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Environmental Conservation Police Q&A

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Q: The “Statewide Regulations” indicate that the walleye season runs from the first Saturday in May through March 15. Can I fish for walleye on March 15?

A: Yes. The walleye season runs through March 15 and closes at midnight. Note that in the regulations guide, a dash (–) is often used instead of the word “through.”

Q: If trout season opens April 1, what time may I start fishing?

A: Anytime after 12 midnight.

Q: Who do I contact if I have a question concerning a fishing regulation?

A: We strongly recommend that you contact the law enforcement office in the DEC region covering the water where you fish. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each DEC region can be found in the “Special Regulations” section of the guide.

Q: Do I need a fishing license to help my child fish?

A: Unlike states such as Pennsylvania that have a specific law that waives the fishing license requirement for an adult directly assisting a child, New York State does not have such a law.  We strongly encourage children to get involved in the sport of fishing and discretion will be used as long as the child is actively involved in the fishing activity.  If in the eyes of an Environmental Conservation Officer an adult is more actively involved in the fishing activity than the child that they are supposedly instructing, a citation for fishing without a license could be issued. 

Q: If I fish on a private lake or on a pond or stream on my property, do I need a fishing license?

A: Yes. Unless you are the owner of a pond on an active farm, hold a farm fish pond license, or are an immediate family member of the owner or licensee, you must have a fishing license.

Q: If I get a ticket for fishing without a license, how much will it cost?

A: The fine amount is determined by the court. They may impose a fine from $0 to $250 and/or 15 days in jail.

Q: Can I keep my fishing license in my vehicle when I am fishing so it doesn’t get wet.

A: No. You must be in possession of your license when fishing.

Q: Can I continue to fish once I have caught and kept my daily limit?

A: Yes. As long as you immediately release any additional fish you catch, you may continue to fish after reaching the daily limit.

Q: Does this mean that I can’t cull fish during a bass tournament?

A: No. A special provision is provided for black bass anglers that allows the replacement of a single, uninjured largemouth or smallmouth bass in a livewell with another bass.

Q: The trout season is closed on my favorite stream; can I still fish for trout if I release all of the fish that I catch?

A: No. It is illegal to target a fish during its closed season.

Q: How about catch-and-release fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass – can I do that during the closed season?

A: Yes. A special catch-and-release season running from December 1 through the Friday preceding the third Saturday in June exists for many waters in New York State. This allows an angler to catch and immediately release a bass using artificial lures only. However, there are exceptions to this regulation on Long Island and in many northern New York counties in DEC regions 5 and 6.

Q: If the daily limit for a particular species is five fish and I keep five from a lake, can I keep another five from another lake?

A: No. The legal limit represents the maximum number of a species you can keep in a day. After reaching the legal limit, you cannot keep any more of that species on the same day. Note that some species such as trout, bass and panfish are lumped together in a species category, and the daily limit applies to the total number of fish kept in that category. For example, you may keep three brook trout and two rainbow trout for a total of five trout in a day, but you may not keep five brook trout AND five rainbow trout in the same day.

Q: If DEC stocks fish in a stream, a portion of which is private, do I have the right to fish for these fish on private land?

A: No. Many stocked streams have both private and public segments. Although fish are typically stocked only in segments open to the public, the fish can swim into private sections. In these circumstances, unless DEC has purchased public fishing rights (PFR) from the landowner, you must ask permission of the landowner to legally fish on private land. PFR segments are posted with yellow signs.

Q: Do I have the right to fish a stream bordering a public road?

A: If the stream is on private land, you may not fish it. Although the stream may be bordered by a public road or road easement, the stream bottom can be privately owned. Therefore, you must ask permission of the landowner to legally fish the stream.


Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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