Bass Fishing in New Jersey: 8 Garden State Hotspots

Coty Perry

Even though New Jersey is a popular East Coast vacation destination, it’s not quite known for its bass fishing.

Local anglers admit that New Jersey lakes and ponds aren’t among the top 10 bass fishing destinations  and the state record is only around 10 pounds[1]. Not to mention it’s been over 40 years since that record was set. 

That said, if you find yourself itchin’ for some fishin’ in Jersey there’s fly fishing in Raritan, saltwater on the coast, and a few hidden gems worth checking out for bass.

If you’re hoping to do some bass fishing in New Jersey, you’re in luck. 

Going fishing in New Jersey? Then give a read to our New Jersey Fishing License guide.

Bass Fishing in New Jersey: The 8 Best Lakes and Ponds

After hours of sifting through the data and discussions with some of the pro anglers in New Jersey, we have listed the 8 best bass lakes and reservoirs for the best bass fishing in NJ.

Take a look.

1. Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir new jersey

This reservoir is a part of the Long Pond Ironworks State Park, in West Milford. It has a surface area of 505 acres and a shoreline of around 8 miles surrounded by forests.

While the reservoir is easily accessible from NYC, it has a peaceful ambiance that makes it ideal for anglers looking for seclusion. 

The reservoir has a healthy population of largemouth and smallmouth. It’s a great lake for shore fishing as well as for launching canoes or kayaks. The lake is also a perfect habitat for walleye.

There are plenty of areas covered with aquatic vegetation, shallow coves, submerged timber, and stumps. Using spinnerbaits and buzzbaits on the weed beds in shallow water delivers great results.

2. Union Lake

union lake new jersey

This 898-acre man-made lake is the largest freshwater lake located in the town of Millville. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best South Jersey bass fishing destinations.

One reason for the excellent largemouth bass population in the lake is extensive stocking in the past decade. The majority of the largemouth are over 12 inches in length and the average catch rate per hour is off-the-charts.

The smallmouth bass population isn’t too bad either.

The best part is, the lake is a year-round bass fishing destination. You can use spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits in the shallow flats sheltering the pre-spawn bass in early spring.

During summer, use Texas-rigged worms in the drop offs holding deep water bass.

The lake is a popular location for sailboats, and canoes and kayaks are common too.

3. Salem Canal

salem canal new jersey

Fact is, many tournament pros consider the Salem canal to be the best destination for NJ bass fishing.

The 12-mile-long canal in the county of Salem is a dammed portion of the Salem River, which is a smaller tributary of the Delaware River.

The shallow bed of the canal contains marshy banks, submerged vegetation beds, and felled tree stumps that form a hotbed of largemouth action. There have also been reports of trophy bass being caught in the canal in late fall and early spring.

Note, the water in the canal is stained and the visibility is low. So make sure to choose baits of the right color.

Locals suggest using spinnerbaits and square bill crankbaits, along with plastic worms of black or green pumpkin shade.

On the downside, the water contains various submerged obstructions and the canal width can narrow down to 30 feet at times. So, it’s best to get help from the locals before launching a boat.

4. Lake Mercer

lake mercer new jersey

Lake Mercer is a man-made lake in Mercer County and has a surface area of 365 acres. Located 3.5 miles away from Princeton Junction it’s one of the cleanest water bodies in New Jersey.

It’s also a part of the beautiful Mercer County Park.

The lake is renowned for its largemouth population. The average size of the largemouth is around 5 pounds.

Apart from the largemouth, it also contains a wide variety of other fish like muskie, sunfish, catfish, panfish, and rock bass.

The high density of gizzard shad in the lake is a major reason for its popularity as a freshwater fishing destination.

The brushy shoreline is excellent for shore fishing. Boats and canoes are also available. Keep in mind, major portions of the lake are marked with floats for rowing courses. So, pick your spot with care.

5. Assunpink Lake

assunpink lake new jersey

This 225-acre lake is located in Monmouth County and a part of the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.

While the average depth of the lake is on the lower side, it has plenty of open water areas that provide excellent bass-fishing action. 

Note, there are two smaller lakes- Stone Tavern Lake and Rising Sun Lake- in the same area. All three lakes are popular among the local anglers.

As per a survey by Fish and Wildlife, the catch rate in the lake has improved consistently since 2016. Presently, over 80 percent of the bass are more than 12 inches in length.

Finding a spot to fish for bass isn’t a problem around the lake. It has a backwater area covered with aquatic vegetation where surface baits deliver great results.

Locals also suggest using plastic worms in the area around the streambed during spring and fall.

Apart from the bass, you’ll also find crappie and channel catfish in the lake.

6. Merrill Creek Reservoir

Merrill Creek Reservoir new jersey

The Merrill Creek Reservoir is a 650-acre artificial lake surrounded by protected woodlands. The tranquil setting is located in central Warren County and is a popular fishing and camping destination. 

Apart from smallmouth and largemouth bass, the waters also contain striped bass and a huge population of rainbow trout. But the area can get windy, so heading to open waters in the middle of the lake isn’t the best option.

Instead, locals suggest heading towards the stands of flooded timber where largemouth as heavy as 8 pounds and stripers are found.

In summer, using crankbaits and Senko worms can be effective. Plenty of smallmouths are found around the rock beds. Use jigs with a moderate retrieve speed in these spots for the best results.

South Jersey Bass Fishing

7. Round Valley Reservoir

Round Valley Reservoir new jersey

Located in the Clinton Township in Hunterdon County, this reservoir has a surface area of around 2300 acres. The clear blue waters are surrounded by the ridges of Cushetunk Mountain, creating a fascinating scenery.

While the cold waters are a perfect habitat for the big lake trout, fishing opportunities for largemouth bass are excellent too.

The largemouth found are mostly of average size, but a recent survey also found a monster bass measuring 23.11 inches.

In summer, use a Texas-rig or a dropshot rig in the grass beds along the bank. Since the water remains clear, sight fishing for largemouth bass in the shallows is also possible.

Overall, the reservoir is a perfect destination for a multi-day fishing trip, and for exploring the Round Valley Recreation Area. 

Note, there are chances of sudden storms arising from the Cushetunk Ridge. So, check the weather before you make a plan.

8. Farrington Lake

Farrington Lake new jersey

Located in Middlesex County, Farrington is one lake that isn’t considered a serious destination by many bass anglers visiting New Jersey. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even though it’s located close to the highly populated areas of New Jersey, the lake has a healthy population of big bass. In fact, local anglers mention that double-digit bass is quite common in the lake. 

Farrington is a shallow lake with an average depth of around 6 feet. Since the shoreline is easily accessible the lake is best suited for bank fishing.

However, you can launch a canoe or a kayak through the gaps in the vegetation.

In late spring much of the lake bed is covered by weeds and topwater lures easily attract largemouth ranging between 3 to 5 pounds. In addition, the lake is also stocked with trout in spring.

Frequently Asked Questions 

When can you catch bass in NJ?

There’s plenty of activity in NJ bass fishing ponds year-round, even though winter isn’t the ideal time.

Most fishermen prefer to hunt for bass in the lakes during the summer when the weather is more favorable.

However, some anglers mention that late fall and spring are the best seasons for bass.

Can you eat largemouth bass in NJ?

The consumption of largemouth bass in NJ should be based on the recommendations of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department
of Health.

There is a water body-specific advisory that limits the consumption of largemouth to reduce exposure to harmful chemical contaminants.

Where are the biggest bass in NJ? 

Truth is, NJ isn’t the best destination for trophy bass. However, Union Lake, Assunpink Lake, Monksville Reservoir, and Manasquan Reservoir are some of the best fishing spots for big bass.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, New Jersey isn’t an attractive largemouth bass spot compared to California or Georgia. But that doesn’t mean you should count it out.

With hundreds of lakes and reservoirs containing crowds of fish, there are plenty of opportunities to get bass biting in New Jersey. 

In addition, there are miles of rivers and streams with easy access.

Besides, there are scenic campsites for the family, where you can grill your catch at the end of a long day of fishing.

What is your favorite destination for bass fishing in New Jersey? 

Let us know in the comments!

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