Public Fishing Rights and the Landowner
Fishing is a timeless tradition enjoyed by millions of people of all ages, and New York State has some of the finest fishing waters in the nation. Many of these waters, however, can be difficult to reach because they are privately owned.
Since 1935, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has worked with private landowners to ensure access to these prime fishing waters. During that time, nearly 1,300 miles of public fishing rights (PFR) easements have been purchased on over 400 streams across the state. The landowners participating in New York's PFR program are the key to its success, and the reason that our children will be able to continue enjoying fishing.
If you own land along one of the state's waterways, you may qualify to participate in, and receive the benefits of this program.
What Are Public Fishing Rights?
Public Fishing Rights:
- Are permanent easements along game fish streams that allow the public to wade and walk along the streambed and banks for the purpose of fishing, and for no other activity.
- Are granted voluntarily to the People of the State of New York by owners of private land. The landowner continues to own the land affected by the limited fishing rights easement.
- Do not interfere with the landowner's use of the property for purposes such as farming, grazing, water supply and fishing. Landowners may fence the land, plow it, cut trees, or otherwise improve it. Landowners may also post their property against hunting and any other type of trespass except fishing.
- Usually consists of a 33-foot strip of land along each bank, or along one bank if that is all the landowner owns. Footpath rights-of-way may also be included, especially if purchase of a parking area is also made.
- Place no obligation on the owner to keep their lands safe for entry or use by anglers or for acts of such persons (see Section 9-103 of General Obligations Law).
- Are permanent easements which will apply to all future owners of the property.
- The easement gives DEC the right to, when funds are available, do stream improvement work (such as planting trees or shrubs), if needed, to protect and stabilize the stream banks.
- Follow the natural course of the stream should it change its course, as long as it remains on the landowner's property.
Landowner Benefits of Selling PFR
- Landowners receive a payment based on a rate per bank-mile or proportionate part of a mile that is owned. Rates vary on different waters based on specific criteria.
- Extra money is given if a footpath easement or parking area is acquired. Footpaths are for crossing a landowner's property from a road to the water at a specified location.
- There will be better fishing for you, as well as others, through formal fish management.
Providing For the Future
- Purchasing public easements along our state's streams helps protect these lands so that future generations of anglers can enjoy fishing on them.
- Public fishing rights is a win-win for both the landowner and the angler. Landowners maintain ownership and use of the land, and anglers gain access to productive fishing areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
If you think you may be interested in finding out more abut the sale of fishing rights to the State, please fill out the PFR Information Request Form (48 kb PDF) and mail it to the nearest DEC Regional Fisheries Office.