New York Fishing: An Angler’s Guide
Apr 10, 2021 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

For world-class angling on the East Coast, look no further than New York. The only thing more diverse than the fish species here, are the places you can cast for them. A New York fishing trip could see you taking in the New York City skyline from the Hudson River, chasing Tuna off the coast of Long Island, or lake fishing for every freshwater game fish you can think of.

An aerial view of the Montauk Lighthouse and Beach on Long Island, New York.

And those are just a few of the incredible experiences to have in the state. There are over 7,500 lakes, 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, access to two of the five Great Lakes, and hundreds of miles of coastline to explore. That should make it pretty clear that fishing is a way of life here!

No matter how unusual the fish you want to catch or the technique you want to try is, there’s likely to be someone in New York who’s already doing it. In this guide, we’ll highlight a few of the many species you can target and how and where to get your hands on them. We’ll wrap it up with a few regulations to keep in mind and you should be ready to head out.

New York Fish Species

New York fish species are as diverse as the state’s waterways. Saltwater, freshwater, brackish water – it’s all here. Below, we’ll highlight some of the most notable fish you can find in different places. We’ll kick it off with freshwater species before turning our attention to some saltwater monsters.

Salmon

An angler aboard a New York fishing charter holding a Chinook Salmon.

East Coast Salmon fishing is fantastic in general, but New York state offers some of the very best. With opportunities to hook into Chinook and Coho varieties in both Lake Ontario and surrounding rivers, visiting the state during Salmon season is more than worth it.

New York Chinook Salmon regularly hit the 30 lb mark and can grow as long as 5 feet. Whether you’re trolling for them in Lake Ontario or drifting in the tributaries, gear up with lead wire and a medium-heavy setup. As for Coho, they’re usually between 5–10 pounds, but a 33 lb record-holder was also pulled out of these waters.

If you’re fishing between April–August, turn your attention to Lake Ontario. The warmer it gets, the further the fish move into deeper, colder waters. Come September, the fish make their way into the lake’s tributaries to spawn. This is when you can get your hands on the biggest and most aggressive specimens. Some years, the spawning window extends well in November, stretching your timeframe for a trophy fish.

Trout

A beautiful Brook Trout being held out of the water.

Trout are important fish on the New York fishing scene for a number of reasons. For one, Brook Trout are the official freshwater state fish! You’ll also find their relatives Rainbow (Steelhead), Brown, and Lake Trout in the state’s many streams and rivers. Anglers love to cast for Trout species on account of their excellent flavor and the fact that they’re great targets for both novices and pros.

Those looking for a challenge, and a rewarding meal, shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to target Brown or Brook Trout. These fish are more wary than Rainbow or Lake Trout, which are more suitable targets for beginners. You can cast for all of these species between April–October. If you’re fishing in the winter, take advantage of the Steelhead run in Lake Ontario’s tributaries.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

A smiling angler holding a summer Smallmouth Bass.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass fishing in New York really is some of the best. You have the state’s incredible lakes to thank for that! What better way to make the most out of your summer vacation than by getting out onto the water and hooking some Bass along the way?

The season for these fish typically starts in the second half of June and runs all the way to the end of November. You’ll find both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass in the same bodies of water, but you’ll have to look in different areas for each. Smallies prefer cooler and clear waters, choosing to hunt around cover. Largies like their habitats warm, shallow, and murky. Unlike their siblings, they’ll be hiding under the cover of rocks and weeds.

Striped Bass

Two anglers holding a large Striped Bass each aboard a charter boat.

Just like Brook Trout are the state’s official freshwater fish, Stripers claim that title in saltwater – and for good reason. Fishing for Striped Bass in New York, and especially on Long Island, is the stuff of legends. Though the season officially starts at the beginning of April, and runs well into the fall, the hottest bite is in mid-summer.

The great thing about these fish is that they’re a suitable target for anyone. Beginner or pro, you can troll, bottom fish, or even fly fish for them. Expect to hook 20-pounders on any trip, and possibly much bigger fish too. Thirty to 40 lb fish show up in New York waters every year! You’re not just limited to Long Island either, the Hudson River and even Manhattan are possible places to get a bite.

Seabass

A angler holding a Black Seabass aboard a fishing charter.

Despite their misleading name, Seabass are actually closely related to Grouper. One thing they certainly have in common with their tropical relatives is fantastic flavor. You’ll also find that they like to feed close to the bottom. For your best shot at hooking one, gear up with a medium-heavy rod and bottom fish with squid or any other crustacean for bait.

Jigging is another popular method to try, just be sure to use a heavier jig in deeper waters. Black Seabass season in New York state typically starts in the second half of June and runs until the end of the year. The largest fish hover around 10 pounds, but typical adults come in at between 1–2 pounds.

Tuna

Two anglers holding a Yellowfin Tuna each aboard a Montauk fishing chater.

We saved the largest for last. Few pelagic species are as coveted as Tuna, both for their flavor and fight. When fishing in coastal New York, you’ll have access to the deep Atlantic waters that Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Albacore varieties call home. Tuna fishing in New York is a summer sport, so your best bet for landing a trophy fish is July–October.

Make sure you’re prepared to make the journey. Tuna fishing grounds are 30–80 miles offshore. Luckily, there are plenty of powerful sportfishing boats to take you there. This is especially true for deep sea hotspots like Montauk. You’ll mainly be trolling for Bluefin and Yellowfin, but if you’re up for a challenge, you can try fly fishing for smaller Albacore.

And More!

A male angler holding a large Summer Flounder aboard a charter boat.

There are over 165 unique freshwater species in New York, and just about as many in saltwater. This makes it one of the most fish-rich states in the US! If you’re heading into one of the many lakes or streams, you can also fish for Walleye, Crappie, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, and Perch varieties.

On a saltwater trip, count on seeing iconic East Coast fish including Fluke (Summer Flounder), Tautog, Porgy, Bluefish, and American Shad. There’s also Cobia, Spanish and King Mackerel, as well as various Sharks to test your skills against. In the mood for Shellfish? Delicious Lobster and Blue Crab could be yours.

How can I go fishing in New York?

There’s a myriad of ways to go fishing in New York. What works best for you will depend on your desired targets, how long you want to spend on the water, and your budget. Below, we’ll look into some of the popular ways to go on a New York fishing trip.

Charter Boat Fishing

A fishing charter in Montauk leaving the marina

A New York fishing charter allows you to have the most diverse fishing experience. On a boat, you’ll be able to explore different areas and change spots with ease if the fish aren’t biting. If you’re targeting Tuna, and don’t have a boat of your own, heading out on a charter is the only way to access deep offshore waters. You can even opt for multi-day trips to make the most of the season.

Arguably the best thing about heading out on a charter is your captain. They’ll provide you with all of your fishing gear and important information about local regulations. Like we mentioned earlier, fishing is a way of life here. Your captain likely spends most of their time on the water, so you can be sure they’ll have excellent fishing spots to share!

Shore Fishing

Two anglers walking along the beach while carrying their fishing gear and catch.

If a charter boat fishing trip sounds like too much of a commitment, try casting a line from shore. You won’t be able to target offshore fish like Tuna or bottom feeders like Seabass, but you’ll still have access to some hard-fighting and delicious species. This includes Striped Bass! In the summertime, surfcasting from Long Island’s beaches is a surefire way to get a hookup.

If you’re more interested in freshwater species, coveted creatures like Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Walleye, and even Pike can be hooked from the shorelines of various lakes. Finally, you can head to one of over a dozen fishing piers. Atlantic waters, as well as the Hudson and Niagara Rivers, are just a few of the places accessible to anglers casting from piers.

Kayak Fishing

Two anglers kayak fishing in sunny weather on a lake.

New York’s waterways are also suitable for kayak anglers. This is a very immersive experience, as you’ll be getting right up close to your targets. You’ll also be powering your own engine so some physical stamina is required. Calmer waters are more suitable for beginners, as they’re easier to navigate, so keep this in mind when choosing a trip.

If you decide to kayak in saltwater you can target larger predators like Fluke, Bluefish, and even Striped Bass. In freshwater lakes, don’t miss out on the opportunity to target Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. Gear up with a radio an extra paddle to be safe, as well as a little patience, and you should have a great day on the water.

Ice Fishing

Lake Champlain, frozen over in the winter.

Winter anglers rejoice! Countless New York lakes and bays freeze over during the winter months, creating ideal conditions for ice fishing. Upstate New York, in particular, turns into a winter wonderland that’s easy on the eyes and quiet enough for even the most solitary angler. You can catch great table fare including Yellow Perch, Walleye, Splake, and Lake Trout.

Those who are put off by the cold don’t have to miss out, either. There are plenty of guides who offer heated huts as part of their ice fishing packages. In these cases, you can even bring the little ones along without worrying about the weather. If you’re heading out on your own, make sure that ice fishing in that location is allowed before you start drilling.

Fishing Spots in New York

Now that you know what fish you can catch and how, you’re probably asking yourself where to go. There’s no list big enough to cover all of the great fishing spots in this state, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites below.

An aerial view of the Montauk Lighthouse and shoreline.
  • Long Island: This is the mecca of New York angling. Home to Montauk and Fire Island, it’s a favorite for anglers heading offshore for Tuna or casting from shore for Striped Bass. You can also bottom fish for Seabass and Cod or explore inshore waters for Fluke.
  • Pulaski: This Lake Ontario town is one of the best Salmon fishing spots in New York – if not the East Coast. Fish the Great Lake in the summer months, before turning your attention to the incredible Salmon River during the fall spawning season.
  • Hudson River: If you’d love to cast a line from New York City, look no further than the Hudson River. You’ll get to take in incredible views of the skyline while casting for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Porgy, and Fluke.
  • Finger Lakes: The Finger Lakes region is beautiful for a number of reasons. Its most recognizable feature, however, is its 11 finger-shaped lakes. Some are coldwater and others are warmwater, making them one of the best places to hook Bass and a variety of Trout.
  • Lake Champlain: Often referred to as the sixth Great Lake, Lake Champlain is a fantastic year-round destination. In the summer, experience first-class Bass and Tiger Muskie fishing. When the lake freezes over, Lake Trout come right up to the surface, making for excellent ice angling.

New York Fishing Regulations

A image displaying the text "New York Fishing Regulations, What You Need to Know" on a blue background and an image of a fishing boat underneath.

The last step in planning your New York fishing trip is getting familiar with some of the regulations. The first thing you’re probably wondering is, “how do I get a fishing license in New York?”

You’ll be happy to know that if you’re fishing aboard a charter, your captain will take care of getting one for everyone over the age of 16. If you’re fishing on your own, it’s a little more complicated. First, you’ll need to determine whether you need a saltwater license or a freshwater license. In some cases, you may need both. For a more in-depth look at license types, check out our comprehensive guide.

If you’re fishing aboard a charter, your captain will also make sure you’re respecting all regulations related to seasonality, including bagging and size limits. There are closed seasons for many species, in both saltwater and freshwater, so this is very helpful. When heading out on your own, make sure to read up on recent regulations on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website.

New York Fishing: Saltwater, Freshwater, You Name It!

The New York City skyline as seen from the Hudson River.

One of the best words we can use to describe fishing in New York is variety. From saltwater monsters to testy freshwater fish, there’s no telling what you’ll catch in the state’s numerous and diverse waterways. Whatever kind of fishing you’re into, there’s somewhere to put it into action. In a state where fishing is a way of life, you can’t go wrong!

What is your all-time favorite New York fishing spot? Any especially memorable experiences to share? Let us know in the comments – we love to hear from you!

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