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Freshwater Fishing 101

Fishing Regulations Icon New York Fishing

New to fishing in New York State? Here are some tips that you should find helpful.

Fishing Licenses

Anyone 16 years of age or older is required to have a freshwater fishing license to legally fish in New York State. You will need a license even if you release the fish that you catch, are assisting another angler in catching a fish, or fishing on most private waters. License types, fees, requirements and exemptions can be found on License Information. Annual licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. No other tags or special permits are necessary, making a New York fishing license one of the least expensive in the northeast. All funds received through the sale of fishing licenses go toward efforts to protect and manage fish and wildlife populations and their habitat in New York State. Licenses can be purchased at over 300 license-issuing agents, including major sporting goods and discount stores, tackle shops and many town clerks’ offices. Licenses may also be purchased online at https://decals.dec.ny.gov/DECALSCitizenWeb or by phone at 1-86-NY-DECALS. Be sure to provide your e-mail address to receive future license renewal reminders and other important information from DEC.

Fishing Guides and Charter Boats

Fishing guides or charter boats are available on most of New York’s major waters, and hiring one is a good idea for those new to a particular waterbody. To locate a guide, go to the New York Outdoor Guides Association website www.nysoga.com, or stop by a local tackle shop near the water you intend to fish. Charter boat captains are familiar with the fish species available in a waterbody and the best methods to catch them. Charter boats can be found at major marinas, by contacting a local tourism agency, or by searching on fishing at www.iloveny.com.

Public Fishing Rights

If you are fishing for trout or salmon in streams, you will want to know where the public fishing easements are. DEC’s public fishing rights program provides fishing access to over 400 streams on private land in New York. Maps of these easements and additional information can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9924.html. All public fishing rights areas are clearly marked with signs indicating they are open to public fishing. These areas only exist because of the courtesy and cooperation of the landowner, so please treat them properly and don’t litter.

Boating in New York

Boaters will find over 500 public boat launches in New York. A listing of public boat launches can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7832.html or in the Directory of Public Boat Launching Sites available from DEC (see order form below).

All motorized boats in New York must be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Online registration is available at https://dmv.ny.gov/registration/register-boat. Boats registered in another state may be used for up to 90 days without the requirement to register in New York. Visit the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation site at https://parks.ny.gov/recreation/boating/default.aspx for rules and regulations and other useful information on boating in New York.

Learn to Fish

DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries teaches thousands of New Yorkers how to fish each year through its I FISH NY program. To find a program near you, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27123.html or call (518) 402-8891.

Fishing Hotlines

Looking to get the latest updates on where fish are being caught? Check out one of the fishing hotlines that cover many areas of New York. A complete listing of both DEC and other hotlines can be found at www.takemefishing.org/new-york/fishing-reports/.

Where To/How To Fish Information

You will find a myriad of information about fishing in New York on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html. The following publications can be downloaded at https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/115776.html. New brochures are added regularly, so be sure to check back often.

  • Beginners Guide to Freshwater Fishing
  • Guide to Trout Fishing with Synthetic Bait
  • Guide to Wacky Rigging for Bass
  • Freshwater Fishing Basics for Beginners
  • Brook Trout Fishing in Adirondack Ponds
  • Trout Fishing in Streams
  • Steelhead Fishing in Great Lakes Tributaries
  • Ice Fishing

The following printed brochures can be ordered by e-mail at fwfish@dec.ny.gov. Be sure to include your mailing address.

  • Guide to Freshwater Fishing in New York State
  • Guide to Great Lakes Fishing
  • Guide to Capital District Fishing
  • Freshwater Fishing on Long Island and New York City
  • New York State Boat Launching Sites

DEC staff in each region are eager to provide helpful fishing information and are the best sources for local fishing information. They can be contacted via phone or e-mail. Contact information can be found on the special regulations webpage for each DEC region.

Angler Achievement Awards

If you catch a big fish in New York, we want to know about it. Each year the Angler Achievement Awards program recognizes the top catches for 43 different fish species. Catch a fish that meets the minimum criteria and you will get a custom lapel pin. Anglers breaking a state record will also receive a custom plaque. See New York State Angler Achievement Awards or visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7727.html for more information.

Connect with DEC

Interested in the latest information from the Bureau of Fisheries? Subscribe to the Freshwater Fishing and Boating newsletter at https://www.dec.ny.gov/public/65855.html. You will receive a quarterly e-news letter and regular updates direct from the Bureau of Fisheries. You can also connect with DEC on Facebook and Twitter.

Download the App

Download the NY Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife App. Within the app you will find valuable information including the locations of boat launches and public fishing sites, events and fishing regulations. The HuntFishNY tool in the app also provides an electronic version of your fishing license.

Nearly 1300 miles of public fishing rights provide fishing access to NY’s rivers and streams.

Over 500 public boating access facilities are available for NY boaters and anglers to enjoy.

We Need Your E-mail Address

The Bureau of Fisheries routinely uses e-mail to provide information to anglers and gather input on important fisheries issues. Reminders are also provided to anglers when their annual fishing license is about to expire. Be sure to provide your e-mail address when purchasing your license. If you did not provide a valid e-mail address at the time you purchased your license, please do the following:

  • Call the NYS DEC Call Center at 1-866-933-2257 (Monday-Friday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm) or the License Sales hotline at 866-472-4332 (Monday-Friday, 8:00AM – 4:00PM), OR
  • Edit your profile directly online through the DEC Automated Licensing System (DECALS) at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html