License-free fishing across the state this weekend

ALBANY — The first statewide free fishing weekend in New York for 2020 will take place this weekend, Feb. 15-16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced. On these designated days, residents and visitors are permitted to fish without a fishing license.

The free fishing days program began in 1991 to give people who might not fish a chance to try the sport at no cost, to introduce people to a new hobby, and to encourage people to support the sport by purchasing a state fishing license.

Winter anglers can catch a variety of fish while ice fishing, primarily perch, sunfish, pickerel, northern pike, and walleye. In addition, many waters throughout New York state are open to fishing for trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation 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 boathouses 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. The state strongly encourages people 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 and the Ice Fishing Chapter 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.