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For Release: Wednesday, December 22, 2021

DEC Encourages Anglers to Safely Enjoy Ice Fishing this Winter

Review Ice Safety Guidelines before Heading Out

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged outdoor enthusiasts to consider ice fishing this winter season.

"Winter in New York provides outdoor adventurers with some of the very best opportunities to get outdoors, like ice fishing, when conditions are right," Commissioner Seggos said. "With proper preparedness and safe ice, anyone can enjoy the state's abundant ice fishing opportunities. Many fish species are still quite active during the hard water season, including perch, sunfish, lake trout, and northern pike, leaving something for every type of angler to get out on the ice."

Safety is essential during ice fishing season and anglers should make sure the ice is thick enough before venturing out. 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 formation. Ice can easily be tested with an auger or spud bar at various spots. DEC also encourages anglers to fish with a family member or a friend for safety. In addition, local bait and tackle shops are great resources for learning where ice is safe and what other anglers are catching.

Anglers interested in trying ice fishing for the first time should mark the Feb. 19-20, 2022, weekend on their calendars. DEC has designated this weekend as a Free Fishing Weekend, which means the requirement for a fishing license is waived. Free fishing weekends are great opportunities to try fishing for the first time and for experienced anglers to introduce friends to the sport.

Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter (PDF) of DEC's I FISH NY Beginners Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can be found on DEC's ice fishing webpage. A new video for beginners interested in ice fishing are now available on DEC's YouTube channel (leaves DEC website).

The use of fish for bait is popular when ice fishing. Baitfish may be used in most, but not all, waters open to ice fishing. Anglers are encouraged to follow these steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:

  • Review and follow the DEC baitfish regulations (PDF) on page 79 of DEC's Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide;
  • Make sure the use of baitfish is permitted in the waterbody by checking the special regulations by county section (PDF) of the guide;
  • Use only certified disease-free baitfish purchased from a local tackle store (buyers should retain the receipt provided while in possession of the baitfish);
  • Use only personally collected baitfish from the same waterbody they were caught; and
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.

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

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