There’s nothing quite like fresh seafood, and New Jersey is home to some of the best in the world. According to the State of New Jersey, in 2013, New Jersey fisherman caught 120 million pounds of seafood, valued at $133 million. That’s a lot of good eating! Professional fishermen aren’t the only ones having all the fun, though.

Charter boats and trips allow seafood lovers and adventurers the opportunity to head out to the open waters and catch their own fish. Afterward, a handful of waterfront restaurants will let you bring in your edible trophy and prepare it for you.

freshly caught fishThe Capt. Dave, chartered by Dave Dzielak, is a custom-built, 50-foot charter boat that sails out of Baker’s Marina on the bay. Captain Dave Dzielak, who has more than 30 years of experience fishing the waters off the Jersey Shore, lets his guests know that most of the restaurants in the Highlands area offer a hook-and-cook option. “That’s what people come down here for. Fishing and fresh seafood. It’s customary to head to a local restaurant after a charter and give the kitchen your catch.” Windandsea, a seasonal restaurant on Shrewsbury Avenue in the Highlands is known to cook your catch, as is the Inlet Cafe.

Most restaurants don’t promote the dining experience since they have their own large menus so “it’s just something you have to know” says Captain Dave. Belmar favorite Klein’s Fish also cooks their customer’s catch and Break Even Charters in Cape May lets their guests know where they can get their seafood bounty prepared for dinner. “Every season there are Cape May restaurants that cook their guests catch,” says Captain Michael Farmer, the company’s owner and operator. “Captain Brian always has that info.”

freshly caught fish

If you are on a charter boat, be sure to talk to the captain and crew about which area restaurants welcome guests carrying fish. If you’re heading out on your own, here are some restaurants that are popular cook-your-catch destinations.

Bahrs Landing

Location: 2 Bay Avenue, Highlands
freshly caught fishDetails: This restaurant is a Jersey shore landmark. And not just because it was mentioned on HBO’s The Sopranos. This family-run restaurant has been host to stars like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra to name a couple and operates its own full-service marina. It’s here that ameater fisherman — and guests on their own charter boats — dock up and hand their catch off to the cooks. According to locals, fried fish-and-chips is the way to go, but you can also have your fish grilled or blackened.
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freshly caught fishThe Ark Pub and Eatery

Location: 401 Route 35, Point Pleasant Beach
Details: The Ark Pub and Eatery in Point Pleasant is famous for their BYOF family dinners that you catch, and they cook. Bring them the whole fish and they do all the work. Choose to have your catch broiled, grilled, blackened or fried and served with two sides.
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Off the Hook

freshly caught fishLocation: 1 Navesink Avenue, Highlands
Details: Off the Hook has a catch-and-cook option for sea-to-table lovers. Bring them your fish and they will prepare it while you wait. Choose a table on their outdoor deck if you can and hit up the tiki bar for a tropical beverage. They’re not able to accommodate the hook and cook every night, so if you’re planning on stopping by with fish in hand, you should call first.
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