Complete Guide to Fishing in Central Park, NYC

Complete Guide to Fishing in Central Park, NYC

Many people don’t know that they can go fishing in NYC’s Central Park. However, catching fish over here isn’t like your regular fishing activity. The Central Park management has imposed a strict “catch and release” policy for all those who catch any sort of fish from the park’s waters. Anyone obeying the Central Park policies can fish at several places within the park, including the Harlem Meer and the Lake.

You don’t need a fishing permit or specialized documentation to enjoy fishing in Central Park. This feature, combined with an easy entry to the park, makes it the best place for fishing lovers all around New York City.

Central Park water bodies are relatively lesser known among NYC fishing place. Even some of the most avid fishermen don’t know that they can enjoy some excellent fishing time at this place.

The park’s management is quite cooperative, and the fishing rules are pretty simple. Not just that, you can also get your hands on some of the best fish very easily. Most of the water bodies in Central Park are well-populated and have a variety of fish. However, nothing compares to the fun and enjoyment that you can get from fishing in the Harlem Meer or the Lake within this park. 

Here is your brief yet useful guide to fishing in Central Park.

Central Park Fishing Rules  

You need to note down a few essential fishing rules set by the Central Park management before discussing the two most favorable water bodies for fishing over here. The fishing rules explained below hold for fishing all across Central Park, and not abiding by these can get you in great trouble. Therefore, you must make sure that you know all of these and follow them whenever you go fishing in Central Park.

  • You can only catch fish on a catch and release basis. This means that you have to release the fish back to the water right after you catch it. You can’t take any animal with you no matter what. You can also be penalized for not releasing the fish gently. This is why it’s better to release the caught fish even before you have fully taken it out of the water.
  • The park’s management only allows such fishing equipment that won’t harm aquatic life. You can’t use lead sinkers, overhead casting rods, and barbs at all. Additionally, you have to discard all the lines correctly, ensuring that no fish would die because of it.
  • You must buy all the fish baits only from the Dana center located inside the park. Using bread or any other such edible as baits are strictly prohibited.
  • You cannot feed the wildlife or dig the soil for worms. Doing so can result in serious consequences.
  • Make sure to bring your fishing license along if you’re planning to use your fishing equipment. However, you don’t need any license if you borrow the equipment from the Dana Center. 
  • It is necessary to get a fishing permit from the park’s management if you’re fishing in a group with more than 20 people. 
  • No one is allowed to fish at the reservoir or turtle pond areas. Before you fish, make sure that the water body you’re planning to explore is open to fishing or not.

Harlem Meer Fishing

The Harlem Meer is a beautiful and lush green water body in Central Park where you can catch fish for free. It can be found on the east of North Woods and the northern side of the Conservatory Garden. Harlem Meer is full of trees and plants, and the water body here is quite large.

Harlem Meer usually offers a youth-focused fishing program on a catch and release basis only. Some of the most common fish varieties you can find at the Harlem Meer include:

  • Pumpkinseed sunfish
  • Carp
  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill sunfish 
  • Chain pickerel
  • Central Park Lake Fishing

The Lake, or the Central Park Lake, is another big water body for anyone who would like to catch bigger fish. It is quite a picturesque place with a lot of fishing opportunities for expert catchers.

The same catch-and-release policy applies to anyone fishing here as well. You can find the water over here to be rich in algae and other microorganisms. Some of the most common fish you can find here at the lake include:

  • Carp
  • Largemouth bass
  • Anglers

The Best Time to Fish in the Central Park 

The Central Park remains open from 6 in the morning to 1 am. It’s rare to find it challenging to fish over here any time of the day since this place hasn’t yet been discovered as a fishing spot by the majority. However, it’s better to fish mid-day when the water bodies have a considerable number of people. The workers at the Dana Center are quite active at noon. Thus, fishing at this time is significantly easier since they are the ones who’d provide you with the fishing equipment and all the other relevant support.

The best season to fish at both the Harlem Meer and the Lake is from April to October 15th. The weather is pleasant, and there is more fish in the water, thus increasing your chances to catch several fish in lesser time. Moreover, the catch and release program at the Dana center is also active during this time, making it easier for you to participate in something that can make you better at fishing. 


Fishing in Central Park’s water bodies is a fun experience. You just need to make sure that you know and follow all the rules. Make sure you release every fish that you catch and do so very gently. You will find the park’s management quite friendly and kind towards you only if you follow all the rules and cause no harm to the wildlife or the park’s property at all. We hope that you’d enjoy your trip to Central Park and would find it among one of the best NYC places for fishing.

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