Story by Tom P 

Fishing the ocean, tidal rivers, bay and/or inlets? Don’t forget your 2017 Saltwater Registry!

It wasn’t meant to sound ominous. Rather, it was a friendly warning, if there is such a thing.

“We’re going to be writing more tickets this year. Much more than the past few when we issued a lot of warnings. Enough time has passed that fishermen should be aware of it. Besides, it’s free.”

This was an answer by a NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries conservation officer at a boat show this past winter when queried as to whether the penalty part of enforcement would be stepped up.

“It” is the mandatory Saltwater Registry that was instituted in 2011 as an improved way to gather catch data from hook ‘n line anglers fishing the brine. Formally known as the New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program, it is part of the management process insofar as contributing to the establishment of bag limits and seasons for respective species. It also gives the bureau of marine fisheries an idea of how many fishermen are out there. It replaces the incredibly inefficient Marine Recreational Fisheries Survey Service (MRFSS). Compliance has been up and down, as a lot of old and not-so-old salts at first (some still doing so) screaming that they would not pay for a saltwater fishing license.

First of all, it is not a license. The “registry” as it’s called, is mandatory for all anglers 16 years of age or older. The exemption is when fishing on a charter or party boat.

Secondly, it is free.

Say what? Something free in New Jersey?

Yep. And kudos to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (toll free 1-888-564-6732) which fought hook, line and sinker to make it a no-cost-to-the-fisherman program. The federal registry comes with a $29 wallet whack; New Jersey is one of 28 states that has its own registry program and again, it is a freebie.

Registering is beyond easy. Trust me on this, as I’m the most cyber-declined human on the planet. Simply go to and fill in the answers. Print a copy (the print out will be size of a credit card) and have it on your person when you fish the salt unless, again, you are on a charter or party boat. The registry “card” does not have to be displayed as with a hunting or freshwater fishing license.

With fluke season commencing yesterday and sea bass season opening today, and the bluefish and stripers still biting their heads off, be sure you have your registry with you when you head out to wet a line in saltwater unless, of course, you have a $25 for the fine and $25 for court costs to toss away.

Suck Heads, Dance and Camp in Sussex County: Next weekend, June 2-4 it’s the outrageous 28th Annual Crawfish Fest at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, located directly off Route 206 (a right if heading north at the light; a big farm stand on the left, a left coming south) and if you want to get your Ragin’ Cajun on, this is the place and the time.

There will be 24 bands playing on four stages. The Fabulous Thunderbirds (of Ain’t That Tough Enough” fame), Maggie Koerner, Nick Mors and the Rebirth Brass Band are but a few who’ll have you dancing and wishing you were down in Nawlins.

Of course, the food takes center stage. Crawfish prepared numerous ways, grilled oysters, jambalaya, gator sausage and myriad other Louisiana delicacies will assail the taste buds, palate and tummy. You will eat like a person on death row. Trust me on this one.

Overnighting is available at Camp New Orleans, Camp Baton Rouge and Camp Lafayette for $165. Tents, pop-ups and trailers 20-feet and under are allowed. No generators permitted and there are no hook ups available.

For tickets and available information visit

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