Responsible Sport Fishing

Responsible Sport Fishing

Cayuga Lake offers a wide variety of warm and cold water fisheries that draw anglers from far and wide.  As primary users of the Lake, anglers have both a clear interest in and responsibilities for protection of lake quality. 

In recent years, guidelines for environmentally responsible fishing have emerged along with practical suggested steps that each person can take.  Example resources include the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Fishing Responsibly in New York State” and the Sustaining Angling, Fish, and Ecosystems (S.A.F.E) initiative of the Recycle Fish organization. 


Poster asking anglers to recycle fishing line

Anglers as Boaters

Many anglers access the lake in watercraft of all sorts.  As boaters, care should be taken to maintain a clean bilge, manage fuel properly, keep emissions to a minimum, manage wastes, maintain and repair equipment away from the water, and prevent spread of invasive plants and animals via boats and trailers. See the “Clean Boating” article of this series for specifics (Summer 2014 issue).    

Tackle Tips

One clear way to contribute to water quality protection is to use non-toxic tackle, especially avoiding lead weights and jigs.  Lost lead tackle can be ingested by animals and birds causing toxicity or death.  About 30% of common loon mortality in New York is attributed to lead poisoning. New York has banned the sale of lead sinkers weighing less than half of an ounce. What can you do?

  • Stop using lead tackle, including lead-weighted jigs and other lead-weighted lures. Dispose of surplus lead at community hazardous waste collection days.
  • Buy lead-free tackle. Patronize retailers that stock the best assortment of lead-free tackle. Ask retailers to stock lead-free replacements for all weighted tackle products.
  • Recover snagged tackle as much as possible. Hooks, lures and monofilament are hazards to wildlife, whether or not you are using lead.
  • Encourage fellow anglers to follow your example.

 Another tackle-related problem is loss of soft-bodied lures that mimic various forms of bait.  Their characteristic pliability makes them susceptible to loss.  These baits are indigestible and can directly harm fish and animals when eaten.  Such baits typically are made from a variety of petroleum-based materials and can leach contaminants to the water.  Inspect such tackle regularly to be sure it is in good condition and fastened securely.  If not, remove and dispose the replaceable parts. Good alternatives are biodegradable molded baits increasingly available on the market and baits made from tear-resistant plastics. In some cases, natural alternatives like pork bellies may be available.   

 Improper disposal of monofilament fishing line happens all too often, particularly at popular fishing venues.  Tangles of line can entrap fish and animals and may be ingested.  Regularly inspect line for burrs or other imperfections and replace damaged sections to avoid accidental loss.  If you strip line or replace line, dispose of it properly.  Some popular fishing venues offer disposal sites specifically for fishing line. 


Improper use of baitfish is a priority concern because of the potential to spread diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), displacement of native bait species, and direct predation on game species. What can you do?

  • Only use bait purchased from a dealer selling certified disease free bait
  • Don’t move bait or other fish from one water to another
  • Dispose of unused bait in an appropriate location on dry land
  • Use baitfish only in waters where their use is permitted
  • Report illegal stocking activities 

Non-Native Plants and Animals

Anglers often visit different bodies of water in pursuit of their favorite species making transport of non-native plants and animals a particular concern.  Here in brief are steps you can take to minimize the chances of contributing to spread of invasive species.

  • Remove all mud and aquatic plants from all gear, boats, motors and trailers before departing from an access site.
  • Drain all water including bilges, live wells and bait tanks before departing from an access site.
  • Dry boat and equipment thoroughly after use, or flush bilges and clean boat with very hot water or steam clean.
  • Do not transport fish from one body of water to another.
  • Do not release unused bait into any body of water.
  • Do not dispose of fish carcasses or by-products in any body of water.

Ethical Angling

The items above relate directly or indirectly to water quality protection.  Other aspects of angling stewardship relate to knowing and following regulations for protection of fish populations, protecting endangered and threatened species (the Lake Sturgeon in Cayuga Lake), selecting tackle that minimizes harm to fish, catch-and-release and selective harvest fishing, and proper handling of fish. See the reference below for discussion of these and other aspects of responsible angling.

 NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. 2015. Fishing Responsibly in New York State.