Scattershots: Free Fishing Weekend events, birding trail extended, outdoor photo contest info | Outdoors

Bill Hilts Jr.

Fishing events for free weekend

Free Fishing Weekend is June 25-26 in New York State, allowing anyone 16 years of age or older to fish without purchasing a license. This is a perfect opportunity for an angler to take family or friends on one of many ponds, lakes, rivers and streams that can be found in the Empire State. Make sure you abide by the regulations for the body of water you intend to fish.

Here is some of what is available in Western New York:

  • Teach-Me-To-Fish Clinic from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Chestnut Ridge County Park Pond, Route 277, Orchard Park. Pre-register online at or by phone through DEC at 533-4070. Visit the fishing education stations to learn how to cast, identify fish, tie fishing knots and more. Parents must accompany children. Some equipment is available for free.
  • Wilson Conservation Club .37th Annual Kids Fishing Derby from 8 am to noon in any Niagara County waters for ages 3 to 14. Measuring station at the Wilson Conservation Club, Route 425, Wilson. For more info, call Gary Alt at 315-767-532
  • Town of Newfane Kids Fishing Derby from 8 am to noon at the Town of Newfane Marina, Olcott. Free. Just show up and start fishing.
  • Boy Scouts of America Fishing Derby through the Polaris District of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, from 9 am to 3:30 pm at Ellicott Creek Park Pond and creek, Creekside Drive, Tonawanda. Cost is $5. Register through Open to Scouts and non-Scouts.
  • Orchard Park Wesleyan Church Fishing Derby, from 8 am to 2 pm, 7295 Ellicott Road, Orchard Park. For kids ages 5 to 17. Pre-register at Some fishing equipment is available for use free of charge.

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NY Birding Trail extended

Six of the nine regions of New York State are open and connected through the New York State Birding Trail. For a map and a list of locations, check out

The “birding trail” is not a physically connected or built trail, but a network of promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation and providing an inclusive experience for all. The Western New York segment includes 36 locations throughout Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

The Niagara River Corridor is globally recognized as an Important Bird Area. There are plenty of locations for spotting birds throughout the year – from Tifft Nature Preserve and Buffalo Harbor State Park to Grand Island’s Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island state parks; from Niagara Falls State Park through the gorge and connecting to Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole and Artpark state parks; from Joe Davis State Park to Fort Niagara State Park. Don’t forget about birding hot spots such as the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and numerous state wildlife management areas throughout the region. Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve is another favorite bird hangout.

Other sections of the trail that have been completed and connected include New York City, Long Island, central Finger Lakes and the capital region. For more information on the trail, check out

NY Outdoor Photo Contest announced

Get your cameras ready. New York State Parks, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation, has announced the 2022 Outdoor Photo Contest to highlight natural resources through the state’s campgrounds and parklands. The online contest will run through Oct. 15, with the winning images to be featured in marketing campaigns run by the state, as well as the 2023 New York State Camping Guide. Photos taken since June 15, 2020, are eligible. All entries must be taken in New York’s state parks.

The six photo categories are: camping life; scenic; action and adventure; attributed; views and vistas; and making memories. Prize packages include a grand prize of a $1,000 Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) gift card, one four-person tent, a 2023 Empire Pass and a $250 NY camping gift card; and six individual category winners will each receive a $250 REI gift card, a 2023 Empire Pass and a $100 NY camping gift card.

Photos will be judged on these criteria: originality, artistic composition, technical quality and whether the photograph showcases the best of New York State Parks camping and outdoor activities. Submissions and all additional information regarding contest rules, eligibility and prizes is available at


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