It's winter time in Central New York and you have two options, stay indoors or take up an outdoor activity. The DEC is providing the opportunity to give ice fishing a try for free.

The department often features free fishing weekends during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. And with most of us already suffering from cabin fever with the pandemic, snowstorms, and arctic temps, officials hope the license free weekend of February 13 and 14 might get more people to try the CNY winter tradition. They also encourage experienced ice-anglers to invite a friend to join them for the first time.

If you're inexperienced in ice fishing, safety is the top priority, The DEC recommends:

  • 4" of ice is usually thick enough for walking on the surface
  • Fish with a family member or a friend, never go alone
  • Be cautious around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice from forming
  • Test ice thickness using an auger or spud bar at various spots
Ice Thickness Chart

The DEC has suggestions on the best places to fish and what you can catch organized by region and county on their website. Here are links to some nearby locations :

Herkimer County
Jefferson County
Lewis County
Madison County
Oneida County
St. Lawrence County

Ice fishing is a great way to recreate and still maintain all COVID guidelines and protocols. It's easy to social distance, wear a mask when you can't keep the distance like in parking lots or footpaths, and avoid sharing gear.

Read more about New York's ice fishing regulations and tips on getting started at the DEC's website.

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