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Free Fishing Weekend to be Held Feb. 13 - 14 Anglers Encouraged to Safely Enjoy Ice Fishing on New York Waters as Ice Conditions Improve

A series of free ice fishing clinics are scheduled across New York State to educate people about the unique sport and how to safely enjoy time on the ice, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. The clinics, conducted by DEC, are part of Governor Cuomo's I FISH NY program, which aims to increase participation and awareness of the outstanding fishing opportunities in New York.

"Interest in this wintertime sport is increasing every year, and we are thrilled to provide these free clinics to introduce residents and visitors to the sport and provide them with tips on how to safely enjoy this winter tradition," Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "Anglers do need to allow solid ice to set up before venturing out for their fishing trip, and our clinics will provide information on how to check for appropriate conditions."

In addition to these free fishing clinics, Governor Cuomo has designated February 13-14, 2016 as the state's first free fishing weekend where the requirements for a fishing license has been suspended. Residents and visitors age 16 and older will be able to fish the fresh or marine waters of New York State without a license, providing a great opportunity for people to learn about this popular sport.

While a DEC fishing license is not required to participate in these clinics, all other statewide regulations remain in effect. Children under age 16 must be supervised. Free fishing clinics scheduled in New York State include:

Canadarago Lake - Otsego County - January 30

The Otsego County Federation of Sportsmen and the New York Farm Bureau are co-sponsoring a free ice fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 30 at Canadarago Lake in Otsego County. Yellow perch and chain pickerel are the main target species for ice anglers in Canadarago Lake, while sunfish, black crappie, rock bass, black bass and walleye are also present.

The event will be held at the public boat launch about three miles south of Richfield Springs on the west side of the lake off Route 28. A warming area and refreshments will be available. DEC will supply most of the bait and tackle but experienced anglers are encouraged to bring their own fishing gear. There will be a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing and filleting your catch, and DEC staff and volunteers will be on hand throughout the day to assist participants on the ice.

Long Island - Brookhaven Town Beach on Lake Ronkonkoma - February 6

DEC will team up with Newsday Columnist and Associate Editor of On the Water Magazine, Outdoor Tom Schlichter, to guide participants in a free ice fishing seminar and clinic on Saturday, February 6 from Noon to 2 p.m. It will be held at the Brookhaven Town Beach on Lake Ronkonkoma. The event is in conjunction with the Town of Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Department and the I FISH NY program will provide free fishing rods on loan and bait.

No registration is required and the event is open for all anglers ages 10 and up. Participants are encouraged to bring a chair or stool and may opt to bring their own fishing rod and equipment. If there is safe ice on Lake Ronkonkoma participants will get a chance to try their hand at ice fishing. For more information, call 631-444-0283.

Cazenovia Lake - Madison County - February 6

This free fishing clinic is scheduled for February 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Cazenovia Lake in Madison County. The event will be held at the Route 20 Department of Transportation (DOT) rest area parking lot on the south end of Cazenovia Lake.

DEC will supply bait, tackle and the drilling of holes. There will be a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing and DEC staff will be on hand throughout the event to assist participants on the ice. Cazenovia Lake has bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, black crappie, yellow perch and chain pickerel.

Otsego Lake - Otsego County - February 17

DEC and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) will co-host a free ice fishing clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, at Glimmerglass State Park in the town of Springfield, Otsego County.

DEC will supply most of the bait and tackle, but experienced anglers are encouraged to bring their own fishing gear. After a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing and filleting your catch, DEC and Parks staff will be on hand throughout the day to assist participants on the ice. A warming area and refreshments will be available. Anglers can expect to catch yellow perch and chain pickerel. Sunfish, black crappie, rock bass, black bass, walleye and lake trout are also present in Otsego Lake.

The event will be moved to the public boat launch at Canadarago Lake just south of Richfield Springs on NYS Route 28 if there is not sufficient ice on Otsego Lake.

Casterline Pond - Cortland County - February 18

DEC will host a free ice fishing clinic on Wednesday, February 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Casterline Pond fishing access parking area on Route 11, just north of Homer in Cortland County. DEC will supply bait, tackle and the drilling of holes. There will be a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing, and DEC staff will be on hand throughout the event to assist participants on the ice. Casterline Pond has brown and rainbow trout, along with bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish.

Carter's Pond - Washington County - March 5

DEC, NYS Conservation Officers Association, and the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's club will host a free ice fishing clinic on Saturday, March 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Carter's Pond Wildlife Management Area parking lot on State Route 49 in Greenwich, Washington County. More information about Carter's Pond Wildlife Management Area, including a map can be found on the DEC website.

There will be a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing, and DEC staff will be on hand throughout the event to assist participants on ice. DEC will provide spikes, tackle, jigging rods and instruction to all participants. Supplies are limited, so people are encouraged to bring their own equipment if they have it. Bait will be provided. Anglers can expect to catch crappies, perch and bluegill.

A fire, hot dogs and hot chocolate will also be available. For more information contact event coordinator, Environmental Conservation Office Steve Gonyeau, 518-567-2104.

Some events may be postponed depending on ice conditions, and interested participants are encouraged to call the regional DEC office to confirm events are still planned. A listing of DEC regional offices is available.

Anglers are reminded that four inches of ice is usually safe for accessing ice on foot. Double that thickness for traveling on white ice. Ice thickness can vary on every body of water or even within the same body of water. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can easily be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.

Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and boost tourism activities throughout the state. This includes streamlining fishing and hunting opportunities in New York State. In support of this initiative, $10 million in NY Works funding has been dedicated to fish hatchery repairs and 50 new land and water access projects such as boat launches, hunting blinds, trails and parking areas.

To further encourage fishing in New York State, Governor Cuomo signed legislation in 2012 expanding the opportunity for free fishing clinics, allowing more New Yorkers to experience fishing for the first time by enabling DEC to increase the number of free clinics that can be held throughout the state. The Free Fishing Days program began in 1991 to allow all people the opportunity to sample the incredible fishing New York State has to offer.