Imagine for a moment that we are environmental conservation officers. We’re on routine patrol and we’ve just come upon four men who have packed up their fishing gear and are leaving a fishing spot on the Hudson River. Based on the fishing rods we see them carrying, we ask to see their fishing licenses.

That is what happened to two ECO’s barely a week into the striped bass season on April 8. One of the anglers set the stage for what was not going to be a good remainder of the day for the four gents, when one ECO asked to see their licenses and one of the gentleman responded with, “License for what?”

According to a report from the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement, ECOs Wes Leubner and Tony Drahms were checking fishermen in Croton-on-Hudson when they came upon the four men. After some questioning, the men admitted that they had been fishing, but claimed to be unaware of the license requirement. They also claimed to not be in possession of any fish. Unfortunately, a bag one of the men was carrying started jumping around, revealing that in all likelihood they had at least one fish. That eventually became 11 fish — all of them were striped bass.

OUTDOORS: Slow start to fishing season

FISHING: Where to find trout

Based on the established daily creel limit, they had in their possession seven fish more than the daily limit of one fish per person. They compounded their problem further because none of the striped bass were the required minimum length of 18 inches. All four men received tickets for Fishing without a Marine Registry, Possessing Over-the-limit of Striped Bass, and Possessing Undersize Striped Bass.

While you do not need a freshwater fishing license in the Hudson River if fishing for anadromous fish such as striped bass, you must have a Marine Registry.

Striped bass season opened on April 1 and will remain open through Nov. 30.

There is what is commonly referred to as a slot limit on the river. You may keep one fish between 18 and 28 inches in total length, or one fish at least 40 inches in total length. Total length is the longest straight line measurement from the tip of the snout, with the mouth closed, to the longest lobe of the tail, with the lobes squeezed together, and the fish laid flat on the measuring device.

Those regulations apply to the Hudson River, from the George Washington Bridge to the barrier dam at Troy.

Environmental Conservation Law requires that anglers 16 years of age and older who desire to fish in the marine and coastal district of New York, or for migratory marine species in all waters of the state, including the Hudson River, must enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. While free, enrollment in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry is mandatory and can be done online at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html

Anglers targeting solely freshwater species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass on the Hudson River require only a “freshwater” fishing license.

Remember, if you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

DEC: Use circle hooks for bass 

If you plan to use natural baits for striped bass, please use non-offset circle hooks. Circle hooks increase the percentage of fish that are hooked in the mouth, decreasing hooking mortality in released fish. If you plan on practicing catch-and-release fishing, you should only use circle hooks for natural baits.

There have been reports that stripers are active the length of the river.  May should be a good month for striper diehards. I have not heard of a confirmed report of any fish in the 40-inch class yet, and that does not mean that there have not been any caught.

Handle fish carefully if you plan to release them. It doesn’t do much for the fishery is the fish you release float away, especially if it is a mature, spawning age fish.

Streams will be running high again

Heavy rains predicted earlier this week will probably leave local streams high and muddy. But, you don’t have to wait for better fishing conditions if you don’t limit yourself to the streams.

Putnam County’s Melissa Bauman, took a big brown in Croton Falls Reservoir on April 15. The fish weighed in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces. She also took a 5 pound-7-ounce lake trout from Kensico Reservoir on Feb. 27.

Bill Conners of the Federation of Fish and Game Clubs writes on outdoors issues in Players. Email: conners@billconners.net.