NY DEC Encourages Anglers to Put Safety First When Ice Fishing

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A Minimum of Four Inches of Clear Ice is Safe for Anglers on Foot

Ice Fishing in New York

Ice Fishing in New York

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding ice anglers to use caution and common sense as ice fishing season begins across much of New York State.

Four inches or more of solid ice is considered to be safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. Ice anglers should note that ice thickness can vary on every body of water and even on the same body of water.

“Ice fishing is a popular sport in New York and interest in it increases every year,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Safety is the first thing to consider when taking part in the sport, and we remind people to use good judgement when venturing onto the ice. Ice fishing is great for families looking to try something new, and parents can mix in skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or other activities during ice fishing trips to keep everyone interested and happy.”

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 considered 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 be done easily with an auger or ice spud at various spots.

As part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, Feb. 18 and 19 have been designated as a free fishing weekend. The requirement for a fishing license is waived during this period. The free fishing weekend is a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time and for experienced anglers to introduce their friends to the sport. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter of DEC’s new 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 fish for bait is popular when ice fishing, and bait fish may be used in most, but not all, waters open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of Special Regulations by County to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used, and for other regulations that apply to baitfish available on DEC’s website.

Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:

  • Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species (please see: Special Regulations by County).
  • Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
  • Do not reuse baitfish in another water-body if the water the fish were purchased in has not been replaced.
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.

Anglers are reminded to make sure that they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice during non-free fishing weekends. Fishing licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. To learn more, visit DEC’s Sporting Licenses webpage.