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Free fishing days turn up season heat

The Chestnut Ridge Park Fishing Pier offers free and safe access for the wheelchair handicapped and children of all ages. Open to the public, the pier was constructed by local boy scouts with supervision and heavy machinery donated by the WNY Safari Club in 2011.
Yep, it’s true, write it down, there is something free in New York State! This weekend on June 29-30 (and every last weekend of June each year), we have a free, no-license required, fishing weekend. This year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a special point of promoting New York State’s “Open for Hunting and Fishing” initiative with a special press release.

While the governor says getting more people involved in fishing and hunting is very important to him, repealing or at least revising the NY SAFE Act, or allowing the public to revisit that new law for comment, would go much farther than his press release telling the world “NYS is open for hunting and fishing.”

Of course, ordinary sportsmen folks probably have a better gauge of that “get involved in the outdoors” pulse than the governor’s office seems to have, but let’s think about legislative politics, there is usually always more than one agenda. Who knows for sure? Just in case, while it might seem confusing to some, I like carrying two fishing rods in order to be prepared for anything that might come along when I’m out there two. I think we are experiencing option two right now.

Despite the confusion, the good news is that New York residents and all non-residents, too, are permitted to fish for free without a fishing license in any of our New York State lakes, ponds, rivers and streams; there are thousands of them and hundreds that have official public access and parking places. Even saltwater anglers may also fish in marine waters (or for migratory marine fish species) without enrolling in the usual Recreational Marine Fishing Registry.

This is the perfect time to introduce an adult or a youngster to the fun of fishing or, even better, invite your out of state friends and family to enjoy some great fishing, especially locally.

Have someone visiting WNY this weekend? Consider taking them to the Adirondack-like, 12-acre lake at Chestnut Ridge Park. Located near the fire-fighting training tower in the southeast corner of the park, there are crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, largemouth black bass and a host of other wildlife in this pristine section of the age-old park. You might see giant snapping turtles there, a number of native bird species that flourish in this section of the park, common water snakes, salamanders, butterflies and the usual assortment of WNY wildlife, like whitetail deer, fox, and other small animals. This section of the park offers quite an amazing experience, especially for those new to fishing.

There is a 100-foot long handicapped accessible fishing pier that offers next-to-pier parking for wheelchair anglers and plenty of room for others that simply wish to remain a bit off the water in a dry place and not on the trail that follows the perimeter of the lake.

The free fishing day’s program in NYS began in 1991 to allow folks the opportunity to sample fishing here without cost and it has attracted more people to fishing. Another related (but little known) fact as the result of the United States Fish and Wildlife Survey data is that the sport fishing industry in New York generates an estimated $1.8 billion in economic impact each year and offers employment for nearly 17,000 jobs. With folks leaving NYS because of high taxes, this is significant!

Anglers are reminded that although a fishing license is not required during the free fishing days weekend, the regular fishing regulations do apply. Stop by your local bait and tackle store and ask for a free NYS Fishing Regulations booklet. The publication offers pages free fishing advice and effective tips, not just regulations. So the best advice on this point might be to go enjoy the fun of casting, catching and participating, just release whatever you catch to be safe. Take a picture, that fish will be with you for all time!

Related to this free fishing weekend and promotion of our natural outdoors for fishing and hunting, NYS has revised and reduced the non-resident license fee structure for almost all non-resident license types. NYS resident fishing licenses remain at $29 per year, still cheap for 365 days of fishing fun (less than 8 cents a day), as compared to many of our sister states. Enjoy our incredible NYS outdoors!

Budweiser Shoot-Out nets Walleye winnings for locals

There were four American teams in the top 10 of this popular Canada walleye tournament, with a 60-team, totally-filled field. Fishing was tough though, even wily veteran walleye tournament angler teams caught few fish with changing Lake Erie conditions. Angler Scott Wind says, “The bite was slow on the Canadian side and there were lots of short boxes (small fish)”.

American angler, Bobby Rustowicz, a long-time favorite charter captain, took second place and $4,000 in cash, Jeff Bogner took 5th and $1,000 in cash, fun-loving Shimano seminar speaker, Don Ruppert, took 7th and $800 in cash – and also scored the 4th biggest fish in the tournament for an additional $500 in cash, and Scott Addison took 8th spot for $700 in cash.

Wind says, there was and still is a much better bite on the American side off Point Breeze in 65 to 70 feet, off Cattaraugus Creek, with suspended fish 15 to 30 feet down.

No scale walleye weigh-in

Just in case you forgot your fish scale and are wondering how heavy that beautiful walleye tilts the scales, over the years several organizations have established a formula that really works, this one is for the walleye species. Just measure the fish in inches, multiply the inches measured by themselves three times and divide by 2700. The net result is the weight of the walleye in pounds. The results can conquer a side-bet with your fishing partner and are fairly accurate for a non-spawning walleye. For example, a 20-inch walleye would weigh approximately 20 x 20 x20 /2700 = 2.96 pounds. Pretty close to our Lake Erie walleye.

BassEye fundraiser in Buffalo

The 12th Annual Greater Niagara BassEye Celebrity Challenge to help the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation continue on the way to finding a cure will take place on Lake Erie out of Buffalo on June 27-28.

This Redbone Series Tournament, sponsored by Rich Products, the Buffalo Bisons and Robert-James Sales, kicks off Thursday with a dinner and auction reception at Coca-Cola Field (Buffalo Bisons stadium on 275 Washington St.), an evening featuring live and silent auctions and delicious cuisine. The fishing competition begins Friday morning at the NFTA Small Boat Harbor (1111 Fuhrmann Blvd.), followed by an awards reception held at dockside. For information on this fundraiser event or to participate in the fishing, call Gia Coone at the WNY Cystic Fibrosis Foundation office, at 204-2535 or e-mail

Project ChildSafe expands

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is kicking off a “S.A.F.E. Summer” effort to focus attention on the importance of safe firearm storage, particularly while children are home from school and more likely to be unattended. Backing their efforts, NSSF has pledged $1 million to provide 500,000 free firearm safety kits, including a gun lock, to firearms owners throughout the United States as part of the campaign.

NSSF is implementing S.A.F.E. Summer to further spread the message of Project ChildSafe and help prevent firearm accidents, theft and misuse. With “SAFE” serving as an acronym for Secure your firearms when not in use; Be Aware of those around you who should not have unauthorized access to guns; Focus on your responsibility as a firearm owner and Educate yourself and others about safe firearm handling and storage. The effort is providing education and tools to help gun owners take responsible action to keep their families and communities as safe as possible.

Steve Sanetti, NSSF president and CEO says, “Our primary message is that if you own a firearm, respect it and secure it. Proper storage is the number one way to help prevent firearm accidents in the home, it has an instant effect in making homes and communities safer, and saves lives. If you can’t or won’t accept that responsibility, we strongly urge you not to own a firearm.”

The NSSF office continues to work in partnership with local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to distribute the kits, and is currently planning several lock distribution events.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is a leading organization promoting firearms safety and responsibility in the entire country. More information about Project ChildSafe is available on-line at

Outdoors Calendar

June 26: Summer Fly Fishing with Ray Marks, six-week class, local waters and fly patterns familiarity, Lake Shore Central School, call 926-2270 to register.

June 30: Springville Field & Stream annual woodchuck hunt, weigh-in 8PM sharp, info: Jerry King 592-3515

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