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DEC to host free ice fishing clinic on February 23

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is hosting a free ice fishing clinic from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Casterline Pond in Cortland County, DEC Regional Director Matthew Marko announced today.

“This free, non-competitive event is geared toward all ages, especially those seeking an introduction to ice fishing and an opportunity to be immersed in New York’s exceptional winter recreation activities,” Director Marko said. “Scheduled to coincide with the school vacation, it’s the perfect time for a family outing to learn more about the sport.”

Weather permitting, the event will be held at the Casterline Pond fishing access parking area on Route 11, just north of Homer. Please visit DEC’s Free Fishing Clinics webpage on Feb. 23 to confirm event status. DEC will supply bait, tackle, and the drilling of holes. There will be a short lesson on the basics of ice fishing and DEC will be on hand throughout the event to assist participants on the ice. Casterline Pond has brown and rainbow trout, along with bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish.

While a New York State fishing license is not required for this event, all other statewide and special regulations remain in effect. Normally, anyone age 16 or older is required to obtain a fishing license to fish or assist with fishing in fresh waters of New York State. Children under age 16 must be supervised. In addition to this free fishing clinic, Governor Hochul designated Feb. 19 and 20 the State’s first Free Fishing Weekend of 2022 when freshwater anglers are permitted to fish for free without a license.

Anglers are reminded that four inches or more of solid ice is usually safe for accessing bodies of water on foot; double that thickness for traveling on white ice. Ice thickness can vary on different bodies of water and even within the same body of water. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Before testing ice thickness with an auger or spud, visit DEC’s website to learn more.

Those new to ice fishing are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter of DEC’s I FISH NY Beginners’ Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started. A series of “how to” videos geared toward beginning ice anglers are available on the DEC YouTube channel. Additional information, including a list of waters where ice fishing is permitted, can found on the DEC ice fishing webpage.