Taking and Possession of Fish
General Take and Possession
- A person may not fish for a species (even if immediately released) during the closed season for that species on a given water. Fish caught during the closed season must be unhooked and released immediately. They may not be handled for any other purpose, including taking a photo.
- A person may not have in possession, or intentionally kill or injure fish other than the sizes specified and allowed for that species on a given water.
- A person may not possess, kill or unnecessarily injure fish in excess of the daily limit for that species.
- Any fish an angler catches and immediately releases uninjured will not be counted as part of the daily limit for that species.
- A person may continue to fish for a species while in possession of a daily limit for that species provided all fish of that species subsequently caught are immediately returned to the water. See below for special provisions made for largemouth and smallmouth bass.
- A single, uninjured largemouth bass or smallmouth bass that an angler is landing, measuring or in the process of releasing from a recirculating or aerated livewell, is not considered to be part of the daily limit.
- Any snakehead caught while angling cannot be released back into the water. They must be immediately euthanized and reported to DEC.
Endangered and Threatened Fish
It is illegal to fish for, or possess fish that are officially listed by DEC as endangered or threatened:
- Endangered: silver chub, bluebreast darter, deepwater sculpin, gilt darter, pugnose shiner, round whitefish, shortnose sturgeon, Atlantic sturgeon and spoonhead sculpin.
- Threatened: eastern sand darter, lake chubsucker, lake sturgeon, longear sunfish, mooneye, gravel chub, banded sunfish, longhead darter, swamp darter, spotted darter and mud sunfish.
Any unintentionally caught threatened or endangered fish species must be unhooked and released immediately. They may not be handled for any purpose other than removing the hook and placing them back into the water. For example, posing for a picture is not permitted.
All foul-hooked trout, lake trout, coho salmon, chinook salmon, pink salmon and landlocked salmon must be released without unnecessary injury to the fish. All foul-hooked walleye in Oneida Lake and the tributaries to first bridge upstream from the lake must be released without unnecessary injury to the fish.
Use of Gaffs
Use or possession of gaffs or gaff hooks is prohibited when fishing in freshwater, including the Hudson River upstream of the Tappan Zee Bridge, except when ice fishing.
Methods of Taking Fish
Angling means taking fish by hook and line. This includes bait and fly fishing, casting, trolling and the use of landing nets to complete the catch.
- Anglers must be in immediate attendance when their lines are in the water.
- An angler may operate no more than three lines with or without a rod.
- each line is limited to not more than five lures or baits or a combination of both.
- in addition, each line shall not exceed 15 hook points in any combination of single, double or treble hooks.
- Snatching, lifting, hooking and use of tip-ups are not angling.
Ice fishing is permitted in the following waters:
- All non-trout* waters unless otherwise prohibited.
- Certain trout waters* listed in the guide including Lake Champlain, Lake Erie, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Finger Lakes, Border Waters, most New York City reservoirs, and all other waters designated as ICE FISHING PERMITTED in SPECIAL REGULATIONS BY COUNTY. Read through the regulations pertaining to the water you intend to fish.
- If you are unsure whether a water is considered trout or non-trout, contact the DEC Regional Office for that area.
Ice fishing regulations (where ice fishing is permitted)
- Fish may be taken in accordance with the seasons, minimum size and creel limits in effect in that water.
- No more than 7 ice-fishing lines may be used, except as noted in BORDER WATERS, LAKE CHAMPLAIN or SPECIAL REGULATIONS BY COUNTY.
- No person shall operate an ice fishing line that has more than 5 lures or baits or a combination of both, or has more than 15 hook points in any combination of single, double or treble hooks.
- The operator must be present when ice-fishing lines are in the water.
- Between May 1 and November 14, only hand lines (including rod and reels) may be used while ice fishing.
Ice shanties must be marked on the outside with the owner's name and address in letters at least 3 inches high. Shanties must be removed from all waters by March 15 to prevent them from falling through the ice in spring and becoming hazards to navigation.
Any person who has a fishing or small game hunting license, or is entitled to fish without a license, may take carp of any size and in any number by longbow (recurve or compound) from May 15 through September 30 from any water of the state where fishing and the discharge of a bow is permitted. The Fish Carcass Disposal Law must be followed. Taking fish by bow is otherwise prohibited. Taking fish by crossbow is prohibited at all times.
Any person who has a fishing license, or is entitled to fish without a license, may operate one dip net as specified in the tables above; these are the only circumstances where dip-netting is permitted unless a commercial license has been obtained. Refer to Tidal Hudson River Regulations for regulations specific to dip net use on the Hudson River.
Note: smelt and suckers are the only fish that may be taken.
Smelt may be taken in a dip net not exceeding 14 inches in diameter, or 13 x 13 inches if square, as follows:
|Waters||Open Season||Daily Hours and Limit||Tributaries|
|Tupper Lake||Anytime||Sunset to sunset
|Lake and Bog River upstream to Rte 421|
|Anytime||Sunset to sunset
|All from lake upstream to first barrier impassable by fish.
Exceptions: no dipping in Catherine Creek and L'Hommedieu Diversion channel (Seneca Lake), Willow Creek, (Cayuga Lake) and upstream of old Lehigh Valley Railroad bridge at Naples Creek (Canandaigua Lake)
East Caroga Lake
West Caroga Lake
|April 1 -
|5 am to
|All from lake upstream to first barrier. No dipping in Mead Creek from mouth upstream to State Route 29A|
|March 1 -
|7 pm to
|All from lake upstream to first barrier|
|Hudson River upstream to Troy Dam and Mohawk River from Crescent Dam upstream to Dam at junction of Barge Canal and Mohawk River in City of Rome***||Anytime||Sunset to sunset
|All from river upstream to first barrier|
|Marine District||Anytime||Sunset to sunset
|All upstream to extent of tidal influences|
**Exception: dipping in Seventh Lake and its tributaries is prohibited
Smelt may be taken in a dip net of any size as follows:
|Waters||Open Season||Daily Limit||Tributaries|
|Anytime||8 quarts||All from lake upstream to first barrier impassable by fish|
Suckers may be taken in a dip net not exceeding 14 inches in diameter, or 13 x 13 inches if square, as follows:
|Waters||Open Season||Daily Limit||Tributaries|
|Cayuga Lake||Anytime||Any number||All except Willow Creek|
|Seneca Lake||Anytime||Any number||All except Catherine Creek|
|Canandaigua Lake||Anytime||Any number||All except Naples Creek where netting is prohibited upstream of old Lehigh Valley Railroad bridge|
|Hudson River upstream to Troy Dam and Mohawk River from Crescent Dam upstream to Dam at junction of Barge Canal and Mohawk River in City of Rome*||Anytime||Any number||All from river upstream to first barrier|
Anadromous River Herring
Regulations for dip netting anadromous river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in the main stem Hudson River can be found on the Tidal Hudson River webpage. Dip netting anadromous river herring is prohibited in all other waters, including the tributaries and embayments of the Hudson River.
The taking of fish by snatching, but not blind snatching, is permitted from January 1 through March 15 only as follows:
- In Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties, suckers may be taken from any stream.
- In Delaware County, suckers may be taken from the West Branch Delaware River, East Branch Delaware River and Charlotte Creek.
- In Otsego County, suckers may be taken from the Unadilla River, Wharton Creek and Butternut Creek.
- In Fulton, Saratoga, Washington, Franklin, Warren, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties, suckers may be taken from any stream except the Mohawk River, the Hudson River downstream of Bakers Falls including tributaries upstream to the first barrier, or tributaries to Lake Champlain and Lake George upstream to the first barrier.
- In Chenango and Madison counties, suckers may be taken from the Chenango River downstream of Randallsville and the Unadilla River downstream of South Edmeston.
- In Hamilton County, snatching and blind snatching is permitted with hooks having no more than two hook points to take whitefish in Piseco Lake from January 1 through November 30.
- Grappling hooks and snatch hooks may not be possessed on Lake George or within 200 feet of the high water mark of Lake George, except in a dwelling or building. Possession of snatch hooks is prohibited on all waters except those where fish may be taken by snatching.
The taking of fish by spear (not spear gun) is permitted only as follows:
- In Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties, suckers may be taken in any stream from January 1 through May 15.
- In Montgomery County, suckers may be taken from January 1 through May 15 from Evas Kill, Flat Creek, Canajoharie Creek from the mouth to the dam one-half-mile above the mouth, and Caroga Creek.
- In Otsego County, suckers may be taken from January 1 through May 15 from Herkimer Creek, Hyder Creek, Trout (Mink) Creek, Hayden Creek from mouth to the Shipman Pond Dam, Shadow Brook, Sand Hill Creek from the mouth to Rte. 7 bridge, Otsdawa Creek from the mouth to Rte. 7 bridge and Mill Creek from the mouth to Rte. 7 bridge.
- In Clinton County, bowfin, burbot, carp, freshwater drum, gar, redhorse and suckers may be taken from March 20 through September 30 from Corbeau Creek and Scomotion Creek from the mouth upstream to Beekmantown town line.
- In Lake Champlain, bowfin, burbot, carp, freshwater drum, gar, redhorse and suckers may be taken from March 20 through September 30.
- In Cayuga County, bullhead and sucker may be taken from January 1 through May 15 from Sterling Creek downstream of Rte. 104A, Sterling Valley Creek downstream of Rte. 104A, Eightmile Creek and Ninemile Creek.
- In Franklin County, bowfin, burbot, carp freshwater drum, gar, redhorse and suckers may be taken from March 20 through September 30 from Big Salmon River from Canada upstream to the Route 37 bridge in Fort Covington, Lawrence Brook from the county line upstream to County Rte. 6 west of Moira, Little Salmon River from the mouth upstream to County Rte. 32 in South Bombay, Pike Creek from Canada upstream to State Rte. 95 west of Bombay, St. Regis River from Canada upstream to the dam at Hogansburg, and arrington Brook from the mouth upstream to U.S. Rte. 11.
- In the Hudson River, carp and suckers may be taken from March 20 through September 30 from Bakers Falls in the Village of Hudson Falls upstream to the confluence of Stony Creek in Warren County.
- In Oswego County, bullhead and sucker may be taken from January 1 through May 15 from Grindstone Creek downstream of the dam at Fernwood, Little Salmon River downstream from the bridge at Arthur, Ninemile Creek downstream of Rte. 104A, Eightmile Creek downstream of Rte. 104A, Salmon River downstream of NY Rte. 3, Red Creek or Sunset Bay Creek, Otter Branch Creek, Butterfly Creek, Sage Creek and Snake Creek.
- In Wayne County, bullhead and suckers may be taken from January 1 through May 15 from Black Creek Bay and Red Creek Bay.
- Use of spearguns is prohibited in the freshwaters of New York.
- Spears may not be used within 275 yards of eel weirs.
- Spears may not be possessed on any water in the Adirondack Park or within 200 feet of the high water mark of these waters.
- Possession of spears is prohibited on all waters except where the taking of fish by spear is permitted.
See Baitfish Regulations.
Use of Nets
Nets may only be used to take fish as follows:
- The use of a landing net to complete the catch while angling is permitted.
- Personally harvested baitfish may be collected with the various nets as described in the Baitfish Regulations.
- Smelt and suckers may be collected by dip nets as described above.
- No other use of nets to collect fish is permitted.
Regulations for Harvested Fish
Fish Cleaning Law
It is illegal on New York State waters to possess walleye, black bass, brook trout, lake trout or Atlantic salmon that have been cut, dismembered, filleted, skinned or otherwise altered so that the species and total length of such fish cannot be easily determined. However, these fish may be gilled or gutted. Other species of fish may be filleted provided that the skin is not removed from the fillets. This regulation allows more effective enforcement of harvest regulations on protected game fish.
Fish Carcass Disposal Law
It is illegal to discard any fish carcass, or parts thereof, into the freshwaters of the state within 100 feet of shore or upon any public or private lands contiguous to and within 100 feet of such water, except:
- On private lands by owners of such lands.
- If properly disposing into suitable garbage or refuse collection systems or by burial.
- Where incidental cleaning of fish for consumption is permitted. However, resulting waste may not be disposed of within 100 feet of any public launching or docking site unless into a suitable refuse collection system.
- Live fish and fish which must be returned to the water because of size limits, open seasons and daily limits are not subject to the fish carcass disposal law.
Transportation of fish is permitted as follows:
Fish Caught in New York State
- No more than two days' legal take of nonsalable fish may be transported unless a permit is obtained from a DEC Regional Office, or the fish are frozen, processed and packaged for storage.
- Smelt, suckers, alewives, and blueback herring taken by dip nets or angling, and suckers taken by spearing, may be transported overland by motorized vehicle for consumption purposes only. Once those species are transported away from the water body, they may not be transported back to any water body for use as bait.
- Salable fish may be transported in any number.
- See Baitfish Regulations for regulation on transporting baitfish.
Fish Caught Outside of New York State
Fish caught outside of NY may be transported into New York in any manner, except parcel post, in the number that may be legally exported from the place of taking.
Non-salable fish transported by carrier
A tag must be attached showing name and address of both taker and consignee, and contents of the package.
Purchase and Sale of Fish
Fish that are salable at any time include:
- Those species in the STATEWIDE ANGLING REGULATIONS table for which there is no closed season and no minimum length.
- The following fish only if taken outside of New York State or if legally taken with licensed commercial gear: coho, chinook and pink salmon, Atlantic salmon, lake trout, whitefish, pickerel, crappie, northern pike and walleye. Additional regulations may apply to the sale of these imported fish; contact a DEC regional office for more information.
Exception: The American eel is the only fish taken from the Quebec portion of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River that may be transported into and sold in New York State.
Fish that are non-salable, unless taken on a licensed fishing preserve or private hatchery and properly tagged, include: black bass, landlocked salmon, muskellunge and trout.
Exceptions: Sale of catfish taken in Lake Ontario and its tributaries upstream to the first barrier impassable by fish and in the St. Lawrence River is prohibited. Sale of American eel from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, Hudson, Harlem and East rivers is prohibited, except for use as bait. Sale of coho, chinook and pink salmon taken in Lake Erie, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and their tributaries upstream to the first barrier impassable by fish is prohibited, except that eggs may be bought and sold.
Natural Baits Other Than Baitfish
Salamanders and Snakes
Native salamanders and snakes cannot be collected or used as bait.
No aquatic insect (or any insect that lives in the water during any of its life stages) shall be taken from waters inhabited by trout, or from the banks of those waters at anytime.
- Rusty crayfish may not be purchased and/or transported to a water body for use as bait or released.
- Rusty crayfish may not be transported away from or within a water body.
- No person shall possess more than one quart total of fish eggs from trout, lake trout or Atlantic salmon while on the waters of the state or the shores thereof. Fish eggs which are still inside the carcass of an intact, legally caught and possessed fish shall not be counted towards the one quart total.
- No person shall take or attempt to take any fish by means of chumming with fish eggs. For the purposes of this section, "chumming" means depositing fish eggs, not attached to a hook, in the waters of the State of New York other than in the Marine and Coastal District.
Taking and Possession of Frogs
Any person who has a small game hunting license, or a fishing license, or is entitled to fish without a license, may take frogs with a spear, club, hook or by hand. A small game hunting license is required to take frogs with a gun or a longbow. Frogs may be taken in any number and at any time from June 15 through September 30, except that no person shall use a gun to take frogs between sunset to unrise. Frogs may be imported, bought and sold at any time. An importer must keep a record of names and addresses of buyers and sellers.
Exception: Leopard frogs may not be taken in NYC, Nassau or Suffolk counties. Northern cricket frogs or eastern spadefoot toads may not be taken anywhere in New York State.