2022 Free Fishing Days in New York State

DEC encourages all New Yorkers to explore local fishing opportunities in the state

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Governor Kathy Hochul today encouraged New Yorkers to take advantage of the State's first Free Fishing Weekend of 2022, on February 19 and 20, when freshwater anglers are permitted to fish for free without a license.

"New York State is home to many great fishing spots, and I encourage both new and experienced anglers alike to take advantage of the annual February Free Fishing Day, which gives everyone the chance to appreciate the great outdoors at no cost and introduce family and friends to a new hobby," Governor Hochul said. "Getting outside to experience New York's natural beauty is a perfect way to have fun and recharge at one of New York's many world-class fishing destinations. Visiting your local fisheries provides both recreational enjoyment and serves as a vital economic generator, supporting local economies statewide."

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "The annual February free fishing weekend is a perfect time to get outside and discover the wide range of winter fishing opportunities in New York and for first-time anglers to head to waters with ice thick enough to access safely and give ice fishing a try. Ice fishing is a great way to connect with the outdoors with friends and family. And weather permitting, ice fishing is easily enjoyed with other outdoor activities like ice skating, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing."

Those new to ice fishing are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter of DEC's I FISH NY Beginners' Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started. A series of "how to" videos geared toward beginning ice anglers are available on the DEC YouTube channel. Additional information, including a list of waters where ice fishing is permitted, can found on the DEC ice fishing webpage.

Recent cold weather has improved ice conditions across the state. DEC reminds those venturing onto the ice that four inches or more of solid ice is considered safe for accessing bodies of water on foot. Ice anglers should note that ice thickness can vary on different bodies of water and even on the same body of water. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Before testing ice thickness with an auger or spud, visit DEC's website to learn more https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119684.html

New York's Free Fishing Days program began in 1991 to give people who might not fish a chance to try the rewarding sport at no cost, to introduce people to a new hobby, and to encourage people to support the management of the State's freshwater fisheries by purchasing a New York State fishing license

February's free fishing days are the first of several planned for 2022. Additional free fishing days include June 25 and 26, September 24 (National Hunting and Fishing Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day). During free fishing days, residents and visitors can fish for free on any of the state's 7,500 lakes and ponds or 70,000 miles of rivers and streams. All other freshwater fishing regulations still apply.

Fishing and hunting in New York build a sense of stewardship of fish and wildlife resources and habitats, provide an opportunity for experienced hunters and anglers to share their knowledge with others, and promote participation in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting through the mentoring of young hunters and anglers. New York's hunters and anglers contribute an estimated $4.9 billion to the economy in spending, which supports more than 56,000 jobs and $623 million in State and local taxes.

DEC recommendations 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 and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

Use the DEC info Locator to find a DEC-managed resource near you and visit the State Parks website for information about parks and park closures. For more information about engaging in responsible recreation, visit DEC's website.

DEC reminds anglers to maintain safe social distancing while fishing (PDF) this year to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Guidelines to protect yourself and others include:
  • Fish local: Stay close to home. Keep your fishing trip short. Avoid high-traffic destinations.

  • Be safe: Avoid crowds and groups. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others. When fishing from a boat, make sure it's large enough so persons on board are at least six feet from one another.
  • Stay home: If you're not feeling well, stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.

  • Be adaptive: Move quickly through parking lots and paths. If crowded, choose a different fishing location, or time to visit. Anglers fishing from boats should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another.