With the opening day of trout season just around the corner, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced numerous changes to freshwater fishing regulations that will go into effect this year.
While there are many changes to the regulations that have state-wide impacts or affect areas outside of the Adirondacks, several of the changes do affect local waters. All of these changes take effect on April 1 this year.
The DEC has removed the size and creel limits on walleye in Franklin Falls Flow, but has instituted an 18-inch minimum length and limit of three per day on walleye in other local waters, including Little Wolf Pond, Kiwassa Lake, St. Regis Falls Impoundment, Putnam Pond, Lake Pleasant and its tributaries and on Sacandaga Lake and its tributaries.
DEC has also closed several streams for walleye fishing in St. Lawrence County and Crane Pond in Essex County, near Schroon Lake, has been reopened for ice fishing.
Several local lakes will continue to have restrictions on the number of ice-fishing devices allowed. Bigsby and Copperas ponds in Essex County, Upper Saranac Lake in Franklin County and Fawn Lake in Hamilton County will continue to have special restrictions imposed.
Anglers will now be able to take just three northern pike from the St. Lawrence River instead of five, and the special trout regulation on Whey Pond at the Rollins Pond campground has been removed. The special landlocked salmon regulations on Piseco Lake have been removed and lake trout in Woodhull Lake in Herkimer County now only need to be 18-inches long to be kept. Snatching and blind snatching whitefish is no longer allowed in Piseco Lake.
Lake George anglers can now catch smelt, as the use and possession of the fish on the lake has been eliminated. Special regulations on black bass in the Hudson River in Hamilton County has also been eliminated.
For a full summary of the 2017 freshwater fishing regulations, go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7917.html.
Sport fishing has a major economic impact on New York State, particularly in areas that rely on tourism dollars.
In a 2015 report from the state Comptroller, the state found that hunting, fishing and trapping is a $5 billion per year industry and that nearly $2 billion of that money was spent on lodging, food and travel.
The DEC sells fishing and hunting licenses, and generated $50 million in 2012-13, according to the report. DEC's spending on fish and game programs averages just over $44 million annually.
In 2011, New York ranked third in the nation in the number of people who engaged in hunting and/or fishing. Of about two million people who participated in those activities, the vast majority, at 63 percent, only fished. Nine percent only hunted and the rest both hunted and fished.
In the decade between 2001 and 2011, there was an increase of 35 percent in the number of people who engaged in fishing, and fishing license sales routinely out-perform hunting license sales.
License sales impact
The sale of licenses for fishing and hunting has a huge impact on the state economy as well. Sales of licenses support the fish hatcheries and fish stocking programs, as well as other wildlife and conservation efforts.
"The Conservation Fund Main Account supports the operation of the State's 12 fish hatcheries, the assessment of game fish and animal populations, the creation of fishing access sites and the enforcement of fish and game laws," the report says. "These funds also support a comprehensive range of programs important for the management of non-game fish and animal species, such as the protection of endangered species, protection of wetlands, wildlife pathology, biodiversity mapping and assessment of threats to aquatic habitats."
As a percentage of the population, several upstate counties ranked in the top-10 statewide for license sales.
"While Hamilton County is the least populated county in the state, the total number of licenses sold in Hamilton County was equal to over 84 percent of its population," the report says. "More than a third of all licenses issued in the county were to out-of-state residents."
Oswego, Warren and Lewis counties also ranked in the top 10.
You can read the full economic impact report at www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/economic/sportpersons_11302015.pdf.
DEC's Angler Achievement program recognizes outstanding fish caught by anglers in New York each year.
The annual award is for the three heaviest fish caught and is awarded on 43 different species. Several of the winners last year were caught on Lake Champlain.
There is also a catch-and-release award for 21 game species. Two 22-inch largemouth bass were caught on Paradox Lake in Herkimer County last year and a 10-inch pumpkinseed was caught on Long Pond.
The third category of awards is for the state record. Several state-record fish have been caught in Lake Champlain, and in 2013, a 6-pound, 22.6-inch was caught in the Silver Lake Wilderness area in Hamilton County. Richard Beauchamp caught the fish using a Lake Clear warbler.
For more information on the awards program, including specific rules for registering your catch, go
Free fishing weekends
The DEC offers free fishing days throughout the year, when no fishing license is required. All other bait and catch limit regulations still apply.
The next free fishing days will be Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25. For more information on the free fishing days, go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/89821.html.
In addition to the free fishing days, DEC also offers free "learn to fish" clinics around the state. Participants in the clinics don't need a fishing license to participate, and will learn the basics of fishing equipment, techniques and fish identification.
To find a free fishing clinic, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/
27123.html. There are also resources on the DEC website for beginners at www.dec.ny.gov/