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Public Fishing Rights

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Fishing is a timeless tradition enjoyed by millions of people of all ages, and New York State has some of the finest fishing waters in the nation. Many of these waters, however, can be difficult to access because they are privately-owned. Since 1935, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has worked with private landowners to ensure access to these prime fishing waters. During that time, nearly 1,300 miles of public fishing rights (PFR) easements have been purchased on over 400 streams across the state. The landowners participating in this worthwhile program are the key to its success, and the reason that our children will be able to continue enjoying fishing. As an owner of land along one of the state’s waterways, you may qualify to participate in, and receive the benefits of this program.

Public Fishing Rights:

  • Are permanent easements along game fish streams that allow the public to wade and walk along the streambed and banks for the purpose of fishing, and for no other activity.
  • Are granted voluntarily to the people of the State of New York by owners of private land. The landowner continues to own the land affected by the limited fishing rights easement.
  • Are permanent easements which will apply to all future owners of the property. The easement gives DEC the right to, when funds are available, do stream improvement work (such as planting trees or shrubs), if needed, to protect and stabilize stream banks.
  • Usually consist of a 33-foot strip of land along each bank, or along one bank if that is all the landowner owns. Foot-path rights-of-way may also be included, especially if a parking area is also purchased.
  • Do not interfere with the landowner’s use of the property for farming, grazing, water supply and fishing. Landowners may fence the land, plow it, cut trees, or otherwise improve it. Landowners may also post their property against hunting or any other type of trespass except fishing.
  • Place no obligation on the owner to keep their lands safe for entry or use by anglers or for acts of such persons (see Section 9-103 of General Obligations Law).
  • Follow the natural course of the stream even if it should change its course, as long as it remains on the landowner’s property.

Landowner Benefits:

  • Landowners receive a payment based on a rate per bank-mile or proportionate part of a mile that is owned. (Rates vary on different waters.)
  • Extra money is given if a footpath easement or parking area is acquired. Footpaths are for crossing a landowner’s property from a road to the water at a specified location.

For more information, contact your Regional Fisheries Manager (see Special Regulations by County pages) or visit: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7746.html

PFR Location Maps

Public Fishing Rights locator maps have been completed for most of New York. For a listing of available maps, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9924.html

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This is not the full law. Consult theNew York Department of Environmental Conservation for further details. All persons are reminded that the statutes, code and regulations are the legal authorities.

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