A Complete Guide to Fishing in New York State

The Empire State is home to many urban attractions and one of the largest cities in the world, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks more nature-oriented activities. Contrary to what outsiders believe, New York State has more to it than just New York City, and fishing is a popular pastime among residents and visitors alike.

We’ve put together a short fishing guide for New York State. Throughout this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know to start angling while abiding all local regulations. We’ll also discuss the kind of fish you can expect to encounter in New York and the best places to fish.

How to Get a Fishing License in New York State

If you’re going to fish in New York, you’ll likely require a license, but there are a few key situations where one may not be necessary.

Cases Where You Don’t Need a Fishing License

  • You are under 16 years old.
  • You are fishing at a licensed fishing preserve.
  • You are farming fish on your land or a farm fish pond.
  • You are a Native American living on a reservation.
  • You are a patient at a VA hospital.
  • You are fishing on a free weekend or at a free fishing clinic.

Eligibility for Reduced Rates or a Free License

  • Active military service members
  • Veterans with at least 40% disability
  • Senior citizens over the age of 70
  • Legally blind
  • Full-time out-of-state university or college students

Fees for Residents

New York residents can expect to pay $5 for a one-day fishing license, $12 for a seven-day fishing license, and $25 for an annual fishing license. The only exception to this pricing scheme is the $5 annual fee for senior citizens that are at least 70 years old.

Fees for Non-Residents

The license fees for non-residents are more expensive, as with other states. Non-residents will pay $10 for a one-day fishing license, $28 for a seven-day fishing license, and $50 for an annual license. Non-residents are also ineligible for the senior citizen discount on the annual license.

Fish Species in New York State


There are several species of Trout present in New York state, and it has resulted in a relatively serious Trout fishing community popping up. Trout is a common target in fly fishing.

The two native species are the Brook Trout and the Lake Trout, though other species have been introduced to the ecosystem over the years. While they aren’t native, Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout have been introduced to the area. The Rainbow Trout is one of the most sought-after fish in the state.


If you like to cook your catches, then you’ll want to stay close to the top bass fishing spots, and there are plenty of them in the state. Keep in mind that Bass like warm water and they’ll be sure not to go down without a fight, so you need to be confident in your skills as an angler.

You can find Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Striped Bass present in New York state’s waterways.


During the spring and fall, you can find plenty of Salmon in New York’s rivers and streams. These fish make their way out of the tumultuous saltwater of the sea so that they can reproduce, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to catch a few of them.

New York state is known for its Salmon run, so keep in mind that you’ll have plenty of competition to contend with if you’re looking to go Salmon fishing.


Another relatively seasonal fish is Perch, as it’s extremely popular among ice fishers in New York. These fish are another great target for anglers who like to cook what they catch, as they have a delicious flavor, and they’re relatively easy to gut.


Yet another tasty pick, Walleye can be found in murky waters where visibility is reduced, but they’ll be relatively tough to catch. This species takes a lot of patience and a bit of experience, but it all pays off when you throw it in the pan.


On the other hand, the Crappie is an excellent target for beginners, as they are relatively social fish that like to swim in schools. If one of them doesn’t take the bait, another one will be sure to come along shortly. By far, the most common Crappie species in New York is the Black Crappie.


New York is also home to a few different species of Catfish, with the most common one being the Brown Bullhead. If you’re looking to make a trophy catch, the largest Catfish species in New York is the Channel Catfish.

Pike and Pickerel

Finally, Pike and Pickerel can also be found in New York. The Northern Pike is one of the largest fish species in the state, with the biggest ones weighing in at well over 30 pounds. Keep in mind that these fish will put up a fight, so you’ll have to be ready to coerce them a little bit.

Best Fishing Spots in New York State

Lake Erie

If you live in western New York near the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is an excellent place to fish for several different species. Smallmouth Bass are a common sight at Lake Erie in the fall, and it is the most common spot that you’ll find trophy bass, with the past few largest catches all having come from Lake Erie.

While Perch are also a relatively frequent sight at Lake Erie, they’re not as much of a draw as the Bass, and you’ll have to put a little more work into locating them. Due to it’s size, you can also enlist the help of a guide service when fishing on Lake Erie.

Salmon River

The aptly-named Salmon River is home to some of the best Salmon fishing in New York state, and this place becomes absolutely packed during the fall. You can find both Chinook and Coho Salmon on this river, though most anglers come for the larger, more impressive Chinooks.

When the season has ended, Steelhead make their way into the river to feed on any eggs that the Salmon left behind, so the fishing won’t end just because the Salmon have left.

Esopus Creek

Part of the Ashokan Watershed in the Catskills, Esopus Creek is well-known to locals, but it’s not as well-publicized as some of the other spots we’ve discussed so far. If you’re looking for Rainbow Trout, you might just find them in Esopus Creek, and they’re accompanied by plenty of other Trout species.

The Department of Environmental Conservation also fills the creek with Brown Trout every year. While Esopus Creek is a popular spot for summer fishing, you can also find some impressive catches here during the fall, though their numbers will be a little more depleted by that point.

Saratoga Lake

This particular angling spot is known for the exciting tournaments that take place there as well as the massive variety of fish species you can find. The freshwater fishing here isn’t as seasonal as in other places, so you can take a trip to Saratoga Lake nearly all year. 

Panfish and Pike are present in this lake, but the most common species you’ll encounter are Walleye and Bass. While you can fish nearly year-round on Saratoga lake, the best time to go is during the summer or fall if you’re looking for the best possible results.

Great Sacandaga Lake

This next lake is located upstate. For anglers with small boats, Great Sacandaga Lake’s shallow waters provide some great fishing opportunities. You’ll find prized Rainbow Trout in this lake, and they’re accompanied by Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Northern Pike. As a side note, the state record Northern Pike was caught in the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Lake Placid

While Lake Placid may be better known for the Olympics, it’s still a spot that every angler should tick off their list in New York. Trout is the main attraction at Lake Placid, with large numbers of Rainbow Trout in the water, though you’ll also find some Bass.

Lake Placid is also one of the more scenic destinations on this list, so you’ll also be able to enjoy some sightseeing in the Adirondacks if you decide to take a fishing trip there. If you’re looking for tackle, you’ll find plenty of outfitters in the area.

St. Regis Canoe Area

As you may have guessed by the name, this next location is a prime spot for canoe and kayak fishers, and it’s located in the Adirondacks like Lake Placid. Instead of being one uninterrupted waterway, this area is made up of dozens of small lakes and ponds, ensuring that you can find plenty of different fish species. If you’re looking for some variety, the St. Regis Canoe Area is the perfect spot.

If you plan on angling with a motorboat, make sure that you know which waterways you’re permitted to be on. Many of the lakes in this area are reserved exclusively for canoes.


The state of New York is dotted with some of the best fishing spots in North America, and it’s clear to see why fishing is such a popular hobby in the area. From Long Island to Lake Champlain, New York state is an angler’s dream. Its northern climate also makes ice fishing a possibility.

Of course, before heading to any of the spots we’ve discussed in this fishing guide, make sure that you have a firm grasp of the fishing laws and regulations in New York, and that you have your fishing license.

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