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  1. Bass Regs Relaxed

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    By J. Michael Kelly

    Staff writer

    Effective Oct. 1, New York anglers will have official permission from the Department of Environmental Conservation to fish for bass all year in most waters of the state.

    Most, but not all. The exceptions to the new rule include Oneida Lake, among other popular fishing holes.

    Under the revised regulations, the regular statewide bass season will begin as usual on the third Saturday of June and end on Nov. 30, with the current creel limit of five bass a day still in force. And for the first time, fishermen in most waters will also be able to catch and release bass, using artificial lures only, from Dec. 1 through the day before the regular bass season.

    Current bass regulations, which prohibit fishing outside of the regular season, will remain in place for the waters of Bronx, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, St. Lawrence and Suffolk counties. That list covers northeastern Lake Ontario (Jefferson), the St. Lawrence River and all ponds and lakes in New York City and on western Long Island.

    Oneida Lake and the Hudson river are special cases.

    Oneida will have a new catch-and-release, artificials-only season that starts on the first Saturday in May which is also the opening day of walleye season and ends the day before the statewide regular bass season opens. From Dec. 1 until the new spring season starts, Oneida will be off-limits for bass fishing.

    The Oneida exception is the result of spirited negotiations between DEC officials and leaders of the 3,000-plus members of the Oneida Lake Association, who were concerned that allowing bass fishing before the walleye season would lead to illegal targeting of the latter species prior to its April spawning run. Initially, the OLA board did not support any extension of the bass season on the lake.

    "The compromise on Oneida Lake was entirely because of the intense opposition of the OLA to the original plan," said Doug Stang, the chief of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Fisheries. "We were willing to go along with a May start on the catch-and-release season there because we felt it would get us most of the real fishing opportunity for bass, anyway."

    Stang added, "April can be an awfully inhospitable time to be on Oneida Lake, and very little boat fishing takes place on the lake then."

    The DEC opted to allow catch-and-release bass fishing outside of the regular season to provide additional recreational opportunities for anglers.

    Biologists in the department used to oppose off-season bass fishing, and especially fishing for bass on their spawning beds, because of scientific studies which indicated sunfish and other predators would make quick work of recently hatched bass fry if nest-guarding adult males were removed, even temporarily.

    However, the department's official stance changed after more recent research showed that successful spawning by a small percentage of bass is sufficient for a healthy fishery in a given lake.

    On the lower Hudson, the regular bass season will remain intact, with a 15-inch minimum creel length, and there will be no additional catch-and-release season.

    Besides extended bass fishing, the new regulations adopted by the DEC will provide for more trout fishing opportunities in many waters, including some in the Syracuse area. Among the other changes that will be published in the next issue of the state "Fishing Regulations Guide" are the following:

    The no-kill section of Skaneateles Creek, which extends for 10.2 miles from Old Seneca Turnpike in Skaneateles to the Route 31 crossing in Jordan, will be open to fishing year-round, instead of closing from Oct. 16 through March 31, as is now the case.

    Spafford Creek, the main feeder stream of Otisco Lake, will be put under general trout regulations instead of Finger Lakes tributary rules. That means the creel limit will change from three trout of 9 inches or longer per day to five a day, of which no more than two can be longer than 12 inches. Also, the season on Spafford Creek will run from April 1-Oct. 15, instead of April 1-Dec. 31.

    The minimum creel length for rainbow trout in Lake Ontario, the lower Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River will jump to 21 inches, from the current 15 inches.

    The limit on lake trout in Lake Ontario, the Niagara and the St. Lawrence will change from the current three a day to just two. At the same time, a slot limit now in place will be relaxed. Anglers who have been required to release all lakers that were longer than 25 inches but shorter than 30 inches will be able to keep one fish a day within that length range, starting in October.

    Ice fishing for lake trout will be allowed in Jefferson County's Lake of the Woods. Also, nearby Sixberry Lake will be added to the list of waters from which both lake trout and landlocked salmon may be caught through the ice.

    Several area trout streams that have been closed to all fishing from Oct. 16 through March will now have catch-and-release seasons during that period. Those waters include the part of Salmon Creek above the Ludlowville falls, the Otselic River, Owego Creek and its east and west branches in Tioga and Tompkins counties, and the east and west branches of the Tioughnioga River near Cortland.

    Trout seasons on certain sections of the Delaware River system that now end on Sept. 30 will be extended through Oct. 15.

    On the upper fly fishing-only zone in the Salmon River, no weight on leaders or lines will be permitted between May 1 and Aug. 15

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