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Best Practices for Saltwater Fishing

Anglers must enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry when fishing in New York's marine waters and for migratory fish of the sea. Be sure to check the Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations currently in effect before going fishing.

No Gaffs for Recreational Striped Bass Fishing

DEC prohibits the use or attempted use of gaffs when recreationally fishing for Atlantic striped bass in all state waters.

  • A "gaff" means any implement or device used, after a fish has been caught by other means, to puncture, hook, or penetrate the fish during the landing, retrieval or release of the fish.
  • "Gaff" also means the act of using a gaff.

This regulation intends to reduce release mortality in recreational striped bass fisheries as required by ASMFC Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass (PDF) (leaves DEC website). The full text of the regulation can be found at DEC's website.

Circle Hooks for Conservation

Photo Credit: Maryland
Department of Natural Resources

A non-offset or in-line circle hook is a type of hook where the point and barb of the hook are in the same plane as the shank and the tip of the hook is turned perpendicularly back towards the shank.

  • Circle hooks help to reduce the incidence of "deep hooking" or "gut hooking", which occurs when a fish bites and swallows a hook.
  • Deep hooking dramatically decreases the probability of the fish's survival.
  • Circle hooks are designed to slide out of the throat if swallowed and hook the lip or mouth of a fish resulting in fewer injuries compared to a traditional J-hook that is less likely to slide out of the stomach if swallowed.

When using a circle hook and a fish bites, do not pull up on the rod immediately. Instead, follow these tips to reel in your catch:

  • Point the rod tip at the fish and reel quickly.
  • When the line comes tight, keep reeling for 5-10 seconds before raising the rod tip.
  • Turn the reel handle slow and steady with a bent rod to bring in the fish in.
Striped Bass Circle Hook Requirement

DEC requires anglers to use circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with bait defined as any whole or part of a marine or aquatic organism or terrestrial invertebrate, live or dead. Visit Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations for the current regulations in effect.

Circle hooks are not required when fishing with an artificial lure, whether or not they are tipped with bait as previously described. Some examples of artificial lure exemptions include pork rinds on bucktail jigs, eel skin plugs, tube and worm, and any man-made flies.

This regulation is required by ASFMC Addendum VI to Amendment 6 (PDF) to increase the survival rate of live releases in recreational striped bass fisheries to help address the finding that the striped bass resource is overfished and experiencing overfishing.

Shark Fishing Circle Hook Requirement

New York State Law and federal regulations require the use of non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks when using baited hooks for sharks. These rules apply:

  • When fishing in both state and federal waters; and
  • For all tournament anglers.

Circle hooks reduce incidents of deep hooking and increase survival rates of released sharks. J-hooks are more likely to be swallowed and damage a shark's internal organs. Non-stainless steel hooks deteriorate over time in saltwater, reducing harm to a fish if you are unable to retrieve the hook. For more information, visit Recreational Shark Fishing.

Catch and Release Fishing

Angler holding striped bass on ocean beach

DEC encourages anglers to only harvest fish you intend to eat and limit waste. Be mindful of how many fish you catch throughout the day. Catch-and-release practices can contribute to overall fishing mortality in recreational fisheries. In addition to using circle hooks to reduce hooking mortality, anglers are encouraged to follow the tips below to help improve fish survival.

Consider Environmental Conditions
  • Fighting a fish in warmer water can cause greater stress and the fish will exhaust itself more quickly.
  • Use tackle appropriate to the size of the fish you are targeting.
  • Avoid long fight times and playing the fish to exhaustion.
Avoid Treble Hooks, Barbs, and Gaffs
  • Crush or file off barbs on hooks to reduce de-hooking time and damage to the fish.
  • The use of gaffs is prohibited when recreationally fishing for striped bass.
  • Only gaff a fish if it is legal size and you intend to keep it.
  • Avoid the use of stainless steel hooks. If a hook is unable to be removed from the fish, non-stainless steel hooks will deteriorate over time from a fish's mouth, unlike stainless steel hooks.
Be Prepared
  • Have all the necessary tools on hand before landing a fish to help reduce the time a fish may be out of the water during the de-hooking process.
  • If a fish becomes gut-hooked, cut the leader as closely as possible to the hook and leave the hook in place; it will rust out after a short time.
  • If using a landing net, use a "knotless" or rubber-coated net to reduce removing slime and scales from the fish.

Angler releasing a striped bass while keeping it in the water
Minimize Exposure to Air
  • Keep fish in the water at all times or as much as possible.
  • Consider using a de-hooking device to release the fish without removing it from the water.
  • If you must handle a fish, make sure your hands are wet, hold it horizontally and firmly, and support its weight under the belly.
  • Avoid dragging fish through the sand when surf fishing.
  • Never hold a fish by its eyes or gills.
Proper Release
  • While in control of the fish, orient it headfirst into the current, then gently move the fish in a side-to-side pattern so that water flows through the mouth and over the gills.
  • Do not let the fish go until it is able to swim strongly out of your grasp.

View the I FISH NY: Getting Started Fishing in NYC Brochure (PDF) for more information on saltwater fishing equipment, techniques, and other helpful tips.

If you observe someone violating the Environmental Conservation Law, or see the result of a violation, report it! Find out how to report an environmental violation or problem.

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