DEXTER Just next to the B&J Bait Shop, unlicensed anglers took advantage of this weekends New York State Free Fishing Days.
Brian L. and Brianne M. Gonseth of Watertown enjoyed the warm weather while on a father-daughter fishing trip. Neither had a fishing license for this season, although Mr. Gonseth said, I received a gift card on Fathers Day specifically for a fishing license. A fisher for 40 years, he said he will get his license once the Free Fishing Days are over. Brianne, 21, has been fishing for 18 years.
In Anthony and Yamal Bells case, being new to the area has kept them from obtaining their licenses. Mr. Bell moved here from Georgia in September, and this was the first weekend he and his wife were able to get out. An avid fisherman since he was 5, Mr. Bell had intended to pick up his license Friday when an employee at the Walmart sporting goods section filled him in on the free fishing days. We used to fish all the time in Georgia, Mr. Bell said. He taught his wife to fish three years ago, and the two enjoy taking time away together.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the Bells had been out for an hour without a bite. Mr. Gonseth had been out for several hours with a better record, though not by much. He took in only a couple of sunfish while his daughter reeled in one 8-inch bass. Its too windy to fish today, she said. Its why none of the big ones are biting.
By big ones, she meant sturgeon. Judy L. Kirch, owner of the B&J Bait Shop, said the Black River is home mostly to smaller fish such as bass, walleye, catfish, sheepshead, perch and crappie. The bigger fish are salmon and steelhead, which commonly migrate to Black River in the fall, and sturgeon, which are protected.
If we caught a good-sized fish, wed take that home, Mr. Gonseth said. As it was, they returned each fish they caught.
Ms. Kirch said that as of Saturday things had been as quiet as usual. In part she attributes this to graduation weekend. However, most of her customers have been regulars who already have fishing licenses. Those who do not are usually on vacation, and looking only for something temporary.
Even though both the Bells and the Gonseths intend to purchase fishing licenses after this weekend, Ms. Kirch said it is a rarity for license sales to pick up following the Free Fishing Days.
A fishing license for state residents costs $29. The price for out-of-state residents is steeper at $70 per year, although licenses are available for one- or seven-day fishing at discounted prices. The state Department of Environmental Conservation website explains that the Free Fishing Days started in 1991 to allow all people the opportunity to sample the incredible fishing New York State has to offer.