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Where To Go Fresh & Saltwater Fishing in New York State

When most people think of New York, they tend to focus on New York City, the Adirondacks or Niagara Falls. However, the Empire State also has great opportunities for fishing. Saltwater fishing on New York’s coast offers opportunities to catch everything from sharks to tuna. Move inland, and freshwater fishing New York’s lakes and rivers gives you plenty of opportunity to get trophy fish, including bass and trout. If you’re looking for the best fishing in New York state, you’re spoiled for choice. No matter where you are in the state, you’re close to a great fishing location. However, we think these eight locations really stand out above the rest.


What To Know Before You Go

You need a license for freshwater fishing unless you’re on a licensed fishing preserve or you happen to fit in a few rare exceptions. Residents can buy a lifetime fishing license, or a lifetime fishing and hunting license. These licenses are issued as a paper document, and you can have your endorsement added to your driver’s license or state ID for convenience. It takes about two weeks to get a copy of any fishing license by mail if you buy it online or over the phone. However, you will be issued a printable temporary permit or given a number you can use to prove you have a license. If you purchase a license at a participating vendor, you get a physical copy immediately.


You don’t need a license or registration for saltwater fishing if you’re using a fishing charter. Otherwise, you need to register with the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. There is no fee for registration. If you want to fish for shark or tuna, you also need a federal permit. Want to catch blueline or golden tilefish? You need to register with the federal government through GARFO Online and report your catch immediately after the trip. Lobster fishing is allowed with a $10 state lobster permit, but this permit is only issued to state residents.


New York has reciprocal license agreements for some waters bordering the state. Your license is valid in the following areas, even if you cross state lines:

  • Pennsylvania - Delaware River
  • New Jersey - Greenwood Lake, if fishing from a boat
  • Connecticut - Indian Lake, if fishing from a boat

Where should you fish? We’ve selected places across the state, from New York City to Buffalo.


Lake Ontario

This lake has the largest Chinook in the Great Lakes, with some exceeding 35 lbs. It’s also a great place to trophy fish for coho, steelhead, brown trout, lake trout, bass and walleye. Fish in the bays along the coast and you’ll find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch.


Jamaica Bay

It may seem odd to be fishing next to JFK airport, but this area is filled with bluefish and bass. Thanks to numerous man made obstacles, there are plenty of areas that force fish close to the surface, making them easy to catch.


Lake Erie

This may be the best place in America to fish for walleye and smallmouth bass. Bass tend to stick to the coast and tributaries in the spring, making it the easiest time to fish. In summer, they move out into deeper, cooler water, and they stay there until temperatures dip in the late fall. Move into the tributaries and you’ll find steelhead trout. Go into the eastern basin and you’ll find salmon. Perch is also easy to find in this lake, even in winter. While there are miles of coastline you can fish from, most people launch from Buffalo.


Salmon River

Are you looking for a challenge? The Salmon River is full of Chinook, coho and Atlantic salmon, as well as steelhead and brown trout. With average weights ranging from 10 to 25 lbs, they require considerable skill and strength to land. Chinook and coho salmon are most active during the breeding season. After the salmon leave, steelhead enter the area to feed on salmon eggs. The best place to launch is the Salmon River Reservoir, which is about an hour drive north of Syracuse.


Saratoga Lake

This lake just a few miles north of Albany is less seasonal than other spots, with great fishing all year round. The lake has some of the best stocks in the state. While it’s best known for rock, largemouth and smallmouth bass, there’s also crappie, walleye, perch, and pike. Sunfish have a daily bag limit of 15, while other fish follow state regulations.


Most of the coast is privately owned, so you’ll need to fish from open water. There is an $8 fee for using the Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch.


Lake Placid Area

The Adirondacks aren’t just beautiful — they’re also a great place for trout fish. Lake Placid has brook, brown, lake and rainbow trout, as well as pike and walleye. Nearby Mirror Lake is well stocked with rainbow and lake trout, as is the Ausable River and its surrounding ponds.


St. Regis Canoe Area

This network of lakes and ponds isn’t just for canoes and kayaks, although some areas are restricted to these boats. With such a variety of waterways, you can catch just about any type of freshwater fish. However, the most popular catch by far is brook trout, which are active in the spring.


Montauk Harbor

If you’re looking for a great place for saltwater fishing, it’s hard to argue against a place that bills itself as the “Fishing Capital of the World.” This area at the tip of Long Island is the home of the largest commercial and recreational fishing fleet in the state. If it’s a saltwater fish, you can find it here, from cod to sharks. The area is great for inshore and offshore fishing at any depth. The most popular fishing spot is “The Race.” Converging tides from the Atlantic and Block Island Sound create rips in this area, making it easy to fish for striped bass and bluefish.