DEC seeking input on major bass plan

Staff report

Albany — DEC’s plan to create an essentially year-round bass
season — with some noteworthy restrictions — is moving
forward.

The proposal, which would allow catch-and-release angling in
most waters statewide from Dec. 1 through the day before the
traditional third-Saturday-in-June opening day, is in the public
comment stage.

DEC will be accepting input from sportsmen and other interested
parties through June 30.

The move — DEC gave indications of the plan late last year —
would apply to all waters except the eastern basin of Lake Ontario
(from Stony Point east); the St. Lawrence River and tributaries to
the first barrier impassable by fish; the Hudson River (from the
Troy dam downstream) and tributaries to the first impassable
barrier; and Nassau and Suffolk county waters.

While some sportsmen have voiced concern that the proposal would
affect the bass fishery during the spawning and nest-guarding
periods, DEC officials have pointed out that while some states in
the Northeast have closed seasons for bass, all allow fishing
during those times.

And, says DEC Fisheries Bureau Chief Doug Stang, many times when
New York’s bass season opens, both largemouths and smallmouths, in
some areas of the state, are spawning or guarding nests.

“In any given year, a significant portion of bass waters have
open fishing during those times,” Stang said. “That activity
sometimes takes place during the existing bass season.”

He added that most state waters “are not recruitment challenged”
and indications are that the year-round fishing won’t impact bass
numbers.

While the season from Dec. 1 to the day before the third
Saturday in June would be catch-and-release only, anglers would
also be required to use artificial lures only.

Most states in the Northeast operate under the same general
restrictions during the spawning and nest-guarding periods; some
actually allow a limited harvest of bass during that time.

Members of the Cornell University Biological Field Station
recently reviewed data relating to an early opening of the bass
season, including the impact of fishing activity during the
spawning period. They concluded that immediately releasing the
catch would create additional fishing opportunities without
jeopardizing bass populations.

Stang said some of the most vocal detractors of the plan have
been hardcore panfish anglers “who don’t want a lot of bass boats
running around them.”

He added that pre-season bass fishing is taking place now all
over the state, as anglers sight-fish to spawning and nest-guarding
bass, catching and release largemouths and smallmouths in great
numbers on waters like Lake Champlain.

Other anglers inadvertently catch bass while targeting other
species, such as pike and walleye, during the spring.

The move, however, could affect the bass tournament trails in
the state. Under the proposed guidelines, bass must be immediately
released, which means they can’t be placed in a livewell for
weigh-in and then released later prior to the third Saturday in
June.

Sportsmen wishing to comment on the proposal may e-mail DEC
through June 30 at fwfish@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

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