You may think that fishing in New York State is as easy as grabbing your rod and tackle box, heading to your favorite waterway, waiting for the nibble and landing that prize catch.

Well, that’s part of it. 

But before you even think about tuning up your gear, you need to check in with New York State and get a fishing license. It’s not that involved and this step assures you of being in compliance with state and New York City regulations enforced by a range of law enforcement authorities. There are some ins-and-outs, so be sure to read the following clearly. 

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, you need a fishing license if you are 16 years or older and you will be:

  • Fishing for freshwater fish by angling, spearing, hooking, longbow or tip-ups.
  • Fishing for frog species by spearing, catching with your hands or using a club or a hook.
  • Fishing for freshwater baitfish for personal use.

You do not need a fishing license if you are:

  • Fishing on a licensed fishing preserve.
  • Fishing during the state’s free fishing days.
  • A resident landowner primarily engaged in farming, and you are fishing on farm lands you occupy and cultivate.
  • A farm fish pond license holder fishing on waters covered by the license.
  • A Native American living and fishing on reservation land.
  • A patient residing at a qualifying U.S. Veterans Administration hospital or facility in New York State.

You can get a New York State fishing license at any town hall or a license issuing agent location, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can also buy a fishing license online or over the phone. Click here to learn more. 

So that covers freshwater. Saltwater is an entirely different can of worms, so to speak. 

You need a Maritime Fishing Registration if you are fishing for saltwater fish species in the marine and coastal district, which generally speaking are the waters surrounding Long Island; or if you are fishing for migratory fish of the sea within the tidal waters of the Hudson River and its tributaries; Delaware River; or Mohawk River. Migratory fish of the sea include striped bass, American eel, Hickory shad, American shad and Anadromous river herring.


Don’t forget about the network of reservoirs, overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, that provide drinking water to the Big Apple but also welcome fishing. 

So what’s the deal with that? Let’s start with the types of fish you will find in the New York City reservoirs. According to the New York State DEC:

“New York City reservoirs offer a surprisingly diverse group of fish species that people can catch.These include coldwater fish, such as salmon and trout that need water temperatures less than 70 degrees, and warm water fish that can tolerate higher water temperatures.” Click here to learn which types of fish can be found in reservoirs operated by New York City. 


“A NYC Department of Environmental Protection access permit is required to access the city-controlled reservoirs and lakes. In addition, special boating permits are available for storing your boat on the shoreline in designated areas. Some reservoirs allow non-motorized recreational boating on a day-use basis. Click here, here and here to learn more about recreational opportunities, including fishing, on New York City reservoir and watershed lands, and how to go about having fun legally.”

And now that we covered all that, let me tell you about the one that got away….