During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people from the Utica/Rome area turn to the outdoors for entertainment since we can't do much inside. A free ice fishing weekend is something fun for you and the family to look forward to.

Avid anglers continue to fish in the winter and catch some of their favorite species! The New York State Department of Conservation invites those who have never tried the sport to' test the waters' during a free fishing weekend.

Free Fishing Dates:

  • February 13-14, 2021
  • June 26-27, 2021
  • September 25, 2021
  • November 11, 2021

Get your baitfish ready to catch these in-season species:

  • Yellow Perch - The most frequently caught lake fishes across the state.
  • Northern Pike - Not present from Long Island and Newark Bay.
  • Walleye - Native to only the Great Lakes and Allegheny watersheds.
  • Lake Trout -  Severely declined due to overfishing and invasive fishes.
  • Brown Trout - Has been introduced to every watershed w/annual stocking.
  • Atlantic Salmon - Lives in inland lakes where it becomes landlocked.
  • Black Crappie -  Lives in lakes in areas with submerged aquatic vegetation.

The DEC says safe ice should be your number one consideration when ice fishing. A minimum of three to four inches of solid ice is the general rule for safety. Ice thickness, however, is not uniform on any body of water.

Ice guidelines for clear ice on non-running waters:

  • Ice Thickness Table (for new, clear ice only)
  • Ice Thickness Permissible Load
  • 2 inches or less Stay Off
  • 4 inches Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5 inches Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8-12 inches Car or small pickup
  • 12-15 inches Medium truck


  • Slush ice is about 50 percent weaker.
  • Clear ice over running water is about 20 percent weaker.
  • Double the recommendations for white ice.

Be cautious in areas where "bubblers" are used to protect docks. They can produce thin, unsafe ice some distance away. Be especially alert in areas near shore, over moving water bodies, and where streams enter and exit lakes and ponds.

Anglers who use ice shanties must mark the outside with the owner's name and address in letters at least 3 inches high. Shanties must be removed from all waters by March 15 to prevent them from falling through the ice.

If you've never tried ice fishing, check out the DEC beginner guide, bundle up and give it a try!

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