available on site.
6. Roosevelt Park – Edison
One of the oldest parks in Middlesex County, Roosevelt Park is also a family-friendly fishing locale. Roosevelt Park Lake is stocked with trout and is also inhabited by other fish, including channel catfish, crappie, carp, yellow perch, and bluegill. Casting is done from the shoreline of the lake. Roosevelt Park also offers other activities when the kids are done fishing. Amenities include trails, a playground, tennis and basketball courts, and an outdoor theater. Picnic tables are available and the park offers restrooms. Parking and entrance to the park are FREE.
7. Manasquan Reservoir – Howell
Want to learn how to fish? Check out Manasquan Reservoir’s Fishing 101. The FREE class runs from June 30 through August 25 from 10am-2pm and is open for all ages. Kids under 14 are welcome to attend with an adult. Topics include how to rig, bait, cast, and catch a fish. Fishing 101 is of course not required to fish at the Manasquan Reservoir. Fishing is available year-round. The freshwater reservoir is stocked with large and small-mouth bass, hybrid striped bass, tiger muskie, bullhead catfish, and species of panfish. Fishing licenses are not sold at the Manasquan Reservoir. A bait shop is located on-site but it is closed December-February. Fishing can be done from the shore or boat. Other activities at the Manasquan Reservoir include a 1-mile nature trail, a playground, and kayak and boat rentals. Restrooms and vending machines are located in the visitor’s center.
Spruce Run Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection
8. Spruce Run Recreation Area – Clinton
The Spruce Run and Mulhockaway Creek both feed into the Spruce Run Reservoir. The reservoir is stocked with largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, yellow perch, and carp. It’s maintained by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The website says entrance to the park is FREE for 2022, but typically the park charges a $5 entrance fee for NJ residents and a $10 fee for non-residents from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Spruce Run Recreation Area offers visitors hiking trails, biking, camping, picnic areas, and more. Boat rentals are available in the summertime. Visitors can explore the reservoir with in their kayaks or canoes. Fishing can be done from the water or shoreline.
Round Valley Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Protection
9. Round Valley Recreation Area – Lebanon
The Round Valley Recreation Area is the only New Jersey State Park that offers visitors wilderness camping. It’s also an awesome fishing spot. The Round Valley Reservoir spans more than 2,000 acres and is about 180 feet deep. It was formed in the ’60s when the NJ Water Authority built two dams and flooded the valley. Fishing can be done from the water or shoreline. Like the Spruce Run Recreation Area, the website says entrance fees are waived for 2022, but usually the park charges a $5 entrance fee for NJ residents and $10 for non-residents from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Swimming is only permitted at the Round Valley Swimming Beach in the summer when lifeguards are on duty.
10. Lake Shenandoah County Park – Lakewood
This Ocean Count park may be known for its sports complex, but it’s the beauty of Lake Shenandoah and the fishing that attracts anglers. The 48-acre lake has a stunning border of pine and oak trees. Kids will enjoy fishing off of Lake Shenandoah’s fishing piers. The freshwater lake is stocked with trout. Other park features include bike paths, a playground, picnic areas, and restrooms. Entrance and parking are FREE.
Helmetta Lake Park. Photo by Chris Slavicek
11. Helmetta Lake Park – Helmetta
Tucked away in the small borough of Helmetta is an ideal fishing spot for introducing kids to the joys of fishing. Fishing in Helmetta Lake can be done from the shore or pier. More than 200 catches have been logged on the popular fishing website Fishbrain. Logged catches include largemouth bass, bluegill, and chain pickerel. The relatively small lake size and the peaceful nature of the pond make it a perfect pick for fishing with younger kids. Parking is available onsite. Picnic tables are located underneath a covered pavilion and offer a respite from the sun as well as a great spot for lunch. Each June, the lake is the site of an annual fishing derby.
12. Sandy Hook Fishing Beach – Highlands
The Gateway National Recreation Area in the Highlands is known for many things. It houses the oldest working lighthouse in the United States, historic Fort Hancock, a United States Coast Guard Station, and of course stunning beaches and summertime crowds. Sandy Hook also has its own beach earmarked for saltwater fishing. Younger kids and teens will enjoy a bit of fishing on Sandy Hook’s Fishing Beach. Fishing can actually be done from any of the recreation area’s beaches. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, visitors must pay a parking fee. Summertime parking fees are $20 a day or $100 for the season. Larger vehicles are $50 per day or $200 per season. Lots fill up quick in the summer especially on weekends. If heading out to Sandy Hook to fish, off-season is a better bet than summertime.
Know Before You Go Fishing With Kids
If you’re not an experienced angler, it’s important to know what’s allowed and what’s not when it comes to fishing in the Garden State, whether you plan on fishing in fresh or saltwater. Here are important things to know before you put that line in the water with the kids in tow.
- A fishing license is not required for kids and teens 15 years of age and under for freshwater fishing. Anyone 16 years of age or older fishing in freshwater does need a license.
- A freshwater fishing license can be acquired online or at a licensing agent. Licenses can be done online at the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife website. The website also has a list of licensing agents by counties.
- Seniors ages 70+ do not need a freshwater fishing license. A valid driver’s license will suffice.
- A freshwater fishing license is valid from the time of purchase until December 31 of that year. Licenses need to be renewed annually.
- 2- and 7-day vacation freshwater fishing licenses are available for non-residents only.
- Non-residents do have an option to purchase a yearly freshwater fishing license. License fees for non-residents are slightly higher.
- A fishing license is not required for kids and teens 15 years of age and under for saltwater fishing.
- Anyone 16 years of age or older does not need a saltwater fishing license, but the NJ Department of Environmental Protection does ask those 16+ to register online with the National Saltwater Angler Registry before fishing in saltwater. Doing so helps to keep track of how recreational fishing impacts the ecosystems of the ocean and the coast. Registering with the National Saltwater Angler Registry is free and can be done online at the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife website.
Unless noted, photos by the author