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New York's Free Fishing Days Weekend needs support from all anglers

The 28th anniversary of New York’s Free Fishing Days weekend is Saturday and Sunday, a time to celebrate the popular pastime of sportfishing by lifting the requirement of possessing a fishing license for anyone 16 years of age or older. It’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Empire State’s 7,500 lakes and ponds and 70,000 miles of rivers and streams. Now is the time for members of the angling fraternity to share these special days with others to help increase the ranks of outdoors users.

Through the years, the events scheduled for this special weekend are geared to creating a better awareness for our natural resources and initiating contact with nature that will hopefully grow as the years pass. Why do we want people to go fishing?

Probably the most important reason is the fact that fishing is fun. It makes a connection with the outdoors that is beneficial for mental and physical well-being. Author Richard Louv goes in-depth into the importance of spending time outside and has performed studies that show there is definitely a “nature deficit disorder” in today’s young generation. It’s a great family activity, perfect for bonding with one another.

Getting them started early is important.

It’s also important for the future of the sport. The purchase of a fishing license helps support the state’s Conservation Fund, a dedicated account that is used to finance fish and wildlife programs in the state. In addition to these state funds, each license sold qualifies for additional federal money that is collected through excise taxes based on legislation that creates Dingell-Johnson (Federal Aid to Sport Fish Restoration),  Wallop-Breaux  and Pittman-Robertson funding mechanisms.

“Many people still don’t understand that every license dollar is earmarked for the Conservation Fund,” says Dale Dunkelberger of Lockport, the Region 9 delegate to the Conservation Fund Advisory Board. “We oversee the expenditures that come out of the fund and also serve as a sounding board for new ways to generate money that can be channeled into the Conservation Fund.”

A good case study is the state’s lifetime license account. In the past, only interest from the fund (again, a separate fund that cannot be touched for anything but fish and wildlife) could be channeled into the Conservation Fund. It is now being altered to allow for some of the money to be invested, more than tripling the amount of money funneled into CF. By keeping the overall fund solvent, no license fee increases are needed to help support the fish and wildlife programs in the state. Good news.

Which brings us back to the Free Fishing Days weekend. This is the 10th anniversary of free Family Fishing Days in Buffalo. Hours are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at Broderick Park. Not only is there a kids fishing contest, but there are fun games, demonstrations and other activities for the entire family. To find out more information, call George Johnson at 818-3410

In Niagara Falls, city officials have organized a Hyde Park Summer Bash on Saturday that will start things off with a kids (ages 6 to 16) fishing derby from 7 to 11 a.m. on Hyde Park Lake. A 16-year-old would normally need a fishing license, so having this event during the free fishing weekend could be just the incentive to keep them fishing in future years.

“Hyde Park Lake is perfect for getting the kids started,” says Joe Urso, contest coordinator for the city. “There is a good fish population that includes a variety of species like carp, bass and catfish. We will have volunteers on hand to offer assistance to anyone who needs it.”

Call Urso at 334-0835 for more information. He loves the challenge of answering some of the tough ones, too. Awards will be given out for the top three fish in each division by weight, with awards to follow.

Getting women involved with the outdoors is important, too. Stephanie Pierleoni of Newfane shows off a big Lake Ontario king that she caught.

Over in Olcott Beach, the community has rekindled the kids fishing contest that was put on hold last year due to the high-water levels in the lake. Once again the contest will be Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Base of operations will be the Town of Newfane Marina. You can fish at the Marina, off the piers in Olcott or out of Fisherman’s Park and along Eighteen Mile Creek. Kids ages 4 to 15 can try their luck, but children ages 4 through 10 must be accompanied by an adult. Call 778-5462 for more information.

It’s more than just a kids fishing derby at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park on Saturday. The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs will be hosting another one of its Teach-Me-To-Fish Programs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. While some fishing is involved, there are also some learning stations that will help to build that important foundation for the future. The group always does an excellent job. Contact Joe McAdam at 570-3436 if you have any questions.

“The free fishing day concept seems to be working,” Dunkelberger said. “I am noticing more people fishing in my travels and around my home near the Erie Canal. Last year, the state made it official and designated several more free fishing days to encourage more involvement in the sport.”

There is a free fishing day for National Hunting and Fishing Day (Sept. 22 this year), Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Saturday and Sunday of Presidents Day weekend in February to focus on ice fishing.

You don’t have to wait for the free fishing days to take a kid fishing … or your grandfather. Bring your significant other along or grab the neighbor and catch them their first salmon or walleye. Share your passion and you may have added another person to the outdoors ranks. It’s a special gift that could last a lifetime.


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