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Free Fishing Weekend; State Ice Fishing Report

Free Fishing Weekend - February 13-14, 2021

This weekend is Free Fishing weekend in New York. That means you don't need a fishing license, so it's a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time or introduce someone new to the sport. Coincidence that this coincides with Valentine's Day? We think not!

Visit DEC's Ice Fishing webpage for where to go, regulations, and more. Just a reminder- all other fishing regulations remain in effect.

For additional free fishing days in 2021, visit DEC's website.

Regional Ice Fishing Reports

Here's what our regional biologists had to say about current ice fishing conditions in their respective part of the state. Also, local bait & tackle shops are another reliable resource for ice fishing reports in your area. They'll have everything you need, and it’s always great to support local businesses.

Region 3 (Southeastern NY) Many waterbodies in Region 3 now have safe ice, and anglers are enjoying some time out on the hardwater. Most noteworthy catches have been coming from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reservoirs East of the Hudson River including several reports of large walleye, perch, crappie and tiger muskies. In addition to a NYS DEC fishing license, anglers are required to have a NYC DEP watershed access permit when fishing these waters.

Region 4 (Capital District/Northern Catskills) Above average fishing pressure has made some of the waters that had safe ice early start to house less receptive fish. Larger/deeper waters that are just now getting ice cover are approaching the recommended 4 inches (Otsego Lake) and should be safe now.

Region 5 (Eastern Adirondacks/Lake Champlain) Region 5 continues to provide ample and diverse ice fishing opportunities for anglers. Smaller waters and those in the interior Adirondacks that are open to ice fishing have been frozen for nearly two months and continue to provide good action for yellow perch, northern pike, walleye, rainbow smelt, trout and salmon. The shallow bays and protected areas of Lake Champlain have held safe ice for at least a few weeks, and anglers are catching a wide variety of species including pike, perch, catfish and panfish. Productive lake trout and landlocked salmon areas on Lake George and Lake Champlain are starting to freeze up with our recent cold spell, giving anglers who like to target these species a shot at some beautiful, large, hard-fighting fish.

Region 6 (Western Adirondacks, Eastern Lake Ontario) Ice fishing in Region 6 is in full swing. Most waters have good ice cover and surface conditions are decent for travel. Reports of good catches of yellow perch, walleye, northern pike and panfish are coming from the St. Lawrence River and Chaumont Bay.

Region 7 (Central NY) Ice anglers getting out on Oneida Lake are being rewarded with walleye and yellow perch. Fish are spread out and being caught in 15-30 feet of water. Popular areas are Lewis Point, Sylvan Beach, Cleveland Dock and South Shore. This area has received a lot of snow in the last week so walking around on the ice could be difficult in places at the moment.

Region 8 (West Central NY) It was a rough start to the 2021 ice fishing season as many waters were slow to ice over. Sodus Bay has fishable ice, and anglers are now getting out and searching for yellow perch. Yellow perch fishing is a very popular winter activity on the bay, and currently, fishing in 20 foot of water with small jigs tipped with spikes is working. Region 9 (Western NY) With a diverse warmwater fishery and plenty of angler access points, Chautauqua Lake is a top ice fishing destination in western New York. Yellow perch are readily caught lake-wide, although weedy areas in depths under 15 feet have been best for catch numbers and average size this season. Chautauqua also offers good opportunity for walleye catches. The lake’s north basin is typically productive for walleye at depths over 20 feet.

Lake George Boating Access Survey

DEC is conducting a survey to elicit public feedback on the overnight gate closure program at Mossy Point and Roger’s Rock boat launches. The information gathered will inform a more permanent program for future boating seasons and support the state's ongoing efforts to protect Lake George from aquatic invasive species.

We encourage boaters that have used either of those access sites in 2020 to complete the survey below and/or provide comments. The survey and comment period will remain open until March 12, 2021. Comments may also be submitted by email to

Take the survey now.

Ice Fishing Basics featured on DEC Facebook Live

DEC Fisheries staff recently filmed a two-part Facebook Live series on ice fishing basics. Great news - if you weren't able to tune in, you can still watch the recordings.

Session One - ice safety, equipment essentials, dressing for the cold, fishing regulations and how to choose a fishing location. View now.

Session Two - checking for safe ice, using an auger, lures and bait, how to rig a tip up. View now.

The videos were geared toward anglers new to ice fishing but could be used as refreshers for those with experience.

Fishing Tip of the Week

Slow bite? Although we can’t name drop, try vertical jigging a hard-bodied jigging bait tipped with a minnow. It’s circular swim pattern mimics a dying bait fish and can really liven up the action.

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