The past few months have shown that New Jersey’s game fish and saltwater fishing opportunities rival nearly any other when it comes to the recent record catches off our coast. Since April, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife has announced three New Jersey game fish were landed and certified as New Jersey State Records. On May 6, the Division announced the certification of a new state record Tautog (blackfish). Less than a month later, it was announced that the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife had certified a second New Jersey state record. This time the record was for a Gray Tilefish. Then, just two days later on May 28th, a new state record for a Cunner Fish (Bergall) was certified!
Frank LaMorte of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, reeled in the new state record Tautog on April 17, 2015. The fish weighed in at 25 pounds, 5.92 ounces eclipsing the previous state record, which had stood since 1998, by 5.92 ounces. The fish measured 33″ in length and had a girth of 23″. Frank was fishing off the boat Fishin’ Fever IV, captained by Tom Daffin. The boat was anchored when Frank reeled in the fish. Frank was using a Star rod and a Shimano reel with 65-pound braided line. A crab served as the bait.
Then on May 15, Mark Milici of Doylestown, PA, made his way onto the state record fish list by landing a new state record Gray Tilefish. Mark was bottom fishing off the boat, Last Hooray in the Lindenkohl Canyon when he reeled in the 23 pound, 4 ounce fish, eclipsing the old record caught just last year by 4 ounces. He was using an Avet MXL reel spooled with 50-lb. test braided line and a Shimano Trebala rod when the fish hammered his squid bait. Mark’s new state record gray tilefish measured 35.5 inches in length and had a girth of 22.5 inches.
Finally, on April 17, Jorge Antonio Costa of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reeled in the new state record Cunner. The “cunner” is also widely known as a “bergall”, the pesky fish that steals baits when you are fishing for Tautog and other bottom dwelling fish. However, this was no ordinary bergall! Costa’s record fish weighed in at 3 pounds, 2.4 ounces eclipsing the previous state record by just 1.9 ounces. The fish measured 16.5″ in length and had a girth of 12.5″. Costa was fishing off the boat Voyager, captained by Jeff Gutman. He was bottom fishing the Mud Hole with a custom rod and a Penn reel with 30-pound line when the record fish grabbed a piece of clam.
Despite its small size and high population density, New Jersey offers anglers the chance to catch “trophy-size” fish. Such fish are recognized in the Skillful Angler Recognition (Awards) Program and the State Record Fish Program. The objective of the Record Fish Program is to increase the awareness of fishing opportunities for species that are regularly sought after and routinely found in the freshwaters or off the coast of New Jersey. Separate lists are maintained for freshwater and marine species, and in 2014 a new Spearfishing category was created for saltwater species.
Presently there are 90 species (31 freshwater and 59 saltwater, including 17 in the Spearfishing category) eligible for entry in the Record Fish Program. In May, 2007, the program was revised to include Retired Categories (Saltwater) of fish no longer accepted for entry in the program, as well as Retired Historical Records. New record fish are caught and entered in the program every year – a testament to the excellent condition of New Jersey’s fisheries resources and the anglers who enjoy them. Complete rules and instructions are found on the application forms.
New Jersey State records are determined by weight alone. There are no line classes. Should you catch a freshwater or saltwater fish that you believe qualifies as a state record, here are the New Jersey State Record Guidelines from the Division’s web site:
•Fish must be weighed on a certified scale as soon as possible. A copy of the current scale Registration Certificate and valid Inspection/Test Report issued by the County Office of Weights and Measures is required to achieve record fish status.
•All fish must be identified by a division biologist.
•A clear, side-view color photograph of the fish must be submitted. All photo entries become property of the Division of Fish and Wildlife and will not be returned.
•Application MUST be submitted no later than one month after the date of catch.
You may download the application forms by clicking on the links below: