May 18, 2017
By Al Raychard
New York offers plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.
My parents didn't care much for fishing, but we did go on camping trips. Some of my fondest memories include a fishing pole, some bobbers a can of garden worms and a tent in campsite in some park or state forest or private campground. My dad realized his sons liked fishing, and wherever we camped, there was always a lake, pond or river at hand. As time passed the picture changed to more expensive fly rods and reels or saltwater gear and fancy campers or rented cabins, but my love of fishing goes back to the days of my youth. Now that grandchildren are here and are the right age for fishing, it is granddad's hope to start them young and install in them the same passion. Fortunately, New York offers plenty of opportunities to accomplish that goal.
FREE DAYS AND CLINICS
It can take time to gets kids hooked on fishing and the great outdoors, and the process very often takes several outings. My personal experience with our son proved the endeavor is best done slowly, perhaps a couple or few times annually.
To test the waters so to speak, and save a little money at the same time, parents who want to introduce their kids to fishing can take advantage of the Free Fishing Days offered annually by the New York Department of Conservation. On these days residents and visitors alike can fish freshwater without a license and saltwater without enrolling in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. All other angling regulations apply.
The Free Fishing Days program started back in 1991 to provide those who have never wet a line an opportunity to do so at no cost, and hopefully to attract more enthusiasts to the sport. In 2014 legislation authorized up to eight Free Fishing Days each year, which are traditionally announced by the governor as part of his Open Hunting and Fishing Initiative. In 2016 the dates included two days in February, Veteran's Day in November and the traditional last weekend in June, June 28 and 29 — the most popular dates due to weather conditions for family outdoor activities.
For 2017, along with the last weekend in June, the DEC was considering and proposing six additional days including the Saturday and Sunday prior to President's Day in February, the third weekend in May, National Hunting and Fishing Day the fourth Saturday in September. For exact dates check the DEC web site or consult the 2017-18 New York Fishing Regulations Guide.
Families can also partake of several Free Sports Fishing Events, sponsored by the DEC. During these events participants can fish for free with no fishing license while learning about fish identification, fishing equipment and angling techniques and fishery management.
For a list of DEC Region /County events, name of events, location, date, time and contact information visit the DEC website.
Many local and country conservation clubs, organizations and county parks, often in cooperation with the DEC also hold fishing and outdoor related events throughout the year.
For example, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs usually has an annual event at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park. Additinoally, the Lower East Side Ecology Center has offered a free clinic for kids providing tackle, bait and instruction most Fridays and some Saturdays into late September. In Putnam County, the Oasis Sportsmen's Club in cooperation of the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4H Youth Development Program hold a clinic for kids ages 8 to 14 at the Putnam County Memorial Park. Free rods, reels and tackle are generally provided. In Onondaga County, Onondaga County Parks holds an event at the Carpenter's Brook Fish Hatchery in Elbridge.
In the vast majority of cases, these clinics and events are open to the entire family and are a great way to get youngsters introduced to fishing and prepared for that family outing.
For more information check with your local DEC regional office, local or county parks and recreation department or conservation club for more details.
With some 7,500 lakes and ponds and about 70,000 stream miles in New York it isn't difficult to find a place to wet a line for a day, weekend or longer. But for the family unit with youngsters who might enjoy other activities to keep them interested picking a spot takes a little more planning. Here are some suggestions.
There are 180 state parks scattered across New York. Visitors can enjoy beaches on Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes or river and inland lake environments on the Hudson River and St. Lawrence. Most offer some of the most scenic and unique natural wonders in the state as well as various onsite and offsite attractions and activities the entire family can enjoy. Most are also border a river or have a lake or pond, sometimes several offering angling opportunities.
On the eastern end of Lake Ontario Westcott Beach State Park in Henderson is located amongst rolling, wooded hills and grassy meadows along Henderson Bay. Hiking trails are also available. The campground sits on a bluff with scenic views of the bay and offers a playground, picnic area and a small marina for those bring their own boats to tackle the bay's black bass.
Just to the south Southwick Beach State Park just west of Woodville offers many of the same amenities as does Selkirk Shores State Park just west of Pulaski. At Selkirk Shores SP smaller boats can be launched at the Pine Grove site on the Salmon River and larger craft from the Mexico Point Boat launch on the Little Salmon River.
When fishing for bass make sure to take a good selection of plastic worms, top water lures, shallow-running crankbaits, some weedless spoons as well as some buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. For youngers too little to handle these offerings minnows and night crawlers and worms will do just as well, not only on bass but a variety of other species. For those who do not have their own boats numerous charter services are available to get on the lake for salmon and trout action.
The Salmon River of course is one of the area's most popular angling destinations, offering 12 miles of Public Fishing Rights. Visitors can fish for Chinook and coho salmon starting in late August, summer-run steelhead in June and July and landlocked salmon in July and August.
Along The Way
If some time off from wetting a line is needed but the kids still want some "fishy" make a trip to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery on County Route 22 in Altmar. Along with informational displays self-guided tours, displays show fish at various stages of life and what goes on in a fish hatchery. For information telephone (315) 298-5051.
Another interesting attraction in the area is historic Fort Ontario in Oswego. The star-shaped fort dates back to 1755 and visitors can witness colorful reenactments and muster demonstrations during the French and Indian War.
For more information on Fort Ontario telephone (315) 343-4711.
For more information on attractions and things to do, charter and fishing services and other locations to fish on the east end of Lake Ontario visit www.visitoswegocounty.com.
The Taconic and Hudson Valleys are often overlooked when it comes to family fishing excursions but Grafton Lakes State Park about 30 minutes east of Troy is a great spot for a daytime get-a-way in the Capital District. The park covers about 2,500 acres on a forested plateau and offers several playgrounds, hiking trails and picnic areas. Visitors looking to wet a line will find five ponds within the park. Rainbow and brown trout are stocked annually in Long, Second and Shaver Ponds. These ponds also offer opportunities for pickerel, perch and black bass as does Mill Pond. The Martin-Durham Reservoir offers walleye. All ponds have launch facilities for canoes, kayaks and small car tops or canoes can be rented on site.
For more information telephone the park (518) 279-1155.
Families looking for a camping get-away in the same area can take advantage of the facilities at Cherry plain State Park in Berlin. The 175-acre park offers ten trailer sites and ten lakeside tent sites and a sandy beach on Black River Pond where there is good angling opportunities for black bass, pickerel and sunfish. When not wetting a line visitors can enjoy the parks bridle paths and hiking and nature trails.
For more information telephone (518) 733-5400.
Along The Way
When you are not busy fishing, the Capital District offers a long list of attractions for the family including museums, family fun parks, the state capital building and historic sites.
For more information the Rensselaer County Visitor's Guide available from the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start. Visit www.rensco.com or telephone (518) 274-7020.
For more information on New York's state parks that offer family angling opportunities, available activities and amenities, fees and reservation information visit www.nysparks.com.
LAKE GEORGE AREA
In 1791 Thomas Jefferson wrote that Lake George was the most beautiful lake he had ever seen. Judging by the number of visitors to the lake and surrounding area each season its beauty remains a major attraction, but not its only one.
Topping the list are the angling opportunities. Lake George itself offers opportunities for lake trout and landlocked salmon for those who tow their own boats. If you don't have a boat, charter services that supply all necessary gear and tackle and boat rentals are readily available. The lake is also considered one of the premier smallmouth bass fisheries in the state. Yellow perch often provide steady action in the shallower coves and bays.
If the big lake fails keep the family busy, day trips to other area waters offer an array of species. A prime example is Brant Lake in Horicon. The lake is stocked with brown trout and rainbow trout but also offers largemouth bass and pickerel. Other local fishing spots for a day's outing include the Hudson River and Hovey Pond, both in Queensbury. Both offer shoreline angling for trout, bass and variety of sunfish to keep youngsters occupied.
Lodging and camping facilities in the Lake George area are abundant and include tent and trailer campgrounds, rental cottages and cabins, inns, and lodges. Advance reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends on long holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July.
Along The Way
Along with fishing, there is a lot to do in the Lake George area for the entire family. Usher Park on Route 9L in Lake George offers a swimming beach, playground and tennis and basketball courts. And several adventure companies offer balloon rides, whitewater rafting, zip-lining and scenic lake tours.
For more information visit the Warren County Tourism Department web site at www.visitlakegeorge.com.
BIG APPLE ANGLING
With its towering skyline and hustle and bustle it might seem hard to believe but with five hundred miles of coastline, piers along the Hudson and East Rivers and 29,000 acres of parkland, the various boroughs making up the Big Apple each offer an impressive list of varied angling opportunities.
At 1,000 acres Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx contains the fourth largest lake in the city and that lake offers angling for yellow perch, sunfish, largemouth bass and crappie.
For more information telephone (716) 430-1890 or visit www.vcpark.org.
The most famous green space in the city, of course, is Central Park and 11-acre Harlem Meer located in the park's northeast corner is a popular catch and release spot for largemouth bass, sunfish, bluegills and pickerel.
For more information telephone (212) 860-1370, or visit www.centralparknyc.org.
Other Big Apple angling opportunities will be found at Kissena Lake located Kissena Park in the Queens, Wolfe's Pond on Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5, Transmitter Park in Brooklyn and Baisley Pond Park in the Queens, to name but a few.
For more particulars on these and other New York City parks and fishing opportunities and regulations visit www.nycgovparks.org.
Along The Way
Obviously, there are thousands of places to go and things to do in New York City. But with regards to the parks, many are equipped with playgrounds, such as the Bill Johnson Playground and Herkscher Playground in Central Park. Other playgrounds include the Tom Otterness Playground on Staten Island and on Governor's Island. There's also the Bronx Zoo.