Now’s the time to get your fishing license if you want to cast your line into Central Park’s waters come spring.
By Seth Fera-Schanes
Did you know fishing is allowed in designated bodies of water in New York City’s parks? If not, this spring or summer, when you’re walking by Central Park’s Harlem Meer, or The Lake at 72nd Street, or The Pond on West 59th and CPW, pause for a moment and scan the shoreline. You might just see a handful of people with rods and reels casting into the water.
Now, picture this scenario. Work was incredibly hectic; your email inbox wouldn’t stop filling up; and your boss had a thousand questions in the late afternoon. Your New York stress level is on high and you need to decompress.
Now, picture yourself standing at The Lake on a warm evening. The sun is starting to set and New York City photographers are out to capture the golden hour. But you are in the park for another purpose; to get in an hour’s worth of fishing before heading home. The birds are settling into the surrounding trees and as you look up you see building lights illuminating the evening sky. You are simultaneously in the middle of a chaotic urban environment and yet removed from the chaos as you look out at the water. You start to feel calm as you cast a lure under a tree limb outstretched over the water.
Fishing in Central Park is not only relaxing, but also a way to find community in the city. I founded The Central Park Fishing Group in 2018 for just this reason: to encourage more people to take advantage of this outdoor activity. And that’s why I wrote this story. The group schedules their events through the website meetup.com and membership is FREE. All skill levels are welcome, from individuals who have never fished to experienced professionals. The group can provide rods, reels and tackle for anyone without equipment, and offers lessons to attendees.
With over 100 members, the Central Park Fishing Group starts meeting in the spring and continues with events through the late fall. We’re starting to schedule spring events now. Fishing sessions are scheduled during the week and on weekends to give people plenty of opportunities to attend. A typical event lasts for 1.5 hours, but individuals can attend for as long as they like, depending on their availability. The group leaders are happy to provide free lessons on different styles of fishing, how to use various tackle, and can also help identify fish species.
The group follows all park and state fishing rules. In the park, barbless hooks are required and all fishing is catch-and-release. No live bait is allowed, and it’s important that the areas fished are left clear of any debris. If someone is over 15 years old, a New York state fishing license is required. Licenses can be obtained through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
If you are interested in learning more, you can join the Central Park Fishing Group and reach out to their organizers here with any questions.