Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Stories that topped 2022 in New York

Albany — The year 2022 is one New York sportsmen won’t soon forget, and one that featured both good and bad news. As we round out 2022 and ring in 2023, here’s a look at the top stories as we covered them in New York Outdoor News during the past 12 months.

New gun laws

By far, the biggest story in the Empire State this year is the slate of new gun laws Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature enacted in June and July. It started with a package of 10 bills that, among other things, created a license requirement for semi-automatic rifles and prohibited anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing one.

When the U.S. Supreme Court stabilized New York’s concealed carry laws in the NYS Rifle and Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen case, Hochul responded by calling an extraordinary session of Congress in late June, which resulted in the passage of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act.

Since its passage, the new legislation has faced numerous lawsuits
challenging several of its components, which include the creation of an
18-hour training course for handgun owners, prohibiting all firearms in a
long list of “sensitive” areas, requiring private property owners,
including businesses, to post signage to allow any firearms,
requirements for storing firearms in unattended vehicles, strict new
requirements for FFL/dealers to comply with, and an eventual ammunition
database.

The lawsuits and their various injunctions and eventual appeals by the state have led the state’s gun owners on a confusing roller coaster ride with hopes
of some resolution in early 2023 via the legislature or higher court
rulings.

Fishing regulation changes

In late 2021, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation proposed a number of simplified freshwater fishing regulation changes that were eventually realized before spring fishing seasons began.

Among them were hard opening days for walleyes, northern pike, black bass and muskellunge. There were also some panfish regulations that were
changed. Seasons for brown and rainbow trout, as well as salmon and
splake, are now open year-round in ponds. With the exception of northern
New York, most of the state’s waters are open for ice fishing.

DEC also rolled out new functions on their virtual app, which they call the
Tackle Box, that helps anglers navigate New York’s entire fisheries system.

Oneida walleye spearing

DEC’s Oneida Fish Hatchery on Scriba Creek took center stage in April after
an individual was ticketed for spearing 23 walleyes in the creek near
the hatchery. The individual claimed he had a right to the fish as a
member of a Native American tribe and decades old treaties. He returned
days later with more tribal members who continued with illegal
activities, but ENCON officers and state police were told to stand down,
infuriating the sporting community.

The incidents brought to light issues between DEC and the Iroquois Nation
over tribal hunting and fishing rights, and has spawned a debate of fish
and wildlife management in the region and beyond.

New DEC directors

Early in 2022, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos named Capt. Karen Przyklek as
the director of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement. Shortly thereafter,
it was announced that Dr. Jacqueline Lendrum was the new director of the
Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Director Przyklek’s promotion followed a successful 26-year career with DLE,
while Dr. Lendrum is a natural resource protection expert with 15 years
experience at DEC, beginning her career as a research scientist in DEC’s
Division of Water before rising to director of the Bureau of Water
Assessment and Management.

Dr. Lendrum replaced Tony Wilkinson, while Director Przyklek succeeded Bernard Rivers, both who retired in 2021.

Crossbow bills bypassed

Crossbow hunters hoping for expanded opportunities found themselves shut out once again.

Unlike in 2021 when crossbow expansion was part of the state budget, there was hope this year when a package that included allowing junior, senior (over 55) and
disabled hunters the chance to hunt the entire archery season stalled in
Congress. A month later, assemblyman and ENCON Committee Chair Steve
Englebright tabled another pair of crossbow items for future discussion,
ending any hope for 2022.

Wolf discovery

It took a couple of DNA tests, but it was eventually determined that an
85-pound canine shot by a Cooperstown-area coyote hunter last winter was
actually a gray wolf. This was the first wolf discovery in New York
since 2001, when a hunter shot a canine later determined to be a wolf in
Saratoga County.

The male wolf was likely passing through and it is not believed that a
breeding population exists in New York. A special interest group said
there have been 10 other Northeast wolf killings south of the St.
Lawrence River since 1993.

Record catfish, smallmouth

Two state fishing records fell this year, just weeks apart.

Bailey Williams, of Watertown, caught (and released) a channel catfish from
the Black River, at Dexter Marsh, in Jefferson County while kayak
fishing on May 8. The fish weighed 35 pounds, 12 ounces.

Then, on Cayuga Lake, Tom Russell, of Albion, was fishing in a Finger Lakes
Open Trail bass tournament on June 15, opening day of the state’s new
seasonal structure for black bass, when he hooked a bronzeback that
weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

St. Lawrence River No. 1

While we’re talking bass fishing, Bassmaster Magazine ranked
the St. Lawrence River atop its annual list of 100 Best Bass Lakes, a
distinction it also held in 2019. It’s no wonder, as any time the pros
come to places like Waddington or Clayton, the scales get a workout.

As for other New York waters, the Lake Erie/Upper Niagara River combo
placed eighth overall and was third among Northeast waters. Also in the
Northeast, Lake Champlain placed fourth, Cayuga Lake placed 11th, Oneida
Lake placed 18th and Chautauqua Lake placed 25th.

Lead ammo ban stalls

In March, the New York State Assembly passed legislation by a margin of 98
to 49 that would ban the use of lead ammunition on all state lands and
lands surrounding New York City’s drinking water reservoirs.

While many hunters use non-lead alternatives, an ammunition market that
continues to be sparse would’ve made such a law, if passed by the Senate
and signed by the governor, certainly challenging to many New York
hunters.

In 2022, new gun laws may have overshadowed the lead ammunition controversy and the bill only made it through the Senate Environmental Committee. Things could be different in 2023, and many feel some sort of leadammo ban is on the
horizon in New York.

EHD/blue-tongue disease

The good news is that after two years of heavy local infestations of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease on the New York landscape there were far fewer cases this year. However, for the first time blue-tongue disease, which is
very similar to EHD, found its way into New York when three deer in
Southampton, Suffolk County, tested positive for the disease.

Because of previous EHD outbreaks, Southern Zone hunters in some localized
areas found fewer antlerless deer permits available for the fall hunting
season.

NYS High School Clay Target League

Things got somewhat back to normal this year for the New York State High
School Clay Target League, which held the annual state shoot in person
for the first time since 2019.

After having a virtual shoot in 2021, roughly 98 schools and nearly 1,100
student-athletes headed for the Bridgeport Rod & Gun Club, in Cicero
(near Syracuse) in the early summer to culminate the spring season.
Some went on to the national shoot a few weeks later in Michigan.

Honorable mentions

Diseases and invasive species continued to plague New York and beyond this year.
Invasives like the southern pine beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, beech
leaf disease and round goby made their presence known and likely will
continue to do so. Then there’s the widespread break out of the Avian Flu.

On the fisheries end, the Striped Bass Amendment 7 seems to have resolved some of the issues facing that species, while multi-agency efforts are helping with
lake sturgeon recovery in certain New York waters.

That’s a wrap for 2022. We’ll talk about things we may see in 2023 in the next edition of New York Outdoor News.

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