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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Public Input Sought through Feb. 6, 2022:
DEC Proposes Changes to Freshwater Fishing Regulations to Help Make it More Accessible and Enjoyable

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of a proposal to clarify and simplify sportfishing regulations based on public feedback and DEC fisheries manager reviews of rules associated with the management of the State's fisheries. The proposed rulemaking also includes a limited number of waterbody-specific regulation changes to support improved management of these waters.

"These proposed changes will help to align freshwater fishing regulations with the State's current management objectives in a way that is easy for New Yorkers to understand and reflects their input. This proposal was driven by public comments and expert feedback, and represents DEC's continued commitment to making fishing more enjoyable and accessible by eliminating unnecessary and outdated rules," said Commissioner Seggos.

Highlights of the proposal include:
  • New rules for trout management in ponded waters, which consolidates 143 waterbody and 33 county-wide special regulations (PDF) into a new statewide regulation that permits anglers to harvest five fish per day, only two of which can be greater than 12 inches in length. The proposal seeks to better align regulations with intended outcomes. Most inland ponds and lakes stocked with brown trout and rainbow trout are managed for put-and-take or put-grow-and-take fisheries. Waters managed for these species and purpose are proposed to be open all year, while brook trout ponds, which are largely managed for self-sustaining wild populations, will be closed to fishing between Oct. 16 and March 31. This rule will increase the longevity of stocked brook trout that are highly vulnerable to ice fishing. 
  • Removing the statewide closed season restriction on lake trout and Atlantic salmon. Keeping the season open year-round consolidates 24 lake trout and 33 Atlantic salmon waterbody-specific regulations (PDF) into statewide regulations consistent with current management practices, as over the years a greater number of these waters have been open all year under special regulations. In addition, six outdated lake trout and five unnecessary Atlantic salmon special regulations are proposed to be eliminated. 
  • Allowing ice fishing unless specifically prohibited in New York, except for Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington counties, where the existing "ice fishing is prohibited unless specifically permitted in waters inhabited by trout" regulation will still apply. 
  • Trout fishing in ponds is currently allowed in most other waters, so allowing it statewide with the nine-county exception will reduce the number of special regulations needed overall.
  • Providing consistency in opening and closing fishing season dates for sportfish. DEC currently uses a mixed approach for season dates. Some seasons begin on a specific date, while others start on a designated Saturday. Based on results of an angler poll conducted earlier this year, DEC is proposing that all sportfish seasons begin and end on specific dates. Notable changes to statewide opening dates are: 
    • May 1 for walleye, northern pike, pickerel, and tiger muskellunge; 
    • June 1 for muskellunge; 
    • June 15 for black bass; and Aligning special regulations with new season dates for these species. 
  • Eliminating the current three-fish-per-day daily walleye limit in Oneida Lake and reverting to the statewide five-fish-per-day limit due to the abundant adult walleye population (PDF). 
  • Correcting a previous rule change omission by changing the daily limit for steelhead on the Lower Niagara River from three to two fish per day. 
  • Establishing a no-limit, all-year season and 12-inch-minimum length restriction for walleye on Skaneateles Lake to suppress this introduced species, which has the potential to negatively impact the lake's high-quality trout and salmon fishery. 
  • Banning snatching and spearing in select waters. 
The full text and a summary of the proposed regulatory changes are available on DEC's website. DEC is interested in anglers' viewpoints and encourages public feedback on these proposals. Comments should be submitted via e-mail to regulations.fish@dec.ny.gov  with the subject line "Fishing Regulations Proposal Comments" or via mail to the Inland Fisheries Section, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753. Comments will be accepted through Feb. 6, 2022.

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