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For Release: Friday, January 8, 2021

DEC Encourages New York Anglers to Try Ice Fishing During Winter Months

Anglers Reminded to Put Safety First Before Ice Fishing and Observe Public Health Guidelines During State's Ongoing Response to COVID-19

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged New York's new and experienced anglers to get outside and safely enjoy ice fishing during the winter months.

"From small local ponds to large lakes and reservoirs, New York has a tremendous array of ice fishing opportunities for anglers to experience close to home," Commissioner Seggos said. "Many fish species are active throughout the winter months and the fishing can be just as good as during the open water season. As always, before venturing onto the ice, DEC asks all anglers to make sure the ice is thick enough to fish safely."

Four inches of solid clear ice is usually safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. Ice thickness can vary on waterbodies and even within the same waterbody. Anglers should be particularly cautious of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice from forming. Testing the ice can easily be done with an auger or spud bar at various spots. Fishing with a family member or a friend is also encouraged for safety. Local bait and tackle shops are a great resource for finding out where there is safe ice and what anglers are catching.

As part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, the weekend of February 13-14, 2021, is a designated free fishing weekend. The requirement for a fishing license is waived during this period. This is a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time or for experienced anglers to take friends ice fishing for the first time. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter (PDF) of DEC's I FISH NY Beginners Guide to Freshwater Fishing (PDF, 16 MB) for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can be found on the DEC ice fishing webpage and the Public Lakes and Ponds maps.

The use of fish for bait is popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most, but not all, waters open to ice fishing.

Anglers should take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:

  • Review and follow the DEC baitfish regulations;
  • Make sure that the use of baitfish is permitted in the waterbody by checking the special regulations by county section of the fishing regulations guide (PDF).;
  • Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same waterbody in which they were caught;
  • Do not reuse baitfish in another waterbody if the water the baitfish were purchased in has been replaced; and
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.

DEC reminds anglers to make sure that they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice. Fishing licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.

Ultimately, ice fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months while practicing social distancing. Unlike some other styles of fishing, ice fishing is unique because groups can spread out and fish safely together. DEC is reminding anglers to be SMART when fishing this year:

  • Socially distance at least six feet apart;
  • Mask - Wear one when you cannot maintain social distancing, especially in parking lots and along footpaths;
  • Avoid sharing gear when possible;
  • Respect your fellow anglers and the resource by providing space and practicing ethical angling; and
  • Take out what you bring in or place trash in receptacles.

Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally

New York State's PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. New York State Parks and DEC recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask, even when visiting the outdoors. For more information about how to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL, visit DEC's website.

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