Early Spring Fishing Opens Throughout New York State on May 1st
Season Begins for Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the fishing season for popular coolwater species such as walleye, northern pike, pickerel, and tiger muskellunge begins on Saturday, May 1. With early spring offering many great opportunities, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is encouraging new and experienced anglers alike to fish in waters throughout New York.
"Fishing is a longstanding and beloved tradition for many New Yorkers, and it is also an important economic driver for communities across the state," Governor Cuomo said. "This spring, anglers of all ages and abilities can cast their lines and safely enjoy spending time outdoors on New York's beautiful waterways and in our magnificent shoreside communities."
Walleye have a well-deserved reputation as one of New York's most prized and tasty gamefish. Located in more than 140 waters throughout the state, walleye is often considered one of the more challenging fish to catch, but knowing when and where to find this fish, as well as how they behave, can help.
Excellent walleye fishing can be found from Fort Pond on the eastern end of Long Island to Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie in Western New York. Other great fishing locations for walleye can be found on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's website.
"Fishing is a great way to stay active and maintain a positive state of mind during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "New York offers exceptional fishing for many different species and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the available opportunities, especially those close to home."
In addition, there is no need to wait for water temperatures to warm up as fishing for walleye can be particularly good during the coolwater periods of the early and mid-spring. Walleye are aggressive post-spawn feeders and can often be found in relatively shallow water near spawning locations during this time of year.
Typical gear used for walleye fishing includes spinning or baitcasting reels, medium-weight rods, and monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Reliable baits include artificial lures, live baits, or both. Jigs, crankbaits, stickbaits, and live bait harnesses can all be effective, with simple presentations often being the most effective. More detailed advice for catching walleye can be found on DEC's website.
Spring is also one of the best times to target northern pike. These fish move into shallow tributaries, bays, and wetlands in early spring to spawn, typically just after ice-out. After spawning, northern pike tend to stay near these shallow areas and feed aggressively before returning to deeper areas for the summer.
Fishing gear typically includes a medium-heavy rod and a spinning or baitcasting reel with monofilament or braided line used with a steel or heavy fluorocarbon leader. Casting swimbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and spoons along and around structure works well in the spring.
Anglers can find high quality pike fishing opportunities in coolwater lakes in the Adirondacks, such as Great Sacandaga Lake, Tupper Lake, the Saranac Chain of Lakes and Cranberry Lake. The St. Lawrence River, Seneca Lake, and Conesus Lake are also considered top pike fishing locations. Learn more about northern pike, muskie, pickerel and other esocid fishing opportunities here.
Anglers are reminded that the fishing season for muskellunge opens the last Saturday in May. DEC's streamlined fishing regulations guide, which includes a summary of the laws and regulations anglers need to know before hitting the water, will soon be available at license issuing agents statewide and online to download and print. New York State is reminding anglers to stay smart when fishing during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Socially distance;
- Mask up 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.
New York State's PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and DEC recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask, even when visiting the outdoors. For more information about how to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL, visit DEC's website.