Prized ‘Eyes – Lake Erie Walleye Count tops 100 MILLION!

  • Walleye Season open in New York State 
  • Lake Erie Walleye Population Exceeds 100 MILLION!

You don’t have to look far to find exciting walleye fishing opportunities in New York

Walleye are challenging to catch and delicious to eat, making them one of the most prized sportfish in New York. As the largest member of the perch family, adult walleye typically weigh 1-3 lbs., but they can get much larger. The state record is a remarkable 18 lb. 2 oz. giant caught from the St. Lawrence River in 2018. Walleye are found across the state and provide phenomenal fishing opportunities in select waters.

Walleye in New York

Historically, walleye only inhabited waters in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Allegheny River watersheds in New York. Today, primarily due to stocking and other DEC management efforts, walleye occur in more than 140 waters from all of the major watersheds of the state. They thrive in large shallow lakes with gravel shoals and accessible tributaries, and in large, productive river systems. Walleye are a “coolwater” species, preferring cooler water than bass and sunfish, but warmer water than trout.

Walleye are named for their unique eyes that have a highly reflective layer of tissue. This gives them excellent vision at night and in turbid water, which enables them to feed (primarily on fish) in low light conditions, particularly at dawn and dusk. Walleye may suspend over deep water or move inshore or to other shallow-water habitats depending on the availability of preferred prey species at certain times of the year. Walleye spawn in early spring when water temperatures reach 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Adult fish tend to congregate in large numbers and spawn over cobble, gravel, or sand in rivers or windswept shallows in lakes. Spawning success can vary greatly year to year, which often results in one to a few year classes making up the majority of the population. Walleye that are 25 inches or larger are generally considered “trophies” in New York.


In New York, stocking and regulations are the primary tools for managing the state’s walleye populations. DEC annually stocks walleye in about 40 waters across the state to establish, maintain, or restore fisheries. To support the stocking program, DEC collects approximately 300 million walleye eggs each spring at the Oneida Fish Hatchery on Oneida Lake, where they are then incubated and hatched. About 212 million of the newly hatched fry (only a few millimeters long) are stocked into a number of waters across the state. Additional fry are raised at the Oneida, Chautauqua, and South Otselic fish hatcheries for two months and stocked as fingerlings (2 inches long). There are typically 600,000 fingerlings stocked every year. Walleye typically take 3-4 years to reach 15 inches in length.

Since most anglers keep the legal-sized walleye they catch, fishing regulations are important for managing the state’s walleye populations. New York’s walleye season opens the first Saturday in May. The general statewide regulation for walleye is a 15-inch minimum length and a daily limit of 5 fish, with a closed season from March 16 through the Friday before the first Saturday in May to protect spawning fish. However, many waters have special regulations where length and daily limits vary. Additionally, some short stream reaches are closed to all fishing to protect significant spawning concentrations of walleye.

In a Class of Their Own

Quality walleye fishing opportunities can be found throughout New York, with three top destinations-Oneida Lake, Lake Erie, and Chautauqua Lake-projected to be exceptionally good in 2020 and beyond. Why?-Multiple strong year classes.

Year Class
A year class is made up of all the walleyes that were produced and survived in a single year. Walleye can live a long time (10 years or more) and a big year class can support good fishing for years. Multiple strong year classes in a population generally result in excellent fishing that is sustained over the long term.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is considered the top walleye destination in western New York and is supported solely through natural reproduction. Walleye angler catch rates in the New York portion of the lake have been relatively high for the last decade and were at record levels in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The quality of the fishery is primarily due to the prolonged period of walleye spawning success in the lake, with large year-classes produced in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The abundant walleye population affords additional harvest opportunity as Lake Erie is the only water in New York with a 6-fish limit. Overall good recruitment through recent years suggests adult walleye abundance and fishing quality will remain high for the next several years. There are even walleye from the exceptional 2003 year-class still hanging around, giving anglers a chance to catch trophy-sized walleye, with some exceeding 30 inches.

Oneida Lake

man holding up walleye from Lake Erie
Mike DiSarno with an impressive 25-inch walleye he caught from the Lower Niagara River. NYSDEC Photo

Oneida Lake is New York’s most popular walleye fishery, and according to Cornell University researchers who have studied the lake for over 60 years, the walleye population is on the rise. Currently estimated at approximately 1,000,000 fish, the adult walleye population is the largest it has been since the late 1980s due to strong year classes in 2010 and 2014. All indications are that there is another strong year class from 2016 that will push the walleye population up even higher. The abundant population has supported great walleye fishing over the last several years with angler catch rates indicative of a high-quality fishery. Fishing may even get better, as the 2019 targeted open water season catch rate was the highest seen in almost a decade and exceeded levels characteristic of an excellent fishery.

To help manage the fishery, more than 150 million walleye fry are annually stocked in the lake, and there is a reduced daily possession limit of 3 walleye per day.

Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake is a large, productive lake in western New York that provides a diverse mix of warm- and cool-water fishing opportunities, including for black bass, crappie, yellow perch, sunfish, and muskellunge. Despite the many options, anglers prefer walleye there, and for good reason. After a sharp decline during the early to mid-2000s, the walleye population has been steadily increasing since 2012 due to the implementation of a special fishing regulation (3 fish per day, 18-inch minimum length) and a walleye stocking program (2004-2015). Both the stocking program and special regulation were discontinued after two exceptional year classes were documented in 2014 and 2015. Recent survey results indicate that good recruitment of these year classes has created a highly abundant adult walleye population with an average size of 18 inches. There is also a good number of trophy-sized walleye in Chautauqua Lake, and angler reports of 30-inch plus walleye in the 8 to 10-pound range are not uncommon. The strong numbers of walleye in the lake combined with an overly abundant forage base suggest that the opportunity to catch a trophy walleye should only increase over the next decade. If this isn’t exciting enough, another very strong year class (2018), the second-highest on record, was found during a recent 2019 fall survey, suggesting that Chautauqua Lake should provide a high-quality walleye fishery for the next 7 to 10 years.

More information on New York’s many walleye fishing destinations here.

Find tips on fishing for walleye here.


‘WomenHuntFishNY’ Photo Contest Winners from NYSDEC

  • Six Winners Selected out of 2,000 Entries

In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the winners of the 2018 “WomenHuntFishNY” statewide photo contest.

“In DEC’s first-ever statewide photo contest to celebrate women who hunt and fish in New York, we received an overwhelmingly positive response from women across the state. New York’s sportswomen were eager to share their photos and stories from their outdoor adventures,” said Commissioner Seggos. “We thank everyone who participated in the contest for their amazing submissions and appreciate their support for DEC’s ongoing efforts to encourage more New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy hunting and outdoor recreation.”

After the contest was announced late last year, DEC received more than 2,000 photo entries, accompanied by hundreds of inspiring stories. The winning hunting images were divided into six categories:

Winning entries will be featured in this year’s New York State Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide and future issues of the Conservationist magazine, in social media posts, on the DEC website, and other outreach efforts. While this fall’s contest focused on women hunters, DEC also received hundreds of fishing photos that will automatically be entered in a fishing photo contest that will be announced later this spring.

According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and

Valentine’s Day – Perfect Time to Search for BIG BUCK Antler Sheds…on the Ground

  • Shed hunting in the Northeast can be fun and is a good way to scout new hunting zones for next fall 

In late December and continuing through March, New York State whitetail bucks shed their antlers as testosterone levels drop in response to lengthening days. When the snow begins to melt in late winter, some hunters and antler enthusiasts head out to the woods and fields in search of these hidden treasures.

Antler sheds from NYS Whitetail bucks begin to become visible as the snow melts on those early warming days of winter. NYSDEC Photo

Antler sheds from NYS Whitetail bucks begin to become visible as the snow melts on those early warming days of winter. NYSDEC PhotoTo the inexperienced, the thought of walking the countryside in search of randomly dropped antlers can seem like an unsurmountable task, but for the avid shed hunter with a trained eye, it’s worth the effort.  Some call it another way of scouting for next year, especially if you hikeand search in new areas that include state land, etc.

Some shed hunters enjoy having a trained canine friend with a keen sense of smell accompany them into the woods. Others rely on hard work and visual scouting to determine where deer have frequented over the winter months.

If the idea of searching for shed antlers intrigues you, be cautious not to begin searching too early. Deer may still be congregated on their winter ranges and susceptible to disturbance. Shed hunters should also refrain from making “antler traps,” which are baited devices intended to snag an antler as the deer feeds. Not only is it illegal to feed deer, but these devices can cause antlers to be pulled off prematurely, potentially leading to infection and slow death of the deer.

For those that do it the right way, shed hunting can be a fun family activity and a rewarding reason to get outdoors in the late winter and early spring.

As hunters choose to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow, shed hunting can also provide clues as to what type of bucks might be around during next hunting season. Give it a try, you might discover your next hobby!

For more, see the New York State Conservationist magazine articles that can eb found at these links: “Searching for Sheds” and “Antlered Art”.


NY Hunters Voluntarily Choosing to Pass Up Young Bucks Pays Dividends

A hunters first deer provides an unforgettable smile into the heritage of our ancesters. Forest Fisher Photo

In the southeastern Hudson Valley (Wildlife Management Units 3F, 3G, 3N, and 4Z) of New York, the proportion of older bucks in the deer harvest has never been higher. In 2017, three out of every four antlered bucks were 2.5 years old or older, and this remarkable accomplishment happened with hunters freely able to choose what type of buck they want to harvest.


For decades, hunters in this area were accustomed to taking mostly small-bodied, small-antlered yearling bucks, and these 1.5-year-old bucks comprised 65-75 percent of the buck take each year. Around 2000, that tradition really began to change. By 2008, the balance had solidly tipped towards older bucks with more than 50 percent of the annual buck take being 2.5-years or older with larger bodies and larger antlers. In recent years, the ratio has fully flipped with 65-75 percent of bucks being older-aged bucks.


To be sure, other things have happened with this deer population. Overall, there are fewer deer in this area than 20 years ago, and as a result, hunters are seeing and taking fewer deer than they did previously. However, the smaller population size doesn’t explain the shift towards older bucks in the harvest.

Some might suggest the shift towards older bucks is due to fewer hunters or reduced harvest rate which could result in greater survival of young bucks.

While we don’t have data specific to these variables for the southeastern Hudson Valley, we know the number of deer hunters statewide has been fairly stable for the past decade.

Too, we can reasonably assume that if shifts in hunting pressure and harvest rate were the primary driver affecting buck age structure, the same would be true for the adult does. However, the proportion of older does in the female deer harvest has stayed virtually unchanged for the past 40 years.

We know many hunters in New York are voluntarily opting to pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks.

The effects of hunter choice in the southeastern Hudson Valley are dramatic and a great example for hunters everywhere of what can be accomplished when hunters choose to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow!

Skulls and antlers of three bucks taken off the same property. Photo courtesy of Jeff Peil, retired DEC biologist.

Woodstock Snake Too Close for Comfort

Northern Copperhead safely captured from the backyard and released to a nearby woods habitat.

On October 3, Environmental Conservation Officer Jason Smith received a call from a resident of Woodstock (New York) regarding a snake close to his home.

The caller was not certain of the species, but was concerned the snake might be venomous. ECO Smith met the caller at his residence and found the snake in a small rock pile next to the back door.

The ECO identified the snake as a Northern Copperhead, one of New York State’s three venomous species.

After coaxing the snake into a bucket, ECO Smith released it in nearby state lands with more suitable habitat.

Editor Note: While venomous northern copperheads are not commonly noted in western New York, timber rattlesnakes have been more commonly observed and recorded (Facebook reports with pictures and site location) with increasing frequency in central and south central New York, including areas of Letchworth State Park and southward into Pennsylvania.  Hikers and campers be aware that many areas of New York State are home habitat for these snakes that have useful purpose in nature.  Watch where you walk and be prepared with a Johnson’s Snake Bite Kit (Walmart – about $12), a handy vacuum suction kit, that is also useful for bee stings, wasp stings, etc. – take care. Dave Barus 


A Hunter’s Role in New York State Wildlife Management

Cory Dente of Delmar NY with a 10 point buck he harvested in the 2018 early bowhunting season. Cory reported his harvest through the HuntFishNY mobile app.

Did you know that only about 50 percent of hunters report their deer, bear and turkey harvests each year, even though it’s required by law?

Did you know that a hunter can be fined up to $250 for failing to report?

Reporting a harvest within seven days of take is not only your legal obligation, it’s also essential to proper wildlife management.

When hunters report their harvest, they are playing a crucial role in the management process, providing important biological data which is used to help estimate the number of deer, bear and turkey in each area of New York State and set management objectives.

At a time when hunter numbers are declining, it’s more important than ever for hunters to take seriously their role in wildlife management, to be good role models and mentors for younger generations, and to do their part to preserve their hunting traditions.

Reporting your harvest is easier than ever, so this fall please remember to Take It, Tag It, Report It!

Visit our website for details on Game Harvest Reporting.


Statewide Survey of New York Landowners about Black Bears is Underway


DEC is partnering with the Center for Conservation Social Sciences (CCSS) at Cornell University on a survey of roughly 11,000 randomly-selected New York landowners to better understand public perceptions of and preferences for black bear population levels. The survey is being sent out this fall to owners of both large and small residential properties, and covers both rural and urban areas.

The questionnaire asks about positive and negative experiences people have had with bears, their perception of population trends, and their views on the potential benefits of and detriments to living among bears. The information from this survey will be used in conjunction with biological data about bear abundance and information on conflicts between people and bears to set population objectives for various parts of the state.

People who receive the survey are encouraged to respond. Collecting information from the public on their view of appropriate wildlife population levels and the potential impact of wildlife on people is an important part of decision-making in wildlife management.

Questions about the survey can be directed to CCSS at 607-255-2828 or For more information, visit the DEC website on Black Bear and read the “New York State Black Bear Management Plan”. Questions about the black bear management program can be directed to 518-402-8883 or:

Triple Spur Turkey taken in New York Woods

There are only two reports of birds with triple spurs, this one was taken by a veteran hunter in Columbia County, New York.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hunting & Trapping Newsletter brings news of a veteran spring turkey hunter from New York that bagged a bird with rare triple spurs

This spring, retired DEC biologist and avid turkey hunter Bill Hollister knew he had found something rare after he bagged a gobbler in Columbia County. Once he had the bird in hand, he saw that it had three spurs on each leg!

In general, most gobblers have spurs and the length of the spurs is an indication of a bird’s age. On rare occasions, a gobbler will fail to develop one or both spurs and even more rare still, is a gobbler with two spurs on a leg. A bird with triple spurs is almost unheard of.

There are only two reports of birds with triple spurs, this one was taken by a veteran hunter in Columbia County, New York. 

Over the past decade, DEC staff have examined thousands of legs from turkeys killed by hunters in the fall and have seen missing spurs and double spurs, but never a triple spur.

From the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks: “Mature gobblers without spurs, or with only one spur, comprise less than two percent of the total harvest. It is more common for gobblers to be missing a spur on only one leg than to not have any spurs. Another abnormality is when gobblers have multiple spurs.

According to Lovett Williams, a renowned turkey biologist in Florida, less than two dozen gobblers with double spurs have been reported.

There are only two reports of birds with triple spurs – one of which is from Mississippi.”

A triple spur is quite the find!

For more New York hunting news, visit



DEC Seeks Pool Owners for Citizen Science Survey of Invasive Beetle

Asian Longhorned Beetle. NYSDEC Photo

  • Finding Infestations of Asian Longhorned Beetles Early Saves Money and Trees
Asian Longhorned Beetle. NYSDEC Photo

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged New York pool owners to participate in DEC’s annual Asian Longhorned Beetle Swimming Pool Survey during the month of August. This is the time of year when Asian Longhorned beetles (ALB) emerge as adults and are most active outside of their host tree. The goal of the survey is to look for and find these exotic, invasive beetles before these pests cause serious damage to our forests and street trees.

“The majority of invasive forest pest infestations are found and reported by members of the public, making citizen science a vital component for protecting our urban and rural forests,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Pool monitoring offers a simple, economical approach to surveying for Asian Longhorned Beetles and gives the public a chance to take an active role in protecting the trees in their yards and communities.”

DEC is requesting that people with swimming pools periodically check their pool filters for any insects that resemble ALB and either email photos to or mail insects to DEC’s Forest Health Diagnostics Lab for identification, Attn: Jessica Cancelliere, 108 Game Farm Road, Delmar, NY 12054.

People without pools can also help by learning how to recognize the beetle, as well as the signs it leaves behind:

  • ALB are about 1.5 inches long, black with white spots and have long, black and white antennae.
  • These pests leave perfectly round exit holes, about the size of a dime, in branches and tree trunks.
  • Sawdust-like material called frass will collect on branches and around the base of the tree.

ALB is a wood boring beetle native to Asia that was accidentally introduced to the United States through wood packing materials. These pests attack a variety of hardwoods, including maples, birches, and willows, among others, and have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of trees across the country.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) has worked diligently to manage the ALB infestations in our state and succeeded in eradicating the invasive beetle from Staten Island, Manhattan, Islip and Eastern Queens.

For more information on ALB and the Pool Survey visit DEC’s website.

Big Birds Keep ECO’s Busy – Onondaga County, NY

ECO Damrath untangling fishing line from the great blue heron

Injured Bald Eagle from Cross Lake. NYSDEC Photo

  On July 6, Lt. Dave McShane and ECO Paul Sherman responded to a report of an injured Bald Eagle on an undeveloped island on Cross Lake. The eagle had been spotted by kayakers unable to provide specific information on the location of the raptor.

The two officers searched the island, but failed to locate the bird. The following day, DEC received additional reports of eagle sightings with detailed location information. ECOs Don Damrath and Mark Colesante responded and searched again, eventually spotting the injured eagle in a blown-down tree.

Approaching cautiously, ECO Damrath persuaded the eagle into a cage. The injured eagle, a two-year-old female, was taken to a raptor rehabilitator where it was determined the bird likely had a broken left wrist. The eagle was transported to the Cornell University Wildlife Health Center for X-rays and further evaluation.

ECO Damrath untangling fishing line from the great blue heron

On July 9, ECO Damrath was dispatched to the Seneca River Dam in Baldwinsville after receiving reports of an injured great blue heron. ECO Damrath arrived to find the bird entangled in monofilament fishing line after going for the bait being used by a 14-year-old fisherman. Moving quickly to prevent additional injury as the line tightened around the bird’s body, the ECO freed the bird from hook and line. The bird immediately flew off.

The young fisherman’s mother thanked ECO Damrath for his assistance and shared her son’s desire to become an Environmental Conservation Police Officer when he grows up.

First-Time Grant Opportunity for Trees for Tribs Program

Trees for Tribs has engaged about 10,000 volunteers in planting more than 114,000 trees and shrubs at approximately 650 sites across New York State. NYSDEC Photo

Projects must use native trees and shrubs for planting, and must occur within the eligible funding locations. See for a map of eligible areas. NYSDEC Photo

Approximately $525,000 in grant funding, made available by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), is now available through the new Trees for Tributaries Grant Program to support riparian tree planting projects for communities across New York State. This funding is available to municipalities, academic institutions and not-for-profits, for projects that will plant trees and shrubs along streams to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and storm resiliency.

Projects must use native trees and shrubs for planting, and must occur within the eligible funding locations. Visit for a map of eligible areas. Grant amounts will range from a minimum of $11,000 to a maximum of $100,000. Priority will be given to projects that engage community partners and volunteers in their tree planting activities, as well as those that create a stream buffer width of 35 feet or more.

Applications are due by 3:00 p.m. on September 7, 2018. The Trees for Tributaries Grant Program Request for Applications (RFA) is available on DEC’s website and through the NYS Grants Gateway website All grant applicants must register in the NYS Grants Gateway system before applying. Not-for-profit applicants are required to “prequalify” in the system, so it is recommended the process be started well in advance of the grant application due date.

Trees for Tribs has engaged about 10,000 volunteers in planting more than 114,000 trees and shrubs at approximately 650 sites across New York State. NYSDEC Photo

A “How to” webinar will be offered Wednesday July 25th, 2018 at 10 AM to educate potential applicants on the grants process, see Trees for Tributaries Grant Program webpage for details. General questions about the grants program may be directed to Mary Hegarty, DEC’s Trees for Tributaries Statewide Coordinator, NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4250,

The grant program is a part of the New York State’s Trees for Tribs Program, which works to restore plant buffers along New York’s tributaries (small creeks and streams that flow into larger rivers and lakes) using native bareroot trees and shrubs provided by the Saratoga State Tree Nursery. These restored buffers stabilize streambanks, prevent erosion, increase flood water retention, protect infrastructure, and improve wildlife and stream habitat. Since 2007, Trees for Tribs has engaged about 10,000 volunteers in planting more than 114,000 trees and shrubs at approximately 650 sites across New York State.

To learn more about the Trees for Tributaries Program, visit
To learn more about the Saratoga State Tree Nursery, visit

Help Protect Newborn Wildlife, Especially When Managing Habitat

Healthy whitetail deer management practices are key to healthy wildlife. Jim Monteleone Photo

Newborn fawns can be hard to see! Use caution when managing lands.

In warm weather, fields and yards quickly become a jungle of wild flowers, grasses and other greenery. While those fields of green may be a chore to landowners, it provides habitat for many animals. Ground nesting birds use these areas to construct their nests and raise their young.

Rabbits and white-tailed deer will also give birth in these dense grasses. In the first few weeks following birth, female deer will leave their fawns in secure places while they look for food. This can leave fawns susceptible to unexpected threats like lawn mowers and tractors.

You can help by conducting a walkthrough before mowing, but a fawn’s camouflage and sit-and-stay behavior make it difficult to spot.

It’s best to wait until later in the summer to conduct your first mowing to make sure that fawns, rabbits and birds have matured and are capable of escaping from mowers and tractors.

Visit DEC’s website to find more information about what to do when encountering fawns and other young wildlife.

New Yorkers should keep their distance and not to disturb newborn fawns or other young wildlife as many animals are in the peak season for giving birth, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cautions.

It is not unusual to see a young bird crouched in the yard or a young rabbit in the flower garden, both apparently abandoned. Finding a fawn deer lying by itself is also fairly common. Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are helpless and need assistance for their survival, however, in nearly all cases this is a mistake and typically human interaction does more damage than good. Those that see a fawn or other newborn wildlife should enjoy their encounter but keep it brief, maintain some distance and do not attempt to touch the animal.

Young wildlife quickly venture into the world on shaky legs or fragile wings. While most are learning survival from one or both parents, some normally receive little or no care. Often, wild animal parents stay away from their young when people are near. For all of these young animals, the perils of survival are a natural part of life in the wild.

White-tailed deer fawns present a good example of how human intervention with young wildlife can be problematic. Most fawns are born during late May and the first half of June. While fawns are able to walk shortly after birth, they spend most of their first several days lying still. During this period a fawn is also usually left alone by the adult female (doe) except when nursing. People occasionally find a lone fawn and mistakenly assume it has been orphaned or abandoned, which is very rare. Fawns should never be picked up. If human presence is detected by the doe, the doe may delay its next visit to nurse.

A fawn’s best chance to survive is by being raised by the adult doe. Fawns nurse three to four times a day, usually for less than 30 minutes at a time, but otherwise the doe keeps her distance. This helps reduce the chance that she will attract a predator to the fawn. The fawn’s protective coloration and ability to remain motionless all help it avoid detection by predators and people.

By the end of its second week, a fawn begins to move about more and spend more time with the doe. It also begins to eat grass and leaves. At about ten weeks of age, fawns are no longer dependent on milk, although they continue to nurse occasionally into the fall. During August, all deer begin to grow their winter coat and fawns lose their spots during this process.

Should you find a fawn or other young wildlife, If You Care, Leave It There. In nearly all cases that is the best thing for the animal. DO NOT consider young wildlife as possible pets. This is illegal and is bad for the animal. Wild animals are not well suited for life in captivity and they may carry diseases that can be given to people. Resist the temptation to take them out of the wild. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about young wildlife, visit the DEC website

Angling Tips to Help Trout and Salmon Beat the Heat…from NYSDEC

Heat stressed fish often seek pockets of cold water.

In New York, trout and trout anglers have benefited from abundant rainfall and cool weather conditions this spring that promote the growth and survival of trout and salmon.

Heat stressed fish often seek pockets of cold water.

However, with the forecast for high temperatures this weekend through next week, it is important to remember that trout and salmon are coldwater sportfish that can experience serious physical stress whenever water temperatures climb above 70° Fahrenheit. Heat stressed fish often seek pockets of cold water created by upwelling groundwater, small feeder streams, or water released from deep reservoirs. These refuges allow trout to avoid or recover from potentially fatal levels of heat stress. You can help by taking the following precautions during your warm weather fishing trips.

  • Avoid catch and release fishing for heat stressed trout. Trout already weakened by heat stress are at risk of death no matter how carefully they are handled.
  • Don’t disturb trout where they have gathered in unusually high numbers. Because these fish are likely to be suffering from heat stress and seeking relief, responsible anglers will not take unfair advantage of their distress.
  • Fish Early. Stream temperatures are at their coolest in the early morning.
  • Go to Plan B! Have an alternate fishing plan ready in case water temperatures are too high at your intended destination. Consider fishing a waterbody that is less prone to heat stress or fishing for a more heat tolerant species like smallmouth bass.

When fishing tailwaters, such as those below New York City water supply reservoirs, remember that the cooling influence of reservoir releases will not extend as far downstream during periods of intense heat. By paying attention to water temperatures and adapting fishing strategies to changing conditions, anglers can help New York State’s trout and salmon beat the heat.

Only you can prevent aquatic invasions. Clean, Drain and Dry your fishing and boating equipment after every use.

New York Spring Turkey Season Opens May 1

  • NYS Spring Turkey Season Opens May 1 at 30 minutes before Sunrise, thru Noon each day
  • Spring Turkey Season Ends May 31, Bag Limit is 2 male birds/season
  • Chautauqua County, NY had Highest Hunter Turkey Harvest in 2017
Courtesy NYSDEC

Spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary.  With reproductive success below the long-term average in 2016 and 2017, coupled with harsh winter conditions this year, it is anticipated that the spring harvest will be down from last year. However, good hunting opportunities can be found throughout the state, particularly in regions with good nesting and poult success the last two years.  The estimated turkey harvest for spring 2017 was about 17,500 birds.

Summer Turkey Sighting Survey 2017

Courtesy NYSDEC

DEC conducts the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the State. This index allows us to gauge reproductive success in a given year and allows us to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

View, print, or download the complete 2017 Summer Turkey Sighting Survey report (PDF) (572 kB).

In 2017, we received over 900 reports of turkey flocks during the August survey, similar to last year, but significantly higher than previous years. The primary reason for the increase in the number of reports is improved awareness of the survey and the ease with which observations can be submitted on-line through the DEC website.

We received reports of 785 hen-flocks and the average number of poults per hen was 2.5. This is a decline from last year (2.8 poults/hen) and is the second year in a row where productivity declined. Reproductive success (as measured by this survey) gradually improved from the low observed in 2009 through 2015, but the past two years have been below the 10-year average. It is also important to note that reproductive success is lower over the past decade (2007-2017) than during the first ten years of the survey (1996-2006).

This year’s poult/hen estimate was the lowest observed since 2009. Only DEC Region 1 (Long Island) and 9 (Western NY) observed above-average reproductive success (about 3.7 poults/hen). About 23% of the hen-flocks observed in 2017 did not have poults. This is higher than last year and above the ten-year average (20%). Data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that rainfall averaged about 2.6 inches above normal from April through May and 4.8 inches above normal from April through June. Above-average rainfall in May and June likely negatively affected nest and poult success.

Based on the decline in reproductive success from 2016 to 2017 we expect the fall harvest to be lower than fall 2016. In areas with good hard and soft mast production, birds will be less vulnerable to harvest. Based on average to above-average production in 2014 and 2015 and two mild winters, there will be a greater proportion of adult birds on the landscape than last year.

New York State DEC Announces 2017 Deer Harvest Results

  • Hunters in New York Harvested More than 200,000 Deer during 2017-18 Hunting Seasons
New York offers giant deer and lots of them. Joe Forma Photo


Hunters in New York State enjoyed another successful year, harvesting an estimated 203,427 deer during the 2017-18 hunting seasons Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

“Deer hunting in New York is a cherished and economically important tradition safely enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors each year,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Through the careful work of our conservation experts, hunting is a sound wildlife management tool that benefits all New Yorkers by reducing negative impacts of deer on forests, communities, and crops while providing millions of pounds of high quality local meat to families throughout the state. I commend our staff for once again making this a safe and successful season.”

The 2017 estimated deer take included 95,623 antlerless deer and 107,804 antlered bucks, an estimated five percent fewer deer than the previous year. Statewide, this represents a 10-percent decline in antlerless harvest and a buck harvest nearly identical to 2016. Hunters in the Northern Zone took 25,351 deer, including 18,074 adult bucks. In the Southern Zone, hunters took 178,076 deer, including 89,730 adult bucks.

The decline in antlerless harvest occurred despite DEC issuing more antlerless permits last season. DEC wildlife biologists have noted two important and encouraging items that emerged from the 2017 deer harvest. First, with 53.3 percent of the adult buck harvest averaging 2.5 years or older, hunters took an estimated 57,494 older bucks, setting a record in total number and greatest percentage of older bucks in the harvest.

“This is great news for New York hunters,” Seggos said. “Many hunters are choosing to voluntarily Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow, and all hunters are now having greater opportunity to see and take older, larger bucks.”

Second, the portion of successful hunters who reported their harvest as required by state law increased from 44 percent in recent years to 50 percent in 2017. Along with our Take It · Tag It · Report It campaign, DEC has made the process of harvest reporting substantially easier for hunters, providing phone, internet, and mobile app options. Harvest reports are critically important for accurate monitoring of deer harvests, and DEC encourages hunters to continue to contribute to the management process by complying with the reporting requirements.

DEC’s 2017 Deer Harvest Summary report (PDF, 6.31 MB) provides a suite of tables, charts, and maps detailing the deer harvest around the state. Past deer harvest summaries are available on DEC’s website.

2017 Deer Harvest Summary & Comparison
2017 Total 2016 Total Change
(2016 to 2017)
Previous 5-Year
Average (2012-2016)
Total Take 203,427 213,061 -4.5% 228,246
Adult Male 107,804 107,006 0.7% 109,778
Adult Female 67,702 78,288 -13.5% 83,809
Antlerless 95,623 106,055 -9.8% 118,468
Deer Management
Permits Issued
617,839 588,430 5.0% 628,436
Deer Management
Permit Take
74,421 81,507 -8.7% 90,426
Deer Management
Program Take
8,962 9,134 -1.9% 11,078
Muzzleloader * 15,288 15,369 -0.5% 14,617
Bowhunting * 43,708 46,735 -6.5% 38,541
Crossbow 11,758 9,439 24.6% NA
Youth Hunt 935 1,162 -19.5% 1,250
Harvest Reporting
50.3% 43.5% 43.7%
% Older Bucks
(≥2.5 years) in
53.3% 50.6% 49.4%

* Values for Muzzleloader and Bow Season Take include deer taken on Bow/Muzz tags and DMPs. Prior to 2016, the Muzzleloader and Bow values only reflected take on Bow/Muzz tags.

Notable Numbers

  • 14.5 and 0.5 — number of deer taken per square mile in the unit with the highest (WMU 8N) and lowest (WMU 5F) harvest density.
  • 46.7 percent — portion of the adult buck harvest that were yearlings (1.5 years old), the lowest in New York history and down from 62 percent a decade ago and 70 percent in the 1990s. Excluding units with mandatory antler restrictions, 50.9 percent of the adult buck harvest were yearlings, still the lowest percentage on record.
  • 65 percent — portion of eligible junior hunters that participated in the 2016 Youth Deer Hunt.
  • 14,372 — number of hunter harvested deer checked by DEC staff in 2017.
  • 2,402 — deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in 2017-18; none tested positive. DEC has tested more than 50,000 deer for CWD since 2002.

Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required of all successful hunters and DEC’s examination of more than 14,000 harvested deer at check stations and meat processors. Statewide harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources and calculating the total harvest from the reporting rate for each zone and tag type. A full report of the 2017-18 deer harvest, as well as past deer and bear harvest summaries, is available at Deer and Bear Harvests.

That’s No Coyote! St. Lawrence County, New York

Coyote hunter lied to fish and wildlife law enforcement officer when a deer was taken out of season in New York State.

On March 26, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Scott Atwood investigated a complaint of a deer being taken out of season in the town of Clifton.

When the officer arrived at a camp described in the complaint, he found fresh blood, drag marks, deer hair, and a pickup truck stuck in the snow at an adjacent camp. A search of the area determined the location of where the deer had been shot. Drag marks led to a small pond where the ECO found a fresh gut pile. ECO Atwood received a phone call from the truck’s owner.

Initially, the man attempted to use a bogus story as to how the deer was killed. ECO Atwood advised the man he had evidence to prove otherwise and gave the subject a second opportunity to tell the truth. The man stated that while he and a friend were coyote hunting, he saw an animal out in a field adjacent to his coyote caller.

Excited to kill his first coyote, the subject took aim using only the moonlight, believing the animal was a coyote. After walking out to the field to where the animal went down, the subject realized it was a doe deer.

Afraid of getting in trouble, the subject chose to gut the deer and keep it. The deer was hidden in the garage at the camp until his return. ECO Atwood charged the shooter with taking deer during the closed season, killing deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife law and illegal possession of protected wildlife.

The man’s friend was issued a written warning for illegal possession of wildlife. The man’s gun and the deer were seized, and the deer was brought to a butcher shop where it was donated to the Helping Hands of Hannawa, which provides meals to the local community. 

About NYSDEC: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 ECOs across New York State responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for violations and crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations. If you witness an environmental crime in New York or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.


With several more weeks of Big Game Season left to enjoy in New York State (and many other states), The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation reminds hunters to put safety–your own and others’–FIRST!

Check and abide by the legal hunting hours

Check New York’s official sunrise and sunset hours every time you go out hunting. They change every day and in different locations in New York State!

Watch DEC’s new video on hunting safely.

Firearm Safety Rules Save Lives

  • Assume every gun is loaded.
  • Control the muzzle. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure you can clearly identify your target and be sure you can see what’s beyond your target.

Wear Hunter Orange

Did you know…

…More than 80 percent of big game hunters wear blaze orange?

…Hunters who wear blaze orange  are seven times less likely to be shot?

…Deer cannot tell blaze orange (or pink) from green?

Both hunters shown below (one wearing camo and the other wearing  orange) are invisible to deer if they don’t move. What would you want to be wearing if there were another hunter nearby with a deer between you?