New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the first of several statewide free fishing days in New York will take place this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 16, and Sunday, Feb. 17. During these designated days, residents and visitors are permitted to fish for free without a fishing license.
"Presidents' Day weekend was specifically selected as one of New York's free fishing weekends because so many kids are out of school and families are looking for fun activities to do together," Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Ice fishing is a great way to reconnect with the outdoors and can easily be combined with ice skating, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, or other activities for a fun and healthy day outside. To continue the fun and support the sport, New Yorkers are encouraged to purchase a NYS fishing license."
The free fishing days program is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative and the upcoming free fishing days are the first of several planned for 2019, including June 29-30, Sept. 28 (National Hunting and Fishing Day), and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day). The free fishing days program began in 1991 to give people who might not fish a chance to try the rewarding sport at no cost, introduce people to a new hobby, and encourage people to support the sport by purchasing a New York State fishing license.
Winter anglers can catch a variety of fish while ice fishing, primarily perch, sunfish, pickerel, northern, and walleye. In addition, many waters throughout New York State are open to fishing for trout, lake trout, and landlocked salmon.
DEC reminds anglers to put safety first when ice fishing. This is particularly important during periods of freezing and thawing that most areas of New York have been experiencing lately. Four inches of solid ice is usually safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. However, ice thickness can vary on every waterbody or even within the same waterbody. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can easily be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
Those who are new to ice fishing are encouraged to download the state's informative I FISH NY Guide to Ice Fishing (PDF) and the Ice Fishing Chapter (PDF) of the DEC's I FISH NY Beginners' Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can found on the DEC ice fishing web page and the Public Lakes and Ponds map.
The use of baitfish is popular when ice fishing. Baitfish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of special regulations by county to find out where baitfish can and cannot be used, and for other baitfish regulations.
Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
- Follow the baitfish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species;
- Use only certified disease-free baitfish purchased at a local tackle store or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same waterbody in which they were caught;
- Do not reuse baitfish in another waterbody if you have replaced the water they were purchased in; and
- Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
Each year, New York offers six statewide free fishing days to give people a chance to try the thrilling sport of fishing at no cost, and people are encouraged to support the sport by purchasing a NYS fishing license. In addition, regional free fishing clinics are held throughout the year.