First annual ‘Free Fishing Day’ at Gilbert Lake State Park

Contributed by Scott Wells, Posted 7/8/21: On Saturday, June 26th, staff from OPRHP’s Gilbert Lake State Park (Otsego County) and DEC’s Region 4 Fisheries office in Stamford teamed up for a long-awaited event during NY’s annual free fishing weekend (last full weekend in June). Our main goal was to provide a free fishing event for the public complete with gear, bait, and staff on hand to assist, guide, educate, and engage mostly new/youth anglers. Staff from the OPRHP regional office in Syracuse also assisted with extra gear for this successful event, likely to be replicated in 2022.

After a slow start on a breezy overcast day (not bad for fishing), more anglers arrived in waves and began catching pumpkinseed, one of NY’s most common and colorful sunfish. The worm/bobber bite was spotty off the shallow sandy beach. Some kiddos caught multiple fish and others just didn’t get any bites (such is fishing). Then a ‘lunch’ bite turned on and some larger seeds plus dink largemouth bass were caught, until a whopper bass took a rubber worm over by the swim area. Most of the fish captured were put on live display for all to see and some to play with, then released by attendees.

Gilbert Lake Pumpkinseed

Overall, there were about 40 people in attendance (some 30 youth), plus another 7 staff making for a busy morning rebaiting hooks and swapping out tangles fishing rods. Only about a dozen fish were caught but many folks brought their own cameras for happy images of proud kids and their catches = simple satisfaction for parents and staff! Special thanks to all event staff for spending your Saturday to combat a growing nature deficit among youth at the tail of the pandemic. Kudos all, let’s do it again next year!

Team Gilbert event staff