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Anglers future: Ice fishing on Rushford, more walleye at Chautauqua, trophy bass in Lake Erie

Ice fishing may be coming back to Rushford Lake.

More Chautauqua Lake walleye could be allowed in the fishing cooler.

And, more chances to catch a trophy bass in Lake Erie are planned on 2017’s calendar.

All are proposed revisions to the state’s freshwater sportfishing regulations expected to take effect next April.

The Department of Environmental Conservation announced the proposals this week as part of its regular two-year review cycle of the state’s fishing regulations.

Emailed comments are being accepted on those, and dozens of other proposals planned across the state, through Oct. 7.

“We have been making an effort to clean things up and make (regulations) more simplified,” said Michael Clancy, the DEC’s fisheries manager for Region 9.

Allowing ice fishing at Rushford Lake, a popular rural destination in Allegany County for many from the Buffalo area, is just reinstating a policy that existed about 15 years ago, Clancy said.

Ice fishing was initially prohibited after liability concerns were raised in the community about potential damage to the dam at the lake.

Since then, it was requested that ice fisherman be allowed to return to the lake, but a change to the regulations was necessary, Clancy said.

The proposed regulations will also expand walleye fishing on Chautauqua Lake starting April 1.

A special minimum three fish daily limit at a size of at least 18 inches will be replaced by state regulations in other areas that allow for five fish of at least 15 inches to be taken. The special rules were in place for more than a dozen years.

Clancy said improved environmental conditions, namely lower amounts of invasive species impacting the walleye’s ability to spawn, have helped drive the new proposal.

“We have evidence the fish are reproducing on the lake again,” Clancy said.

Meanwhile, starting Dec. 1, 2017, black bass anglers will be invited to reel in that big trophy fish from Lake Erie and its tributaries all the way through June 15, 2018, Clancy said. The new regulations will allow December to June bass fishing of at least 20 inches in subsequent years as well.

The existing laws limited that interval to a roughly six-week period starting May 1 every year, but studies suggest the bass populations won’t be affected by the more liberal fishing calendar, Clancy pointed out.

In another locally affected change to the state fishing regulations, the DEC seeks to define Great Lakes fishing regulations for Cattaraugus Creek as running from Lake Erie up to the current location of the Scoby Dam at Springville.

The dam is expected to be removed as part of Great Lake Restoration Initiative project that calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to link the fisheries in the creek both above and below the dam. That work is expected to be completed in the next few years.

Upstream of the current dam site in the creek will be subject to different provisions under the state’s fishing regulations.

In lieu of email, DEC officials said comments on the proposed revisions may also be mailed to: Gregory Kozlowski, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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