Despite a new regulation, representatives from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation claim the agency will not ticket anglers who take photos of out-of-season and endangered fish they’ve accidentally caught.
A recent report stated that the DEC fishing regulations handbook now includes a rule making it illegal to take photos of fish caught out of season or those that are endangered, even if the catch was accidental.
According to the handbook:
“A person may not fish for a species (even if immediately released) during the closed season for that species on a given water. Fish caught during the closed season must be unhooked and released immediately. They may not be handled for any other purpose, including taking a picture.”
Anglers caught breaking the law could be ticketed and fined as much as $250 per incident or serve up to 15 days in jail. But today the DEC clarified its stance on the matter, contradicting the position published in its own handbook:
“The DEC does not ticket anglers for taking pictures of fish,” said Lori Severino, a DEC spokesperson, in an email to Syracuse.com. However, Severino explained, “DEC urges everyone – anglers, researchers and others – to respect DEC’s regulation that fish caught out of season and endangered or threatened species inadvertently caught be returned to the water immediately to protect New York’s natural resources.”
Why the change of heart? It may have had something to do with the hoards of emails and other communication sent to the DEC following publication of the new law after it appeared in the handbook April 1. But Severino explained that the paragraph in its fishing guide was strictly an advisory, and still is.
“DEC’s regulation that requires fish caught out of season to be returned immediately to the water helps ensure, sustainable fish populations,” Severino wrote. “DEC’s fishery biologists determined that a delay in returning a fish caught during a closed season to the water – even if the delay is not intended to harm the fish – may reduce their survival.”
The moral of the story? First and foremost, don’t fish for species that are not in season on any particular waters, but if you happen to catch one by accident, it’s vital you return it to the water as soon as possible.
If, however, you happen to snap a pic for all of Facebook posterity, you’re not going to end up in the slammer.