New York has held more than 350 free fishing clinics across the state in the past two years in an effort to expose people of all ages and backgrounds to the sport, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

"One of the most positive benefits of fishing is that it's an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their age or ability," Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "These events provide the perfect opportunity for people to try the sport of fishing for the first time, or reconnect those who have since taken on other activities."

Governor Cuomo signed legislation in 2013 expanding the number of free sportfishing clinics allowed to be held in New York State. Now groups and organizations other than DEC may, with DEC authorization, conduct free fishing events provided the events have an educational focus. Participants at these events do not need a license to fish and are not required to enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry.

Since 2013, DEC has approved 358 free fishing clinics, approximately 200 in 2015 alone, with an estimated 30,000 or more participants. A vast majority of these events were held in urban areas throughout the state, including the Capital District, New York City, Long Island, Rochester, Syracuse, Poughkeepsie, and Buffalo. In addition to learning about local fishing opportunities, participants are also taught about the fish they can catch, how to cast a fishing rod, fishing safety, aquatic resource stewardship and fishing regulations. For information on conducting a fishing clinic or for a list of currently scheduled clinics, visit DEC's website.

"The days of having to travel a considerable distance to have a quality fishing experience are gone," Seggos added. "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's New York Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative and DEC's I FISH NY Program, the fishing opportunities in and around urban areas are better than ever and they have been well received by residents who said they were unaware of the fishing opportunities available so close to home."

DEC has also developed a fishing rod lending program at local libraries in an attempt to reduce barriers to fishing participation. It allows library patrons to "sign out" a fishing rod, much like they would a book. Extra bobbers, hooks and informational materials are also provided with each loan. For a complete list of participating locations visit DEC's website.

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State reduced license fees in 2014 for both resident and non-resident anglers, making fishing in New York more affordable than ever. Buying a license has also been made more convenient. From DEC's website, anglers can purchase licenses and print them on their home computer for immediate use.

Anglers can also purchase their license by phone by calling 1-866-933-2257, or from the numerous license issuing agents across the state. Those purchasing by phone will receive a confirmation number that can be used as proof of purchase until they receive their actual license by mail. Annual fishing licenses are now valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. Anglers interested in purchasing a lifetime fishing license should consider a New York State Adventure license which is incorporated on their NY Drivers' License. Additional information can be found at the NY License Center website (link leaves DEC website.)

Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State. In support of this initiative, last year $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.

Under the initiative, the 2015-16 Enacted Budget included an additional $8 million for state land access projects and an additional $4 million for the state's hatcheries in NY Works funding. The Budget also creates a new capital account which along with federal Pittman-Robertson funds will be used to manage, protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat, and to improve and develop public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation.