Fishing in New York: What to Know Before You Go

If you are looking for info on fishing New York, this should satisfy your need.

Going on a fishing trip to the Empire State, but don't know where to start on your planning? We've got you covered.

New York is a state filled with many varied angling opportunities for a variety of fish species.

Mostly we'll be talking about freshwater, but there are a few saltwater opportunities near Long Island and New York City.

From fishing licenses to the best bass fishing lakes, this is everything you need to know about New York fishing.

New York Fishing Licenses

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) can be quite insistent on fishing licenses. They even require them for private waters not open to the public. Thankfully, the license costs are quite reasonable.

For residents, an annual license is $25 for ages 16-69. A discounted (age 70+) license is available for just $5. A seven-day resident license is $12 and a one-day is just $5. A resident military/disabled fishing license annual is just $5.

There are a few free fishing licenses available, too. State residents who are legally blind can get a free license with a doctor's note. New York residents who are active service members can get a free license no matter if they are stationed within the state or not. Patients at Veteran's Affair offices and some Native Americans are also eligible for free fishing licenses.

For non-residents the costs go up a little bit, but they're still not that bad in the grand scheme of things. An annual non-resident license is $50. A seven-day license is $28 and a one-day license is $10.

When it comes to saltwater fishing, New York is a bit unique. It's mainly because only a tiny portion of the state falls into coastal waters.

For reference, this is the DEC's map showing just how small of an oceanic area is considered NY waters.

Unlike other states, there is no saltwater license. If you plan to fish saltwater for migratory fish like river herring, hickory shad or striped bass, you must enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. Don't worry, it's simple to do and can be done either online or wherever fishing licenses are sold.

Note that the DEC requires anglers to be registered if fishing waters of the Delaware and Mohawk Rivers AND if you're fishing tidal waters of the Hudson River for any of the migratory fish we listed above. Note that the tidal area extends quite a ways upriver, miles from the ocean. Don't get caught off-guard if you don't want a ticket!

There are exceptions to these fishing regulations. If you hire a licensed charter boat, you don't have to worry about it. Likewise if you already have a resident saltwater fishing license from Connecticut or Rhode Island. Also note that if you're going fishing for tuna or sharks, you need a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service for that.

If you're looking to explore alternative fishing methods, your options are limited. New York only allows bowfishing for carp, and alternate methods like jug lines and trot lines are not legal, so leave that stuff at home.

To get a license, you can either purchase them online through the DEC's website or you can buy them in-person at certified dealers scattered across the state.

What to bring: Fishing gear for New York

The interesting thing about New York is that the fishing is incredibly varied. What you bring is dependent on what species you'll be targeting. New York is known for its northern pike, muskie, stripers, bass, brown trout, Atlantic salmon and more.

If you're freshwater fishing but aren't picky about what you catch, the standard soft plastics, spinnerbaits and jigs in natural colors are a good place to start. For walleye or smallmouth bass, it's not a bad idea to work some crankbaits into the mix. For muskie and northern pike, bring some large bucktail spinners and swimbaits. For striped bass, look at poppers, bucktail jigs, jerkbaits and swimbaits in natural or flashy color patterns.

For lake trout, chinook or coho salmon, inline spinners and large spoons are going to be your best bet at catching one. If you're fishing for a great dinner of crappie, bluegill, yellow perch or sunfish, live bait is going to be your best bet. Go with minnows for the crappie and some worms for the others.

Speaking of panfish, New York is an excellent ice fishing state. All these species can be abundantly caught through the ice using jigs and wax worms. In the winter, try using a tip-up with live minnows or suckers for large pike and muskie.

When it comes to rods and reels, a medium-action combo, either baitcasting or spinning, should work well for most forms of fishing you will do, especially bass fishing. The state record for smallmouth bass is 8 pounds, 4 ounces and for largemouth bass is 11 pounds, 4 ounces. These fish are big exceptions to the norm, though.

Remember that this is a northern state. Some species simply don't grow as large as they do in more southern fishing locations. A five-pound bass of either species is usually considered a large catch in most areas. We'd recommend saving the heavy tackle for either saltwater or pike, muskie, trout and salmon.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you're fishing the western part of the state, is the weather. Bring an assortment of lures for conditions that can change at the drop of a hat. The Great Lakes can cause some unusual weather without much warning, so make sure you also have appropriate clothing. One day it may be super hot and humid and the next it may be pouring rain. Don't say we didn't warn you...

Where to fish.

Of course, everyone wants to know where the best fishing spots are. The good news is, there is no shortage in New York.

We'll start with the Great Lakes. You can't go wrong with Lake Erie or Lake Ontario for big smallmouth bass, salmon and lake trout. If you don't own a boat, there are plenty of charters for hire in both lakes that can take you out after the species you seek. A quick search online will give you lots of options.

Another notable New York lake is Lake Champlain, which straddles the state line with Vermont to the east and Quebec, Canada to the north. Note that a New York state license IS acceptable for fishing in Vermont waters, but NOT for fishing across the international border. Champlain is a dynamite smallmouth bass, perch, pike, muskie, walleye and salmon fishery.

In the central part of the state, consider the Finger Lakes area that was scraped out by glaciers thousands of years ago. The most popular lakes in this area are Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca. These lakes are long, narrow and extremely deep. They're great places to fish for salmon, trout and both large and smallmouth bass. The Finger Lakes National Forest lies between Seneca and Cayuga and can serve as a great camping home base for the duration of your fishing trip.

Chautauqua Lake in the southwestern most corner of the state is a great lake to fish anytime of the year. It is best known for the giant muskie and smallmouth bass that patrol the depths of this 13,000-acre lake.

Most of the other lakes we've mentioned here all receive a fair amount of fishing pressure. For a more secluded wilderness experience away from the crowds, try the West Canada Lake and Little Moose Mountain Wilderness areas. These beautiful woodland areas are part of the Adirondack Mountains and contain dozens of tiny lakes and streams perfect for camping, and they receive less fishing pressure than other areas. It's a good place to practice your fly fishing!

When it comes to rivers, New York has no shortage of those, either. The Niagara, St. Lawrence and Hudson are the big ones everyone knows, but don't overlook the Delaware, Mohawk or Salmon Rivers either for opportunities at a variety of species. For great surf fishing, try Montauk on Long Island. It's an awesome place to go fishing for stripers, bluefish and more. 

You can't go wrong

You really can't go wrong with fishing anywhere in New York. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, glaciers slowly moved across the state, carving out waterways and providing us with plenty of awesome fishing opportunities today.

There is a reason many professional anglers flock here for tournaments and TV shows: in New York, youve got a shot at a BIG fish. An angling trip to the Empire State this season will almost guarantee you keep coming back for years to come.

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