Anglers Permitted to Fish Without a License on February 17 and 18

First of Several Free Fishing Events in 2018 Supporting Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative

 New York’s Sport Fishing Industry Generates an Estimated $1.8 Billion in Economic Activity Annually, Supports Nearly 17,000 Jobs Statewide

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the first of several free fishing events in New York will take place this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 17 and Sunday, Feb. 18. During these designated days, residents and visitors are permitted to fish for free without a fishing license on any of the state’s 7,500 lakes and ponds or 70,000 miles of rivers and streams. These are the first of several free fishing events planned for 2018, including June 23 and 24Sept. 22 (National Hunting and Fishing Day), and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).

“Year-round, whether it’s a Hudson Valley stream in July or a frozen Adirondack lake in February, there is no better fishing than right here in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “These free fishing days give New Yorkers and visitors alike the opportunity to experience the world-class fishing and scenic natural beauty in every corner of this great state.”

The free fishing days program is part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, which under the 2017-18 budget provides $19.5 million for state land access projects and $4 million for fish and wildlife infrastructure. The program began in 1991 to give people who might not fish a chance to try the rewarding sport at no cost, to introduce people to a new hobby, and to encourage people to support the sport by purchasing a New York State fishing license.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Ice fishing continues to grow in popularity in New York and there is no better time to give it a try than this weekend. With the exception of coastal areas of the state that lost ice cover in the recent thaw, many areas should have good ice to take advantage of. Ice fishing is a proud tradition in New York State that provides recreational enjoyment while serving as a vital economic generator, supporting local economies statewide.”

The State Department of Environmental Conservation reminds those venturing out onto the ice that four inches or more of solid ice is considered to be safe for accessing bodies of water on foot. Ice anglers should note that ice thickness can vary on different bodies of water and on the same body of water. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can be done easily with an auger or ice spud at various spots.


While a New York State fishing license is not required to participate, all other statewide fishing regulations remain in effect. Those new to ice fishing are encouraged to download the DEC’s new I FISH NY Beginners’ Guide to Freshwater Fishing Ice Fishing Chapter. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can found on the DEC ice fishing web page and the Public Lakes and Ponds map.

Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:

  • Follow the bait fish Special Regulations by County to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species
  • Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
  • Do not reuse baitfish in another water-body if you have replaced the water they were purchased in.
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.

In addition to these free fishing days, there will be dozens of free fishing clinics and events held at locations across the state. The public is advised to check back regularly as new events are regularly added to the list throughout the year.

Free fishing events give people a chance to try the thrilling sport of fishing at no cost, and people are encouraged to support the sport by purchasing a NYS fishing license. More information can be found here.


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