Opening Day Approaches for Several Prized Freshwater Species
Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge Season Opens on May 3 Catch-and-Release Bass Season is Open on Many of the State’s waters
With the opening of the season for many popular warmwater and coolwater gamefish species, fishing season in New York State is now in full swing. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today provided some valuable tips for anglers looking towards the May 3 opener for Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge, as well as the catch-and-release bass season already in progress in several state waters.
“I can think of no state in the country that can provide fishing opportunities as diverse as those found in New York,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “Fishing is better than it ever has been in New York and I encourage all of you to go fishing and better yet, take a friend with you.”
Information on all of DEC’s fishing seasons and special regulations can be found in the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7917.html on DEC’s website. In addition, DEC suggests the following hotspots for the gamefish and provides additional important advice.
Many other waters throughout the State provide excellent fishing for walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel and tiger muskellunge. For more information, anglers should contact their local DEC regional office, go to the DEC fishing hotlines website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishhotlines.html or visit DEC’s fishing homepage at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html . For a listing of popular fishing waters go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7912.html .
Because of the challenge they present to anglers, their large size, and high quality as table fare, walleye are one of New York’s most popular gamefish species. Walleye fisheries can be found throughout New York State, in over 150 waters from all major watersheds. DEC Regions 5, 6, and 7 (northern and central New York) contain about 80 percent of the state’s walleye waters. These regions support some of the most productive walleye fisheries in the state, including Oneida Lake, Black Lake, Tupper Lake, Union Falls Flow, Saratoga Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake, and Whitney Point Reservoir.
Anglers are also encouraged to fish Chautauqua Lake, Silver Lake, Cuba Lake, Conesus Lake, and Honeoye Lake in Regions 8 and 9, and Canadarago Lake and Otsego Lake in Region 4. In Region 3, the dam repair on Swinging Bridge Reservoir is now complete and walleye fishing here should be worth the trip. Other Region 3 opportunities exist at East Branch, Bog Brook, Diverting, and Boyds Corners reservoirs in Putnam County. All four of these waters are New York City water supply reservoirs and require a free New York City Public Access Permit. Information about the city’s permitting can be found at www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/watershed_protection/
html/wsrecreation.html . Long Island supports two excellent walleye fisheries because of successful DEC stocking programs on Lake Ronkonkoma and Fort Pond.
Walleye are also thriving in a number of large rivers including the Allegheny, Oswego, Chemung, Susquehanna, Chenango, Tioughnioga, Unadilla, Oswegatchie, the Hudson downstream of the Troy Dam, and the Mohawk rivers. Two lower Hudson River tributaries in Ulster County – the Wallkill River and Rondout Creek – have been included in recent DEC stocking efforts and angler reports indicate the successful establishment of walleye fisheries in these waters. The Delaware River is also a productive walleye fishery, particularly the 50-mile section between Callicoon and Port Jervis.
The Great Lakes provide some of New York’s finest walleye fishing opportunities. Both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario continue to produce abundant walleye populations and trophy-class fish. The abundant 2003 year class in Lake Erie is still going strong. Fish in this year class now range between 22 and 24 inches in length. They are still a major part of the Lake Erie fishery and should continue to support quality fishing opportunities. There is also a good opportunity to catch even larger trophy size walleye from Buffalo to Barcelona. In Lake Ontario, the best walleye fishing can be found in the eastern basin in places like Henderson Harbor, Black River, and Chaumont and Mud bays. Good walleye populations can also be found in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, Braddocks Bay, Oswego Harbor, North Sandy Pond and Port Bay. The St. Lawrence River supports a quality fishery and is a recommended destination for walleye anglers. To the west, the lower Niagara River commonly produces large walleye and receives relatively little pressure from walleye anglers.
Anglers fishing Lake Ronkonkoma and Fort Pond in Region 1 and Schoharie Reservoir, Schoharie Creek and Canandarago Lake in Region 4 are encouraged to become angler diary cooperators. Angler cooperators keep track of their catches in diaries provided by DEC and this information is analyzed to assess the current status of the fisheries in these waters. Diaries are returned to the anglers along with a summary report, after the data has been analyzed. Interested anglers should contact the Region 1 office at (631) 444-0280 or Region 4 office at (607) 652-7366 .
Walleye mark and recapture studies are currently underway on Oneida, Canadarago and Otsego lakes to estimate the abundance of adult walleye in these waters. In addition, legal size walleye on Otsego Lake are being tagged with jaw tags to determine the harvest rate. Anglers keeping any tagged walleye are asked to return the tag to the Region 4 office. The address is on the tag. If tagged walleye are caught and released, the tag number should be recorded and forwarded to the Region 4 office.
The general statewide regulation for walleye is a 15-inch minimum length and a daily limit of 5 fish. However, many waters have special regulations where length and daily limits vary, so be sure the check the Fishing Regulations Guide.
New York has long been recognized as a priority destination for trophy pike anglers. High quality pike waters include many of the larger Adirondack lakes such as Tupper Lake, Schroon Lake, Lake George, the Saranac Lake Chain, Lake Champlain, First through Fourth Lakes (Fulton Chain), Long Lake, Upper Chateaugay and the St. Regis Chain of Lakes. Great Sacandaga Lake regularly provides a trophy pike fishery for anglers with a number of 20 lb+ fish having been caught in recent years. Further south, good pike fishing can also be found in Saratoga Lake and Round Lake in Saratoga County. Numerous pike fishing opportunities exist in Western New York including the Upper Niagara River, Silver Lake, Quaker Lake, Cuba Lake, Allegheny River, Olean Creek, Conewago Creek, Tonawanda Creek, and Olcott Harbor. In central New York anglers should try Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Consesus lakes. To the north the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario embayments, and the Indian River Chain of Lakes provide quality fishing.
DEC has been raising and stocking tiger muskellunge, a fast-growing cross between northern pike and muskellunge, since 1967. There are 44 waters throughout the state that are stocked with tigers and 30 of these are in Regions 6 and 7. In Region 6, First through Fourth Lakes (Fulton Chain), Horseshoe Lake and Hyde Lake are good bets. Also, an often overlooked tiger muskie fishery is found in the Mohawk River/Barge Canal from Rome downstream to Lock 16. In Region 7, excellent fishing opportunities exist at Lake Como and Otisco Lake, where the tiger muskie population has rebounded in recent years and good numbers of 30+-inch fish are present. Also, the Lower Chenango River and the Susquehanna River downstream of Binghamton have thriving muskellunge and tiger muskellunge populations. In these locations the muskellunge season also opens on May 3 to avoid confusion for anglers trying to distinguish between the two species. To the west, Conesus Lake provides a quality fishery. In the eastern half of the state, good tiger muskie waters include Middle Branch Reservoir, Greenwood Lake, Rockland Lake, Canadarago Lake, Cossayuna Lake, Lake Durant, Lake Lauderdale, and Lincoln Pond.
Chain pickerel are also very popular with a dedicated group of anglers seeking these toothy predators that typically inhabit shallow, weedy waters. Many of the best chain pickerel waters are in the southeastern section of the state (Regions 1 and 3). In Region 3 some good choices are Swinging Bridge Reservoir, Lake Superior and the Harriman Park Lakes in Rockland and Orange counties. On Long Island, the Peconic River provides some of the finest chain pickerel fishing in the state. Other New York pickerel hotspots include Lake George, Brant Lake, Saratoga Lake and Lake Champlain in Region 5 and Black River in Region 6. In Region 7, the south end of Skaneateles Lake and Tully Lake offer outstanding fishing for quality size pickerel. Good pickerel fishing in Region 8 can be found at Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake.
The black bass catch-and-release season runs from Dec. 1 through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June (June 21 in 2008) throughout the state, except waters in Bronx, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, St. Lawrence, and Suffolk counties. The regular season when bass harvest is permitted follows this special catch-and-release season, providing year-round bass angling opportunities on many waters. Exceptions to the regulation exist on Lake Champlain where the catch and release season runs until the second Saturday in June and on Oneida Lake, where the catch and release season runs from the first Saturday in May through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June. Other exceptions exist, so anglers should check their Fishing Regulations Guide before hitting the water.
Black bass anglers are also reminded that a special black bass season has been in place for the past few years on Lake Erie to allow anglers to take advantage of the great fishing available for smallmouth bass during the early spring. From May 3 to the regular opener of the statewide black bass season on June 21, anglers may take one bass a minimum of 20 inches in length per day in Lake Erie and its tributaries. Smallmouth bass are particularly abundant in the open waters of Lake Erie, as well as in Dunkirk and Buffalo Harbors. Fish are usually in 15- to 30-foot depths along rocky drop-offs. Bass in the two-to-five-pound range are abundant, with even larger fish not uncommon.
DOH Fish Consumption Advice
DEC regularly monitors fish from throughout the state for contaminants and, based on this monitoring, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) annually updates health advisories for people wishing to consume their catch. Anglers should be aware that due to high levels of mercury in large, predatory fish such as northern pike, walleye and bass, a special fish consumption advisory has been put in place for Catskill and Adirondack waters. For more information on fish consumption advisories refer to the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide, the DOH website http//www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/outdoors/fish/fish.htm, or contact the DOH toll-free information line at 1-800-458-1158 .
Prevent the spread of Fish Diseases and Invasive Species
Anglers are reminded that due to the detection of a serious fish disease, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), new restrictions on use of bait fish and transportation of live fish have been enacted. With some specific exceptions, all live bait fish sold for use on New York State waters must be certified to be free of VHS and a number of other potentially serious fish diseases. This restriction does not apply to commercially packaged and preserved dead bait fish such as salted minnows. Personal collection and use of bait fish is permitted, but these bait fish may only be used on the water from which they were collected and may not be transported off the body of water. For more information on VHS and the actions the DEC has taken to prevent its spread, please go to: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/25328.html
To reduce the likelihood of spreading diseases and invasive species DEC is providing these important guidelines:
- Be certain that your boats, trailers and other fishing gear are not transporting “aquatic hitchikers.” Boaters and anglers are reminded that they are a common mechanism by which nuisance exotic species such as Eurasian water milfoil, didymo, zebra mussels and numerous undesirable fish species are spread in New York. Anglers should never dump unused bait into a body of water unless the bait was taken from that body of water. Boaters should make certain that their trailers, boat props and other locations where vegetation may cling are clean before leaving the water from which the “weeds” were collected. Livewells and bilges should also be drained prior to leaving a launch-site. Similarly, non-boating anglers should be certain that their waders and other fishing gear are free of mud, plants, fish or animals before leaving the water they have been fishing.
- Dry all fishing and boating equipment before using it in another body of water. Drying is the most effective “disinfection” mechanism and is least likely to damage sensitive equipment and clothing. All fishing and boating equipment, clothing and other gear should be dried completely before moving to another body of water. This may take a week or more depending upon the type of equipment, where it is stored and weather conditions. A basic rule of thumb is to allow at least 48 hours for drying most non-porous fishing and boating gear at relative humidity levels of 70% or less. Drying is not recommended for disinfecting absorbent items such as felt-soled waders.
- Disinfect all fishing and boating equipment if it cannot be dried before its use in another body of water. Disinfection recommendations vary depending upon the type of equipment and disease of concern. Be particularly aware of bilge areas, livewells and baitwells in boats. These areas are difficult to dry and can harbor invasive species. Effective disinfection techniques include the following:
Hot Water: Soak equipment in water kept above 140°F (hotter than most tap water) for 1 minute or in water at least 100 F for 20 minutes. Note that hot water can de-laminate Gore-Tex® fabric and damage other sensitive clothing items. Personal steamers also can be used to disinfect equipment following the same guidelines above. Commercial hot water car washes are effective for disinfecting boats and vehicles.
Bleach: Soak or spray equipment for at least 1 minute with 2 percent bleach solution (13 oz. of household bleach with water added to make 5 gallons). Note that bleach is an extremely effective disinfection agent, but it is a caustic substance that can be corrosive to aluminum and other sensitive fishing and boating equipment.
Cleaning Agents: Detergents specifically produced for the cleaning and disinfection of fishing and boating equipment are not readily available in this country. Of the materials traditionally used to disinfect for human or animal health purposes, quaternary ammonium compounds have been found to be most effective in controlling fish viruses and pathogens. Commercial formulations, such as Parvasol® and Kennelsol®, are available through laboratory or veterinary supply companies. Household cleansers and disinfectants, such as Formula 409® and Fantastic® that contain the quaternary ammonium compound alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, also can be used to disinfect equipment. These solutions can be used full strength as a spray or as a 1:2 dilution with water for soaking. For all materials, follow label instructions and be sure to soak equipment for a minimum of 10 minutes. Absorbent equipment should be soaked, not sprayed. Felt-soled waders should be soaked for at least 40 minutes. Be sure to dispose of materials away from surface waters in accordance with label restrictions.
Special Note to Wading Anglers: Felt-soled waders and wading shoes have been identified as ways in which whirling-disease spores and didymo can be transported, and they are difficult to disinfect. Rubber and/or studded soles are readily available now, provide similar traction and are much less likely to transport these invasives.
For more information on invasive species, anglers and boaters are encouraged to refer to:
Other ways anglers can protect New York’s natural resources and promote increased fishing opportunities include:
- Purchasing a Fishing License and Habitat/Access Stamp. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS. Fishing licenses can also be purchased from various sporting license outlets throughout the state, such as town and county clerks, some major discount stores, and many tackle and sporting goods stores. When purchasing a fishing license, anglers should also consider purchasing a Habitat/Access stamp. This $5 stamp will help support the Department’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife related recreation. For information on the Habitat/Access Stamp program go to: www.dec.ny.gov/public/329.html.
- Being certain that they know the most current regulations for the waters they intend to fish. Restrictive fishing regulations are put in place to maintain or improve fishing opportunities, but can only work if they are followed. Numerous exceptions to the statewide regulations exist in each DEC region. Regulations may be found in the revised edition of the 2006-2008 Fishing Regulations Guide issued with your license, or from www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7917.html
- Releasing a trophy to fight again. Many of our fish species, including all of our pike species, can grow to world-record proportions in New York waters. However, this can only happen if anglers release the intermediate size fish that they catch. For many anglers a five- or 10-pound pike, muskellunge or tiger muskellunge represents the freshwater fish of a lifetime. These species can attain far larger sizes in our waters, but only if they are released. Given the ready availability of fiberglass mounts, there is no longer a need to harvest these future trophies. All one needs is a photo of the fish, along with a length and girth measurement for a taxidermist to produce a quality and longer lasting mount. The fish can then be released to grow even larger and provide the same thrill for another angler in the future.
- Using non-lead fishing sinkers. Anglers and New York fishing tackle retailers are reminded that the sale of small lead sinkers weighing ½ ounce or less is prohibited in New York State. Sale of jig heads, weighted flies, artificial lures or weighted line are not included in this prohibition. Although the law does not prohibit the use of lead sinkers of this size, anglers are encouraged to seek non-lead alternatives which are readily available in tackle stores. Ingestion of lead sinkers has been linked to the death of waterfowl and loons.