Nate Kennedy: New fishing regulations just in time for spring | Sports

Nate Kennedy special for the citizen

Spring is here! Will we still have a foot of snow on May 1st this year? Maybe, but spring is still here. If you’ve done your due diligence, your March chore list is nearly complete, there’s firewood ready for the year ahead, your deer season scouting has begun, you’re ready for the season turkey, caught up on housework and family time, and all you need now is a fishing rod, a day of vacation, and a bit of luck. And, if you’re like me and your chore list got overlooked and March flew by before you could manage to take care of anything substantial, well, there’s always ‘next year.

This is April, the savior. April tends to bring a few warmer days, ice and open water across the state, and the kickoff of another fishing season. It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid open-water perch angler, a shore sunfish angler, or a seasoned brook trout veteran, April is sure to bring you a breath of fresh air after a long New York winter. This year, with the spring fishery, there are a few changes to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s freshwater fishing regulations. These changes are simple and well defined and come with enthusiasm from the DEC Fisheries Office.

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The DEC set out to change the regulations to increase participation and enjoyment, while reducing complications. Steve Hurst, head of the Office of Fisheries, said the DEC “has passed this fishing regulations cleanup package to streamline and simplify regulations, to make fishing more fun and easier to understand.” These new regulations came into effect on Friday, April 1, just in time for the opening of the trout fishery.

Along with the Amendments, the DEC released a Public Comment Assessment, in which each comment submitted regarding the proposed Amendments was made available for public review. Hurst said “comments received were overwhelmingly supportive of the proposed changes.”

For a full review of regulations, changes, comments, etc., please visit the DEC website. Here is an overview of the most notable changes:

• There is a new statewide rule for rainbow trout, brown trout and splake in lakes and ponds. The season will now be open year-round, with a daily limit of five fish, of any size, with a “no more than two over 12” harvest rule.

Nate Kennedy

• Statewide Atlantic salmon regulations will now allow for a year-round open season.

• Ice fishing is permitted on all New York waters unless specifically prohibited, except for Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington counties, where the above rules remain.

• New specific dates replaced floating dates for statewide season openings to include: May 1 for walleye, northern pike, northern pike and tiger muskellunge; June 1 for muskellunge (note that in 2022 the DEC will allow fishing for muskellunge starting the last Saturday in May to accommodate previously scheduled fishing trips); and June 15 for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.

• A daily limit of five walleye is established in Oneida Lake.

• There is a new regulation to limit walleye population growth in Skaneateles Lake. No daily possession limit; Minimum height limit of 12 inches, open year-round.

• The statewide daily harvest limit for sunfish has been reduced from 50 to 25 fish.

• The statewide minimum size limit for crappie has been increased from 9 inches to 10 inches.

These changes, along with all other rules and regulations, can all be found in the DEC’s Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet. Digital copies are available online and hard copies should be available in early mid-April. As a fisherman, stakeholder and user of our natural resources, it is your responsibility to read these regulations and know them when you go fishing.

And by all means, please go fishing! April holds many special times for angling in New York State. Trout season is open and river fishing can be warm, and the ice leaves many small ponds and lakes providing access to brook trout. Bullheads, sunfish and crappie are starting to bite along the shores, and the yellow perch bite is sure to cause a 5 gallon bucket shortage at all your local hardware stores. It’s time. It’s here. Get after her!

A final point to make, and I’ve done this before, is that public input is important. You fish, you hunt, you observe, you care, you feel, you think, etc. You are part of the system and the algorithm. When the time comes to make your voice heard, to express your opinion or to share your thoughts on a certain subject, you have the right and the responsibility to do so. Our wildlife managers want your input, and they will consider it when making changes to rules, regulations, seasons and boundaries. Enjoy it as often as you can and be part of the process when you have the chance.

As we head into April, enjoy the time outdoors. It’s been a long winter and the hot, humid days of summer will be here before we know it. Enjoy spring while it’s here.

Nate Kennedy is a resident of New York’s North Country who enjoys hunting and fishing in the Finger Lakes. A native of Ogdensburg, he is a lifelong hunter and fisherman who holds a master’s degree in environmental communication from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and is the Northeast Regional Engagement Coordinator with the Ruffed Grouse Society. and the American Woodcock Society. Kennedy enjoys writing and sharing her outdoor pursuits and her column appears monthly in The Citizen.

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