NEW JERSEY – The fees New Jersey recreational fishermen pay for freshwater fishing licenses help pay for the stocking of public lakes with game fish, but anglers are finding it increasingly difficult to get their boats into public waters.
A pair of lawmakers from the 26th District, Senator Joe Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jay Webber, sponsor legislation to be introduced in Trenton to address the frustration and growing concern for the lack of public boat launches and lake accessibility.
“There are public lakes in the state where bass boats and motorized vessels are welcome, but for a variety of reasons, fishermen who do not have private docks are finding it impossible to get into the water,” Pennacchio (R-26) said. “In effect, the lack of public boat launches creates private lakes that are supported by fishing fees intended for public benefit and enjoyment.”
To address the problem, the legislation sponsored by Pennacchio and Webber would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure public boat access to all state-owned lakes where boats are allowed.
Under the bill, the DEP is required to construct boat ramps or enter long-term contracts for public launches at marinas or other private sites.
“Ensuring access to our state’s great freshwater natural resources must be a priority for New Jersey,” Webber (R-26) said. “Recreational boating and fishing improve our residents’ quality of life, enhance our economy, and are just plain fun. The Assembly should consider and pass this bill in the upcoming lame-duck session.”
Greenwood Lake, spanning the border of New York and New Jersey, is one of the state’s premiere freshwater fishing locations. Each year, the 7.5-mile-long lake is stocked with thousands of fish, but there is no public boat access.
In the past, recreational fishermen could pay to drop their boat in the water at private marinas, but the popularity of boating and fishing on the state’s lakes spiked in recent years, partly due to the pandemic. As marinas filled to capacity, they could no longer handle daily traffic.
“More than 1.2 million anglers fish the state’s waters each year, and two of every three boats registered in New Jersey are used for fishing,” Pennacchio said. “The public should be able to enjoy the same ease of access enjoyed by property owners and members of private marinas. Incredibly, Greenwood Lake, the state’s second-largest lake, has no public access. This bill will fix that.”