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About Public Fishing Rights

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, more than 1,300 miles of public fishing rights (PFR) easements have been purchased on more than 400 streams across the state. PFRs are permanent easements purchased by the DEC from private landowners, giving sportsman right-of-way access to fish and walk along the bank. Fishing rights also allow the public to park in designated parking areas and to access the stream via marked footpaths. Please note: the DEC has only purchased rights for the public to fish along a stream corridor, not the land itself. The land where PFR exists remains in private ownership.

Using Public Fishing Rights

Public fishing rights allow the public to walk along the stream banks for the sole purpose of fishing. Easements along stream banks are normally 33 feet in width, but it can vary depending on the purchased rights. Anglers should try to keep as close to the river as possible to avoid encroaching on adjacent private lands where no public rights exist. The easements may be along one bank or both banks, depending upon what was purchased. Right bank and left bank are terms used to describe where the public has a right to fish and are identified as one faces downstream. Fishing rights also allow the public to park in designated parking areas and to access the stream via marked footpaths. Anglers should request landowner permission when seeking river access where no public easement exists (some PFR is surrounded by private land and does not have formal access to it).

Public fishing rights do not include public access for other purposes, including trapping, hunting, swimming, camping, boating or picnicking. These other activities may be enjoyed only with permission from the landowner. Public use of PFR other than for fishing is unlawful without landowner permission.

Landowners of public fishing stream areas may continue to use their property for domestic and agricultural purposes. They may fence the property, cut trees and make improvements. They may not post the public fishing rights area against fishing; however they may legally post and prevent all other public use of the land.

Respect Landowners

Public Fishing Rights have been purchased by the DEC from landowners that were generous enough to allow the public to fish on their property. While PFR gives you legal access to the streams, the land itself is still private. Please respect the landowners property and remove any trash you bring in, including bottles, cans, bait containers and any other form of trash.