The first Saturday in May marks the beginning of the fishing season for many popular warmwater sportfish species, including walleye, northern pike, pickerel, and tiger muskellunge.
With the warmwater opener, most of the New York sportfish seasons will be open. This includes catch and release fishing for black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass) in many waters across the state. Muskellunge fishing season and the regular (harvest) season for black bass open on the 3rd Saturday in June (June 18).
“New Yorkers are fortunate to have such a large variety of popular sportfish to chose from,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “We hope that all anglers find the time to enjoy these fishing opportunities in 2011 and encourage them to share their enjoyment by introducing someone new to the sport.”
Walleye are very popular springtime targets and fishing opportunities now exist in over 100 waters throughout the state. As part of ongoing management and research programs, DEC has stocked 60 waters with walleye fry or fingerlings over the last 5 years in almost all regions of the state. Anglers are also encouraged to take advantage of the black bass catch and release season for many state waters as well as the early season for black bass in Lake Erie, which also opens on May 7. Spring also provides outstanding fishing opportunities for yellow perch, sunfish and crappie, valued for their tasty flesh. These species are common throughout the state and provide easy fishing for even novice anglers. A popular sportfish in southern and Midwestern states, channel catfish also flourish in many of our larger lakes and rivers, provide a very tasty meal, and are underutilized by New York anglers. A complete listing of 2011 warmwater fishing hotspots recommended by DEC biologists can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/64710.html.
DEC will be initiating a number of bass studies in 2011. These studies include an effort to assess black bass populations statewide, the investigation of black bass movements following bass tournaments on Lake Champlain and a tournament monitoring program on Oneida Lake. Participation from bass anglers will be requested for both tournament studies.
Warmwater anglers on Lake Champlain are requested to report any catches of sauger to Emily Zollweg at the DEC Region 5 office in Warrensburg at (518) 623-1264. The status of sauger, a close relative of the walleye, has been unknown in the lake for a quite some time, until a single sauger was caught in a DEC survey last spring. Sauger can be distinguished from walleye by the three to four saddle-shaped dark brown blotches on their sides, the distinct black spots on the first dorsal (back) fin and the lack of a white tip on the lower lobe of the tail fin.
Use Baitfish Wisely
Anglers using fish for bait are reminded to be careful with how these fish are used and disposed of. Careless use of baitfish is one of the primary means by which non-native species and fish diseases are spread from water to water. Unused baitfish should be discarded in an appropriate location on dry land. A “Green List” of commercially available baitfish species that are approved for use in New York State has now been established in regulation. In most cases, these fish must also be certified as disease free. For a complete discussion of these regulations and how to identify approved baitfish species, download the brochure “Baitfish of New York State” at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/74079.html. Personal collection and use of baitfish other than those on the “Green List” is permitted, but only on the water from which they were collected and they may not be transported overland by motorized vehicle. Anglers are reminded that new regulations for transportation of baitfish are currently under consideration, and these proposed regulations can be viewed at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/73305.html .
Preventing Invasive Species and Fish Diseases
Anglers are also reminded to be sure to dry or disinfect their fishing and boating equipment, including waders and boots, before entering a new body of water. This is the only way to prevent the spread of potentially damaging invasive plant and animal species (didymo and zebra mussels) and fish diseases (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) and whirling disease). Methods to clean and disinfect fishing gear can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/50121.html.
Anglers 16 years of age and older must have a New York State fishing license available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS. Fishing licenses can also be purchased from the 1,500 license issuing agents located throughout the state (town and county clerks, some major discount stores and many tackle and sporting goods stores). By law, every dollar spent on a fishing license helps fund the DEC fish stocking program and other programs conducted by the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.
Commissioner Martens also encouraged all outdoor enthusiasts to consider purchasing a Habitat/Access Stamp, an optional stamp that helps support the DEC’s efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. For more information on the Habitat/Access Stamp Program visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/329.html