Responsible Fishing on the Canals

We’re excited for you to join us along New York’s Canal System for fishing season! Before you head to the water and cast a line, we ask that you review and observe the following responsible fishing guidelines and best practices, to help us ensure that fishing in New York remains a safe and world-class experience for everyone.
A spirited salmon leaps against the churning waters at Waterport Dam, amidst a dynamic cascade framed by scattered autumn leaves.

General Guidelines for Responsible Fishing

By observing the following guidelines, you’ll help us ensure that every angler can access a world-class fishing experience and do your part to protect and maintain the stability of our aquatic ecosystems for generations to come.

  • Don't Litter. Always remove whatever you carry in, from coffee cups to monofilament fishing lines, to bottles, cans, and plastic bags or wrappers. Not only do these materials endanger our wildlife, but they can also create litter throughout private and public lands in the area.
  • Always respect state and local fishing limits and regulations. If you’re not sure about local daily fishing limits or which fish are considered endangered or threatened, review the Department of Environmental Conservation’s guidelines.
  • Be respectful of your fellow anglers. Provide everyone sufficient room to fish, reel up when someone nearby hooks a fish, and be conscious of where you’re wading.
  • Be respectful of landowners and their property. We’re incredibly grateful to the many landowners along the tributaries who offer easements and waterfront access to support New York’s anglers, but in return, we must all treat their land and privacy with respect.
  • Help combat the spread of invasive species. Invasive species like to hitch a ride on wading anglers’ boots— particularly felt soles. Help us keep invasive species from spreading between waterways by sterilizing your wading gear in between stops, or by limiting your trips to one stream per day.
Anglers enjoying fall fishing in a serene waterport, with a ripple-softened reflection of colorful autumn foliage on the water's surface.

Catch and Release Fishing

To many people, a fresh fish dinner represents the ideal end to a fishing trip. However, more and more anglers are releasing their catches back into the water. This responsible fishing practice, catch-and-release fishing, can minimize your impact on local fisheries. However, if you catch and release fish it’s important to follow specific guidelines to ensure the fish can return to the water healthy and unharmed.

Guidelines for Catch and Release Fishing

Releasing larger sportfish and panfish back into the water ensures that mature, healthy fish can spawn again, and perpetuates a fit population of quality-size fish for future angling enjoyment. But if you improperly catch and handle fish, this can result in stress and injury to the fish, impacting their survival. As a responsible angler, you can take a few simple steps to help released fish survive:

  • Quickly play and land fish — do not fight fish to exhaustion.
  • Handle fish as little as possible and release them quickly, minimizing their time out of water — unhook fish in the water if possible.
  • Handle fish carefully to avoid injury — be sure to avoid contact with the gills, and do not squeeze fish or remove protective slime. Pike and walleyes shouldn't be gripped by the eye sockets.
  • Consider using only artificial lures — their use is mandatory in some waters.
  • Use barbless hooks if you plan to release most of the fish you catch. When a fish is deeply hooked, do not try to remove the hook — clip the leader instead.

Additional Catch and Release Guidance for Trout and Salmon

You can take additional steps to protect trout and salmon when you fish for them. These steps involve being more conscientious about where and when you’re trying to catch trout and salmon.

Refrain from Fishing in Warm Water Conditions

Since trout are cold-water species, pay attention to warming conditions if you plan to catch and release them. Avoid fishing for trout during the warm summer months when stream temperatures are elevated. Also, refrain from fishing in spring holes when water temperatures are in the mid-70s or higher.

Use Care When Catching & Releasing Fish from Depths Greater than 30 feet

When catching trout or salmon in deep water, bring them to the surface slowly and steadily to avoid a distended swim bladder. If needed, "burp" a fish to expel air from its swim bladder and stimulate the fish to dive deeply.

The focus is on the delicate interaction between an angler and a stunningly spotted trout, just caught during a fall fishing trip. The fish's golden-brown scales are dotted with a constellation of black spots, and it’s cradled above the river's rocky bed, ready for release.

How to Burp Fish

To burp a fish, hold it on its side and gently, but firmly, squeeze the belly from the vent toward the head. You can hear the burp as air is expelled from the bladder. Do not squeeze the head and gill area, as that could damage a fish’s vital organs.

Once burped, a fish should be able to dive down to the deep cold water. But it may require further assistance with diving. There are two methods you can use to stimulate a fish to dive.

  1. Vigorously thrust the fish, headfirst, into the water. The slap of the water and the plunge downward usually stimulate the fish to swim.
  2. Use the "release when recovered" method. Hold the fish gently in the middle of its body with its head pointed downward at a 45-degree angle. In that position, a gentle side-to-side motion (or slow speed of the boat if trolling) can move water into the mouth and over the gills. As the fish recovers, it will begin to kick, and slide out of your hand. When its tail passes through your hand, give the tail a quick squeeze. This seems to stimulate the fish's swimming action, causing it to dive with more vigor.
Aerial view of the Waterport Dam, where engineering and nature converge, bordered by a tapestry of fall foliage.

Access & Conservation Easement (ACE)

The ACE program offers compensation to landowners to secure public fishing access and conservation rights.