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New York residents can fish for free on Saturday, September 26, which is National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated each year to promote outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and target shooting.

"It's no secret that early autumn offers some of the best fishing opportunities on the calendar, and New York is teeming with some of the best lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams in the Northeast just waiting to be explored," Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. "Fishing is a tradition in my family and in families across New York State, and I encourage everyone from experienced anglers to those who have never fished before to participate in this Free Fishing Day and spend some time together outdoors."

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC's) Places to Fish webpages are a reliable source for those ready to plan their next fishing trip. For beginning anglers interested in getting started, the I FISH NY Beginners' Guide to Freshwater Fishing provides information on everything from rigging up a fishing rod to identifying your catch and understanding fishing regulations.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Free fishing days allow expert and novice anglers alike to take advantage of the many fishing opportunities in New York State. As we all try to remain vigilant during the COVID-19 pandemic, more New Yorkers are heading outdoors in search of fun activities close to home. A day on the water is fun for the entire family and will lead to more people joining our state's hunting and fishing community."

With New Yorkers looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, DEC is experiencing record-breaking sales of hunting and trapping licenses. Sales for big game hunting and trapping licenses and Deer Management Permits (DMPs) were nearly triple prior years' sales on opening day, more than double on the second day of sales, and nearly double the first two weeks. Fishing licenses are up, as well, increasing 15 percent since this spring. Fishing, hunting, and trapping are outdoor activities that can be practiced safely during the COVID-19 pandemic as they are often perfectly suited for social distancing.

"Free fishing days give all New Yorkers a chance to enjoy fishing and outdoor activities," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "As we continue to grapple with challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will give individuals and families an opportunity to enjoy all that New York State has to offer. We are committed to promoting all of the great things to do outdoors in New York during the summer and fall and to enhance quality of life for New Yorkers in communities across the state."

On free fishing days, New York residents and non-residents may fish for free without a fishing license. Free Fishing Day participants are reminded that, although the requirement for a fishing license is waived during free fishing days, all other fishing regulations remain in effect. The final free fishing day for 2020 will take place on Veterans Day, November 11. When not participating in Free Fishing Days, anyone 16 years of age and older must have a current State fishing license to fish in New York. Fishing licenses are now valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. More information on purchasing a fishing license can be found on DEC's website.

Fishing and hunting in New York build a sense of stewardship of fish and wildlife resources and habitats, provide an opportunity for experienced hunters and anglers to share their knowledge with others, and promote participation in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting through the mentoring of young hunters and anglers. New York's hunters and anglers contribute an estimated $4.9 billion to the economy in spending, which supports more than 56,000 jobs and $623 million in state and local taxes.

New York State continues to encourage people to engage in responsible recreation during the State's ongoing response to COVID-19. This fall, anglers should be mindful in taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 while enjoying the outstanding salmon and trout fishing on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario tributaries, including the Niagara River, among other locations throughout the state. At popular angling destinations, especially the Salmon River in Oswego County, angler density can become high enough to make social distancing difficult. DEC is placing signage at popular locations reminding anglers to be SMART when fishing this year:
  • Socially distance at least six feet apart;
  • Mask - Wear one when you cannot maintain social distancing, especially in parking lots and along footpaths;
  • Avoid sharing gear when possible;
  • Respect your fellow anglers and the resource by providing space and practicing ethical angling; and
  • Take out what you bring in or place trash in receptacles.

Anglers fishing from a boat should make sure it's large enough so persons on board are at least six feet apart from one another.

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