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Can I Use a Castable Umbrella Rig (e.g. Alabama Rig) in NY?

Photo of the Alabama Rig courtesy of Mark Batur

Castable umbrella rigs, including the Alabama Rig, are relatively new bass fishing devices that allow anglers to attach up to 5 lures to a single line, creating the potential of catching more than one bass at a time. Umbrella rigs have been around for a long time and are traditionally used to troll entire schools of lures in saltwater for striped bass and bluefish. What makes this new device unique and particularly useful for bass fishing is that it is made light enough to be cast.

These rigs consist of two to five wires fanning out of a molded plastic head. Each wire is tipped with a loop on which a snap swivel is attached, and lures are attached directly to the snaps. The wires are spread outward so dangling lures can't snag each other. Anglers can attach a variety of lures to each swivel with the intent of imitating a school of baitfish.

Castable umbrella rigs have become some of the most talked about and most sought after new bass fishing devices in recent memory. The DEC has received many inquiries about the legal use of these rigs in the state.

Is it legal to use in New York State waters?

Castable umbrella rigs are legal to use in most New York State waters. The definition of angling in New York (Environmental Conservation Law 11-0103 12. b.) states that...An angler may operate up to three lines in freshwater, and each line shall have not more than 5 lures or baits, or a combination of both, and in addition each line shall not exceed 15 hook points in any combination of single, double, and treble hooks.

Umbrella rigs are not considered to be lures, since they are hookless. Instead they are viewed as attractors (plastic head) with terminal tackle (leader-like wires) to which lures or baits can be attached. In most New York waters, up to 5 lures, with a combined maximum total of 15 hook points, may be added to an umbrella rig. However there are certain waters with limits on the number of allowable hooks, or with hook size and attachment restrictions, where the use of umbrella rigs would be restricted.

Waters where the use of castable umbrella rigs are restricted

The following list includes many of the waters where the number, size, and/or attachment of hooks are restricted. Anglers are urged to check the Freshwater Fishing Regulations for more specific information.

Lake Champlain including most tributaries upstream to the first barrier impassible to fish: Castable umbrella rigs are legal to use in Lake Champlain and most tributaries, but each fishing line may have no more than 2 baited hooks or artificial lures. Adding hookless attractors (e.g., flashers, blades) to any remaining wires would be legal.

Lake Champlain Tributaries with additional restrictions: Castable umbrella rigs are not permitted on the following tributaries:

  • Saranac River from Catherine Street bridge upstream to Imperial Dam
  • Ausable River from D & H railroad bridge upstream to Rainbow Falls
  • Boquet River from mouth upstream to Wadhams Falls
  • North Branch Boquet and tributaries from mouth to first upstream barrier

Most Finger Lakes Tributaries: Castable umbrella rigs are not permitted on most Finger Lake Tributaries. See Finger Lakes and Tributary Regulations for exceptions.

Great Lakes Tributaries: Castable umbrella rigs are not permitted seasonally on the waters included in the table located below. Seasonal restrictions apply September 1 through March 31 for all waters listed except the Salmon River (restriction dates shown).

Water County Location
Cattaraugus Creek Erie & Cattaraugus From the Aldrich Street Extension Bridge in Gowanda upstream to Springville Dam
Eighteenmile Creek Niagara From the Route 18 bridge upstream to Burt Dam
Oak Orchard Creek Orleans From the power lines that are 1.9 miles upstream (south) of Route 18 bridge upstream to Waterport Dam
Sterling Creek Cayuga From Old State Road to impassable barrier upstream of Route 104A
Sterling Valley Creek Cayuga From McIntyre Road to impassable barrier upstream of Route 104A
Oswego River Oswego From the Utica Street bridge upstream to the Varick Dam
Catfish Creek Oswego From the mouth upstream to dam at County Route 1
Salmon River
(Restrictions apply August 15 through April 14)
Oswego From the upstream most navigation buoy located between the breakwalls at the mouth upstream to the County Route 52 bridge in Altmar
See additional special fly fishing only, catch and release areas and regulations for the Salmon River (Oswego County) which are listed here separately.
Salmon River
(Restrictions apply year round)
Oswego Two sections: From County Route 52 bridge in Altmar upstream .25 miles to the marked boundary at Beaverdam Brook and from a marked boundary upstream of the New York State Salmon River Fish Hatchery property to marked boundary approximately 0.6 miles upstream at the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir tailrace.
Black River Jefferson From the upstream tip of the lowermost island to Mill Street dam in Watertown
Buffalo River and Tributaries to the Buffalo River Erie From the I-90 (NYS Thruway) bridge upstream to first barrier impassable by fish
All other tributaries All From the bridge closest to the mouth upstream to first barrier impassable by fish

Culling

Commonly used in fishing tournaments, culling is the practice of replacing a previously caught fish with a larger fish in order to improve the weight of the angler's catch. For most sportfish species in New York State, culling is not allowed after the angler has reached the daily possession limit. Anglers may continue to fish for a species while in possession of the daily limit, but all fish of that species must be immediately returned to the water. An exception was made for culling black bass when an angler is already in possession of the daily limit. This exception states that a single, uninjured black bass that an angler is landing, measuring, or in the process of releasing from a recirculating or aerated livewell, is not considered part of the daily limit. If an angler using castable umbrella rigs or any other multi-hook rig or lure happens to catch more than one bass over the daily limit, then only one of those bass may be culled, and all others must be immediately released.