Great fishing = solid license sales in New York

Albany — Fishing license sales in New York are poised to increase in the 2011-12 license year, which ends Sept. 30.

DEC officials said figures showed the major license categories – resident fishing, nonresident fishing, resident senior fishing and resident sportsman (which includes fishing) – were nearly at 100 percent of last year’s total through mid-July.

“We are, right now, about 95-98 percent of the various fishing licenses sold compared to last year,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said last month. “Looking at what our sales were last year in August, when you add that on we’ll be at 100 percent of last year or maybe a little bit above.”

DEC officials said several factors may be playing into the solid fishing license sales, but the biggest may be some outstanding fishing across the state.

“The fishing has been good,” Stang said. “Lake Ontario, in particular, has been absolutely spectacular and it has held up. They were catching chinook (salmon) early and they’re still catching them through the summer and we anticipate quite a run this fall. And the weather has been good; folks are getting out.”

Preliminary results from the spring Lake Ontario fishing boat survey conducted by DEC supported DEC’s theory. The catch rate for trout and salmon was 5.3 fish per boat trip between April 15 and May 31.

That’s the highest ever recorded in the survey’s 28-year history.

The harvest rate – the number of fish creeled – was at 2.4 fish per outing, another record high.

DEC fisheries biologist Jana Lantry said that while brown trout are typically the most common species caught in the spring, the April-May catches of chinook salmon were outstanding.

“That’s unusual,” Lantry said. “We don’t know why. It could be the warm water temperature (a product of an early-spring heat wave). It also appears there’s two very good age classes of chinook salmon (those 2 and 3 years old) in the lake this year.”

The survey covers a stretch of Lake Ontario from Fort Niagara over to Henderson Harbor in the eastern basin, about 200 miles of shoreline.

Increased occupancy at most state-run campgrounds across New York may also be playing a role in solid fishing license sales.

“There’s been an uptick in folks camping, and camping and fishing go hand in hand, particularly in New York,” Stang said. “A lot of our campgrounds are located on the water.”

DEC has also increased fishing license availability at those campgrounds through Internet access to the DECALS licensing system.

Some license categories – resident and nonresident 1- and 7-day licenses – are running well below the 2010-11 total. But DEC officials say that’s typical for this time of the license year, which ends Sept. 30.

“We’ll get a lot of 1- and 7-day license sales in mid-August and into September from folks coming up to Lake Ontario and the Salmon River and tributaries (to fish the famed salmon run),” Stang said. “Oak

Orchard will be responsible for a lot of license sales as well, but most of those will come in October and will be reflected in next year’s sales.”

The strong fishing license sales come during an uneasy economic time, but that doesn’t surprise DEC.

“In the past, we’ve actually seen fishing license sales – and, to a certain degree, hunting license sales – actually go up in a tough economy,” Stang said. “People are staying closer to home.”

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