New freshwater fishing regulations went into effect April 1. Many of the changes were made to consolidate regulations and eliminate special regulations that were no longer warranted or had become obsolete.

The modifications to the sportfishing regulations were the result of a two-year process that included biological assessment, discussions with anglers and a formal 45-day public comment period. The regulations will be published in the 2015-16 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide, should be available at all license sales vendors.

Here are some ighlights of the final changes that could affect local anglers include the following:

• Establishing a closed statewide season for sauger.

• Modifying the statewide regulation for muskellunge by increasing the minimum size limit to 40 inches and adjusting the season opener from the third Saturday in June to the last Saturday in May.

• Providing consistency between the proposed statewide muskellunge regulation changes and the existing muskellunge regulations for specific waters including Lake Champlain, and St. Lawrence County rivers and streams, as well as for both muskellunge and tiger muskellunge at Chautauqua Lake.

• Increasing the minimum size limit for muskellunge to 54 inches in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River.

• Increasing the minimum size limit for walleye at Honeoye Lake from 15 to 18 inches.

• Initiating a catch and release season for trout for sections of the Salmon River (Franklin County) and Ninemile Creek (Onondaga County), and extending the catch and release season at Fall Creek (Cayuga Lake).

• Establishing a special trout regulation of a daily creel limit of five fish with no more than two fish longer than 12 inches, for some waters in Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, and St. Lawrence counties, as well as for Little River and Oswegatchie River (St. Lawrence County), and Oriskany Creek (Oneida County).

• Establishing an all-year trout season, with a 12-inch minimum size limit and daily limit of three fish, at Hinkley and Prospect Reservoirs in Herkimer and Oneida counties, North Lake in Herkimer County, and for an additional section of the North Branch Saranac River in Franklin and Clinton counties.

• Establishing a 15-inch minimum size limit for lake trout and clarify that the statewide regulations apply for other species for the Owasco River (Cayuga County).

• Extending Great Lakes tributary regulations upstream to the section of the Genesee River (Monroe County) from State Route 104 Bridge upstream to the Lower Falls.

• Exempting Old Seneca Lake Inlet from the Finger Lakes tributary regulations.

• Clarifying a definition for “catch and release fishing” and defining how incidental catches of untargeted fish are to be handled.

The following special regulations were no longer needed:

• Deleting the special minimum size and daily creel limit walleye regulation for Tully Lake (Cortland and Onondaga Counties).  

• Eliminating the special regulations (examples being minimum size limit, daily creel limit, season length and/or method of take) for trout, landlocked salmon and/or lake trout, at several waters including Schoharie Reservoir, Susquehanna River (between Otsego and Goodyear Lakes), Launt Pond (Delaware County), Basswood Pond (Otsego County), Cold Brook (St. Lawrence County), and West Branch of the St. Regis River (St. Lawrence County).

• Eliminating the special brown trout and landlocked salmon regulations (minimum size limit, daily creel limit and season length) at Otsego Lake.

• Eliminating the “all year – any size” special regulation for black bass at Cayuta Creek in Tioga County.

The following were changes to regulations pertaining to baitfish and other non-game fish:

• Adding madtoms and stonecats to the approved list of fish that may be used, collected and sold as baitfish.

• Modifying smelt regulations for Cayuga and Owasco Lakes, for consistency with five Western Finger Lakes.

• Eliminating the prohibition on taking smelt and suckers with a scap or dip net in Willow Creek (Tompkins County).

• Removing the allowance for snatching lake whitefish at Otsego Lake.

  The following were changes or modification of fishing gear:

• Streamlining what devices may be used for ice fishing by modifying the statewide regulation to allow for a total of seven devices that may be used to fish through the ice.

• With the exception of the Salmon River, permitting the use of floating lures with multiple hooks with multiple hook points, on all Lake Ontario tributaries.

• Clarifying the definition of floating lures on Lake Ontario tributaries to: “A floating lure is a lure that floats while at rest in water with or without any weight attached to the line, leader, or lure.”

• Clarifying that the current regulation for the Great Lake tributaries restricting the use of hooks with added weight was not intended to ban the use of small jigs.

• Expanding the prohibition of weight added to the line, leader, swivels, artificial fly or lures to all Lake Ontario tributaries (i.e. beyond a limited group of tributaries) from Sept. 1 through March 31 of the following year.

• Clarifying that the use of flies with up to two hook points is legal on all Great Lake tributaries.

• Replacing Lake Ontario tributary regulations for St. Lawrence River tributaries in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties with statewide terminal tackle restrictions.

• Clarifying the description of gear (gill nets) that is allowed, in the Finger Lakes, for the collection of alewives for personal use as bait.

• Reinstating the prohibition on large landing nets (nets larger than 50 inches around the frame or with a handle longer than 20 inches) for Finger Lakes tributaries except for those sections that are specifically identified.

  In addition to the above, several changes were made to properly establish or clarify an earlier regulation change, better define an existing regulation (by rewording), or address regulations that have not changed but are now redundant and covered elsewhere in the regulations including as a result of consolidation.

  The complete list of sportfishing regulation changes can be viewed under “Recently Adopted (Previous Twelve Months)” on the state Department of Environmental Conservation website at www.dec.ny.gov. All comments received were categorized and reviewed for substance, and staff responses were compiled.  A summary of the “Assessment of Public Comment” is available on the Department of State website atwww.dos.state.ny.us/info/register.htm.

MUTE SWAN PLAN REVISED

The DEC has released a revised mute swan management plan with significant changes after considering the diverse public comments received on a first draft released in January 2014. DEC is accepting public comments on the revised plan through April 24. 

The mute swan is a non-native, invasive species brought to North America to beautify estates in the late 1800s, but birds that escaped or were released established feral populations that are competing with native wildlife for aquatic food plants and nesting areas. The revised Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State is available on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7076.html

WATERFOWL HUNTERS' INPUT

Hunters can submit recommendations to regional Waterfowl Hunter Task Forces for the dates of the fall 2015 duck hunting seasons by April 8. There is a task force in each of the five waterfowl hunting zones in the state. Each task force includes representatives from the New York State Conservation Council, established waterfowl hunting organizations and individual waterfowl hunters who provide input representing diverse points of view. DEC evaluates then task force recommendations in setting waterfowl seasons, which must comply with federal rules. This is a great opportunity for waterfowl hunters to participate in the season-setting process by providing duck season suggestions to any task force member on or before the April 8 deadline. Names and contact information for all task force members are listed in alphabetical order on DEC’s website here: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42364.html. A local task force member is Dave Erickson of Auburn, who can be reached at (315) 224-4494 or rockyericksoncolbert@yahoo.com.

The recommended dates must be within federal guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For fall 2015, DEC expects the USFWS to allow a 60-day duck season, split into no more than two segments per zone, opening no earlier than Sept. 26 and closing no later than Jan. 31.

Comments can be provided to DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife by mail, telephone or e-mail, with e-mail being the preferred method at SeasonWaterfowl@dec.ny.gov. The task forces will meet in April, and DEC plans to announce tentative duck hunting season dates in June.

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