April 19, 2016
I grew up with a fishing pole in my hands. One of the first Christmas gifts I actually remember, probably around age five or six, was a 5-foot fiberglass rod with a Zebco spin-casting reel attached.
The second gift I recall, that same year in fact, was a plastic tackle box with an assortment of Eagle Claw hooks, a few bobbers, snap swivels and lead sinkers of assorted size and a few spinners. My dad probably paid less than $20 for everything, but to me the outfit was worth more than its weight in gold.
GET 'EM HOOKED
I am grateful to my dad for many things, but high on the list is for getting me hooked on fishing at an early age. It has developed into a lifelong passion and, looking back, is something that helped me through times when I didn't know where I was going, that helped make sense when nothing seemed to, helped put things in perspective and put me back in touch with what was really important. In this day when the world seems to be going crazy, getting a kid and the family outdoors to wet a line makes more sense than ever.
Fortunately, there are programs available that can help. Several Free Sport Fishing Events are held each year here in New York. These are family fishing clinics where participants can fish freshwater without a fishing license or saltwater without enrolling in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. In addition, participants learn about fish identification, equipment and techniques, fishery management, angling ethics and aquatic ecology.
The DEC also offers a number of Free Fishing Days, days when residents as well as visitors to the state can fish fresh and saltwater without a license or enrolling in the saltwater registry. In 2014 Governor Cuomo signed legislation allowing up to eight such days, up from two. Scheduled dates scheduled thus far are June 25-26 and November 11, 2016.
A list of scheduled free fishing events including location, dates, times and contact information, and Free Fishing Days dates will be found on the Department of Environmental Conservation web site.
TIPS ON FISHING WITH KIDS
It takes a lot to keep kids interested in something these days, so it helps to plan trips with kids specifically in mind. Using equipment kids can handle is a good place to start.
Short rods with spin-casting, or push button reels are a good place to start. They can be a challenge to cast and hook fish in the beginning but are the easiest to handle. Bobbers make good visual indicators when a fish is taking the bait and keep hooks off the bottom and away from snags.
Although some kids are reluctant to handle them much less put them on a hook, worms make the best bait for reliable action. If necessary, help with the casting, and with hooking fish, but let the kids actually reel the fish in. That is where the real fun is.
It also helps to keep the daily trips short, an hour or two, longer if they choose, but let it be their decision. Based on personal experience you will see clear indicators and will know when it is time to call it a day. Keep it fun, keeping in mind it is all about them.
Finally, along with having snacks and drinks with you, have other interesting and fun things to do in case the action is slow or the kids get antsy — something the entire family can take part in. It can be as simple as a short hike through a wildlife preserve or on the beach, perhaps visiting an amusement park. But keeping things interesting and fun will help sow the seed for a love of fishing and family fun.
As for places to go fishing, fortunately, New York is blessed with great fishing spots in close proximity to some fun and interesting attractions for the entire family. Let's look at some good places to start.
THE CATSKILL REGION
Few regions of the state are as famous for its angling opportunities as the Catskill Region. It is just two hours north of the Big Apple and an easy drive from the Capital District. Visitors will find not only fabled trout streams but a number of lakes and ponds offering everything from trout to a variety of warm-water species, the later always willing to bite often enough to keep young anglers interested.
A prime example is North-South Lake, located at the end of Route 18 in Hunter, in Greene County. The lake is full of pickerel, pumpkinseed and yellow perch easily caught from shore with worms and bobbers. They can keep kids occupied for hours. A campground is available for families who enjoy outdoor living. There are also rowboats, kayaks, canoes and paddle-boats available that can be rented for fishing or exploring the lake. A playground is also available.
The campground also offers a Junior Naturalist Program, in which young campers can earn a patch by enjoying games and completing several environmental education activities. Powered boats are not allowed, making time swimming at the two beaches safe for all ages. The best times to fish are usually early in the morning and late day, when beach and lake activity is slowest.
For additional campground infor-mation telephone (518) 589-5058.
Along The Way
Hunter Mountain, 10 miles west on Route 23A, offers ethnic festivals throughout the summer and a sky ride to the summit of the mountain. Information can be obtained by telephoning (800) 486-8376.
Hunter Mountain also offers exciting tours on the longest zip line in the country, some 4.6 miles from mountain peak to mountain peak. For information telephone (518) 263-4388.
SUFFOLK COUNTY OPPORTUNITIES
Long Island offers some of the finest saltwater fishing along the east coast, but it is also home to a number of freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers that are family-friendly. One is Blydenburgh Lake in Smithtown within 627-acre Blydenburgh County Park.
The lake itself is one of the least developed and most picturesque lakes on Long Island. It is home to a variety of warm water fish, including bluegill and pumpkinseed up to 10 inches that offer reliable action on practically anything from pieces of hotdog to worms. Yellow perch up to 13 inches are also in the lake. But the lake is best known for its largemouth bass, some of which are big.
Fishing action is especially good during the May and June spawning periods but can continue right through summer into fall, with early morning and late afternoons best as daytime summer temperatures increase. Target bass with medium gear with Mepps spinners, Rapala-like plugs, and soft-plastic baits.
Private boats are not allowed on Blydenburgh Lake but Suffolk County Parks rents boats from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Permit and boat rental information can be obtained by calling (631) 854-3713; or visit the Suffolk County Parks web site at parks.suffolkcountyny.gov.
A campground is available for overnight stays and a playground for non-fishing periods. Daily nature hikes through the park are also offered by the Long Island Green Belt Trail Conference. For information telephone (631) 360-0753.
Along The Way
One of the highlights of Blydenburgh Lake and park is it proximity to Long Island Sound, particularly Sunken Meadow State Park. The park offers three-miles of sandy beach, ball fields, a mile-long boardwalk, and for mom and dad a 27-hole golf course. Hiking is also available on part of the Green Belt Trail.
Another attractive area is the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in the center of Smithtown. The park offers a nature museum, nature programs designed for kids and adults, including Tiny Tots and bird watching.
The Adirondacks offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the east and are one of the most popular recreational areas in the state. Fishing is a major attraction, with the Saranac Lake area a top destination. The reason is a section of lakes and ponds relatively close to each other that provide a range of types of fishing for all anglers.
In Saranac Village, Flowers Lake is just 5 feet deep but is full of perch and pumpkinseed, perfect angling opportunities on light tackle that provide plenty of action. Smallmouth and largemouth bass are also plentiful. Access and launch site will be found on Route 86.
Just outside the village, on Route 86 heading north, Colby Pond has smallmouth bass, a variety of panfish as well as rainbow and brown trout. There is good shoreline fishing right along Route 86 and there is a boat launch for those carrying canoes and car tops or trailering boats. If the action is slow, try Little Colby Pond for yellow perch. The pond is full of them and the action is often more than fast enough to keep youngsters happy.
Shoreline access is possible from Route 86 along the railroad tracks between Colby and Little Colby. It is about a half-mile hike but flat and easy going.
Families who want to get away from town and prefer camping might enjoy the cluster of ponds near Fish Creek Pond Campground or Rollins Pond Campground just off Route 30 on the west side of Upper Saranac Lake. Fish Creek Pond, Square Pond and Rollins Pond all offer black bass, perch and other sunfish while Whey Pond offers stocked rainbow trout and Black Pond wild and stocked brook trout.
Both campground offer camping and RV sites, a picnic area, playground, hot showers and other amenities.
More information: Fish Creek Pond Campground ,(518) 891-4560; Rollins Pond Campground, (518) 891-3239.
Along The Way
The Saranac Lake area offers plenty of other interesting and fun attractions being fishing. The DEC Adirondack Fish Hatchery is about 12 miles from Saranac Village on Route 30. The indoor visitor center has a pool containing landlocked salmon, monitors showing fish in a pond and exhibits on fish propagation.
The Saranac area is also a great biking area. The Franklin Falls Loop is a 46-mile tour through Wilmington, Whiteface and Lake Placid. A shorter ride is the 37-mile Bloomindale, Onchiota and Gabriels Loop. Off road bikers can head to Mt Pisgah for some off road biking and Dewey Mountain offers 5.5 miles of bike trails.
For more information on other fishing opportunities, activities and attractions visit www.saranaclake.com.
In the central region angling revolves around the Finger Lakes. The 11 lakes offer something for all anglers, whether working afloat or ashore or whether seeking a variety of trout species or warm-water species.
Lake trout are a major draw in most of the lakes, especially Skaneateles Lake, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Canandaigua and Candice Lakes. They are best fished for by trolling baits, spoons and plugs in deep water.
Rainbow trout are abundant in Skaneateles Lake, and available in the lakes just mentioned, along with Keuka and Hemlock Lakes. They are caught trolling or from shore. Brown trout are available in all the lakes except Conesus and Honeoye and can be caught close to the surface from shore or trolling.
The warm-water fisheries include largemouth and smallmouth. Any of the shallow, weedy areas should produce good largemouth opportunities, while smallmouth are generally found in slightly deep water. Yellow perch, walleye, chain pickerel and other panfish — and northern pike — are also found in most lakes.
The New York Department of Conservations web site has a great page on fish availability in lake. Visit www.dec.ny.gov. Outdoor writer Michael Kelly also has a book out that is valuable for anglers. It is called "Fishing the Finger Lakes" and it is packed with specific where-to and how-to information that will get anglers of all ages into the action.
Along The Way
There is a lot to do in the Finger Lakes Region other than wetting a line. Most of the lakes have public beaches and parks for swimming and outdoor activities. There are also a number of amusement and waterparks the whole family can enjoy, scenic railroads, lake cruises, museums and historic sites.
For more information visit www.fingerlakes.com/attractions.
For families that like exploring the outdoors, the Finger Lakes National Forest, covering more than 16,200 acres between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, has over 30 miles of interconnecting trails.
For more information visit www.fs.usda.gov/main/gmfl/home.