May 5th marks the opening of the fishing season for many of New York’s most popular sportfish, including walleye, northern pike, pickerel, and tiger muskellunge.
Fishing for these species, especially walleye and pike, can be especially good in cooler periods of early spring, and anglers are encouraged to take advantage of the exceptional fishing opportunities across the state.
Anglers looking for walleye should not have to go far to find quality fishing opportunities. Walleye can be found in more than 140 waterbodies in New York, including every major watershed. The state’s premier walleye fisheries, Lake Erie and Oneida Lake, are projected to produce great fishing in 2018.
Another top destination is Chautauqua Lake, where a combination of successful stocking and natural reproduction has significantly improved the fishery. Walleye are doing so well there that the special 18-inch minimum size, three per day fishing regulation was changed in 2017 to the statewide regulation of 15-inch minimum size, five per day.
Anglers can fish for black bass year-round in most New York waters, with a catch-and-release-only season from Dec. 1 to the regular season opener on June 16. There is also a trophy bass season in Lake Erie, where anglers can take one bass 20 inches or larger through June 15. Bass anglers should check the New York State Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide to ensure desired fishing waters are open to catch and release angling.
The statewide opening day for muskellunge fishing is the last Saturday in May (May 26, 2018). The statewide minimum size limit is 40 inches. These regulations apply to most New York muskellunge waters, with the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the St. Lawrence River being noteworthy exceptions. On these waters the minimum size limit is 54 inches and the season opens on the 3rd Saturday of June (June 16, 2018).
Additional exceptions to the statewide regulations for muskellunge and other species exist, so anglers should be sure to pick up a copy of the 2018-19 Freshwater Fishing Regulations guide to ensure they are aware of the current regulations for the water they are fishing. The latest guide is available online and at all DEC offices and sporting license vendors.
A complete listing of 2018 Warmwater Fishing Hotspots recommended by DEC biologists can be found on the DEC website.
Anglers searching for places to fish should visit the Places to Fish page on the DEC website. A variety of helpful fishing information can also be requested via the website.
The New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App provides information to plan and prepare for fishing trips with up-to-date access information for fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching sites. The App also provides access to species profiles, rules and regulations, and important permits and licensing details.
Anglers and boaters can help the state prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by taking appropriate measures before and after boating and fishing trips. Anglers and boaters should be sure to clean, dry, or disinfect fishing and boating equipment, including waders and boots, before entering a new body of water. Boaters should be particularly conscious of plant materials that can attach to boats and trailers and should be sure to drain all water holding compartments before leaving a water body. This is the only way to prevent the spread of potentially damaging invasive plant and animal species and fish diseases. Methods to clean and disinfect fishing and boating gear can be found on DEC’s website.
Each year, New York State’s lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams produce large numbers of trophy-sized fish. DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program recognizes exceptional catches in several categories, including the Annual Award recognizing anglers that caught the three heaviest fish of the year for 43 different species, the Catch-and-Release awards for 21 major gamefish species, and the State Record award that recognizes anglers who break current state records for any of the 45 eligible fish species.
For more specific information on the rules, see Rules for Entry. Download the Entry Form from the DEC website. Anglers can also obtain these rules from any DEC Regional Fisheries Office, or by writing to: NYSDEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-4753.
Before heading out to fish, anglers must have a current fishing license. Anyone 16 years of age or older who desires to fish in New York is required to have a state fishing license, which are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. Anglers desiring a reminder of when their license expires should be certain to provide their e-mail address at the time of license purchase.
Buying a license has been made more convenient. Anglers can purchase a license and print it for immediate use on their home computer via the NY License Center. Anglers can also purchase their license by phone by calling 1-866-933-2257, or from the numerous license issuing agents across the state. Those purchasing over the phone will receive a confirmation number allowing them to fish immediately.
Those interested in purchasing a lifetime fishing license should consider a New York State Adventure license, which is incorporated on their New York State Driver’s License and provides a free fishing themed license plate.
License purchasers are reminded that by law, every dollar spent on a fishing license helps fund fish stocking and other programs conducted by the State’s Bureau of Fisheries. DEC also encourages anglers to consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, which helps fund important access and habitat improvement projects. For more information on the Habitat/Access Stamp program visit DEC’s website.
Photo of 16 lb. 9 oz. NYS record walleye caught by Thomas Reed, provided by DEC.