Rep Smith: Up to 25 people now allowed on for-hire fishing boats, and we’re pushing for more


Rep Smith: Up to 25 people now allowed on for-hire fishing boats, and we’re pushing for more

Announcement comes on the first day of fluke fishing season


FREEHOLD, NJ – Rep. Chris Smith released the following statement regarding the loosening of restrictions allowing up to 25 people on for-hire party fishing boats in New Jersey.


Like so many businesses in New Jersey, the party fishing boats—or ‘head boats,’ as they are known locally—have taken a financial beating because of COVID-19 restrictions. Working with Ray Bogan, the effective legal counsel for the United Boatmen and Recreational Fishing Alliance, I have been urging Governor Murphy to reopen the fishing boats at a capacity that is both safe and economically viable,” said Rep. Smith.


Today’s announcement that these fishing boats can take up to 25 people out on the water is a relief and a base from which they can begin to sustain their businesses.  It is not a full nor a robust restoration, but it will go a long way toward allowing the captains to get their vessels back out on the water and resume earning a living,” Smith added.


Smith explained that the Governor had previously allowed for only 10 people on a “for hire boat,” which included party and charter boats. Although the 10-person cap allowed the smaller charter boats to sail at a profit, it was not helpful for the bigger party boats, some of which are over 100 feet long.  Sailing a 100-foot long boat with 8 passengers and two crew doesn’t even cover the price of the fuel, he pointed out.


Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance and Bob Rush of the United Boatmen and all of their members run local business and care deeply about the health and safety of our communities and our economy,” said Smith.  “They came forward with safe and sound modifications on how to move forward to reopen an important Jersey shore industry, and I am glad to have worked with them so that they could be heard.”


According to Bogan, “This closure has resulted in New Jersey’s party boats losing an important portion of their season. Though limiting the boats to 25 anglers is not ideal, it at least allows them to bring in some income and keep their businesses. We are grateful to Congressman Smith for championing our cause and pressing the Governor to increase the number of patrons we can carry.  We are looking forward to being at full capacity very soon and trying to reclaim some of the 2020 fishing season.”


This announcement could not come at a better time.  In addition to Memorial Day weekend being the unofficial start of the summer season, today marks the opening of the summer flounder—or fluke—fishing season,” the Congressman added.


According to Smith, in addition to the party boat fleets in Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant in his congressional district, there are also party fishing boats in Atlantic Highlands, Barnegat, Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May and Fortesque.

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