After a bitter winter that just wouldn't quit, the mild temperatures forecast for this weekend can't get here fast enough for local anglers, and they'll find plenty of opportunities.

Many local lakes and ponds are already stocked. The DEC and New York State Parks this year will deposit more than 30,000 browns and rainbows in rivers, ponds and streams across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Most of these are 8- to 9-inch yearlings, but over 3,000 are two-year-old browns measuring about 13 inches. The stocking list is available at dec.ny.gov/outdoor.

Early spring hot spots for trout include Massapequa Reservoir, Argyle Lake in Babylon, West Lake in Patchogue and Upper Lake in Yaphank -- but Belmont Lake State Park should see the biggest crowd tomorrow. It has already received 2,500 rainbows and browns from the DEC, plus 1,600 brown trout from NYS Parks and Recreation. The heavy stocking ensures success of the Spring Family Fishing Festival which runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. A freshwater fishing license is not required to participate, and the DEC will have free loaner rods and bait available. Additionally, the Art Flick Chapter of Trout Unlimited will offer free fly-fishing instruction.

Striper fans will undoubtedly test their spring spots next week. Striped bass season opens Wednesday and runs through Dec. 15. Anglers targeting bass in New York's marine waters south of the George Washington Bridge can keep one fish per day with a minimum size of 28 inches. This applies to all recreational anglers, including open and charter boat fares.

Generally, April striper catches come from Long Island Sound's western harbors or South Shore tidal creeks and back-bay waters. With bay temperatures currently less than 40 degrees, however, it will be another week or two before this action finds any consistency. Sand worms and clams are the traditional early-season offerings.

Of special concern to Long Island's saltwater anglers this year is the expiration in August of Capt. Tony DiLernia's at-large seat on the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC). Many recreational anglers believe DiLernia has done a fine job of advocating for New York's interest in this position, especially for fluke.

As an at-large seat on the council, there is no guarantee the DiLernia position will be renewed -- and the chair could fall to another state. In a pre-emptive move, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last week sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, strongly urging the at-large position stay in New York and specifically recommending the reappointment of DiLernia.

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"If New York loses a seat on the MAFMC,'' wrote Schumer, "it is unlikely the arbitrary and inequitable treatment of the New York recreational fishery could be corrected.''

Considering stock allocations for fluke continue to be calculated using inaccurate historical catch data points that have previously resulted in inequitable treatment of New York anglers, Schumer's point seems right on target.

It's good to push now for keeping the at-large appointment in New York. To voice your opinion, write to: Pritzker at the U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20230.

Email: outdoortom@

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