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Hooks and Antlers: DEC seeks comments on proposed changes in fishing regulations

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DEC is considering dozens of changes in the freshwater fishing regulations, and the department is seeking public input on these considerations before finalizing the proposals sometime this fall.

A complete list of the considered changes as well as directions on how to email comments is available at www.dec.ny.gov.

Today’s column takes a look at possible regulation changes.

Muskellunge

One change is to increase the minimum size limit for muskellunge in the St. Lawrence River to 54 inches instead of the current 48 inches.

The rational for this change is to standardize the minimum size so that it matches the regulations of the Province of Ontario. Although not stated by DEC, this change would also serve to protect muskellunge populations and to enhance the St. Lawrence River’s reputation as a world-class, musky-fishing water.

Changes to the statewide muskellunge regulations call for a minimum size limit of 40 inches and a season opener on the last Saturday in May.

New York has 33 waters with muskellunge populations, and minimum length limits vary from 30 to 40 inches.

The 40-inch requirement would help DEC manage the muskellunge as a trophy sportfish.

DEC rationale for an opening day of the last Saturday in May instead of the third Saturday in June is that muskellunge spawn when water temperatures range for 48 to 60 degrees, and that 20 of 24 states with muskellunge populations have year-round angling.

New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have restricted seasons. New York has the latest opening day so a last-Saturday-in-May opener would make New York more consistent with the other northern latitude states.

Catch and Release

Anglers who catch a large fish during the closed season often pose for a photo before returning the fish to the water.

According to a possible change in a regulation for catch and release, anglers will not be legally able to take such a picture in the future.

The new language being proposed is “incidentally caught threatened or endangered fish species, or species caught during closed seasons, must be unhooked and released immediately.

Such fish may not be removed from the water or otherwise handled for any purpose other than removing the hook and placing the fish back into the water.

Intentionally angling for threatened or endangered fish, or for fish during the closed season for that species, is prohibited.”

In essence, such a regulation would prohibit an angler from posing with a muskellunge caught during the ice fishing season or with a sturgeon incidentally caught jigging for walleyes.

Ice Fishing

Current regulations allow an angler to use five tip-ups and two jigging rods while ice fishing.

With the arrival of tip-downs on the ice fishing scene, though, a “gray” area arose in interpreting the regulations.

To better accommodate the use of various ice-fishing devices and methods, DEC is recommending a change to “simplify the statewide ice fishing regulations to allow for a total of seven ice fishing lines, with an ice fishing line meaning any device used for fishing through the ice, including, but not limited to hand line, tip-up, tip-down, rod and reel, etc.”

St. Lawrence River Tributaries

The St. Lawrence River falls under the Great Lakes regulations so the river’s tributaries were subject to the regulations intended to restrict the illegal snagging of trout and salmon in the Lake Ontario tributaries from Sept. 1 through March 31.

Because the salmon runs in the St. Lawrence tributaries are insignificant and the current restrictions unnecessarily limit angling opportunities, a suggested change is to “delete St. Lawrence River” from those Great Lakes tributaries subject to “additional special fishing regulations for Great Lakes tributaries.”

Trout Regulations

A number of changes are being suggested for trout waters in Lewis, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties. Among the waters affected are Millsite Lake, the Massawepie ponds, Cold Brook, West Branch St. Regis River, Little River, Oswegatchie River, Star Lake, Trout Lake and Sylvia Lake.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club (Pray Road) at 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Trap Shooting at Moose River F&G Club (Davis Bridge Road) at 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Club at 7 p.m.

Saturday: 12th annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge (stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com).

Sunday: Homestudy Hunter Education Course at Watertown Sportsman’s Club (pre-register at 785-253).

Aug. 8-11: B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament at Waddington.

Aug. 10: Free Waterfowl Education Program at Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg (393-2425).

Aug. 10-11: Hunter Education Course at Gouverneur R&G Club (pre-register at 287-9398).

Aug. 11: Bowhunter Education Course at Ferari’s Archery Shop in Carthage (pre-register at shop).

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