The circle of life continues once again in the trout ponds at Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale, one of Long Island’s most enchanting places for hikes, wildlife encounters and lessons in South Shore natural and local history.
And after a nearly 10-year hiatus, families can feed the fish at the park’s recently reopened historic hatchery, where thousands of trout are being raised before release into the fly-fishing waters of the Connetquot River.
History buffs can take a tour at The South Side Sportsmen’s Club, a former hunting and fishing lodge for the rich, famous and powerful. Social media mavens can pose with the 18th century grist mill, currently undergoing restoration, on the park’s scenic Main Pond.
Here are ways to enjoy a day at play along the Connetqout River:
FEED THE FISH
A swirl of fins roiled the surface of one of the six ponds at Connetquot’s fish hatchery when Norman Soule, the hatchery manager, tossed the voracious trout a handful of fish feed.
“We’re slowly trying to get this place up to the modern era and a little friendlier to visitors,” says Soule, a biologist overseeing the revival of raising rainbow and brook trout to stock the Connetquot River.
A mile walk on marked trails takes you to the hatchery, which this year is yielding 18,000 rainbow trout and 8,000 brook trout. A quarter buys a handful of fish feed from a hatchery vending machine. Tossing the feed from the walkway into one of the hatchery’s trout ponds sets off an underwater ballet as the trout, which measure up to 15 inches, gobble up their snack.
THE GRIST MILL
The preserve’s oldest structure, a grist mill, stands on the same spot where it was constructed in the early 1700s, says Teresa Simeone, assistant park manager.
A $200,000 restoration project is underway to restore the mill for educational tours, which could begin as early as April, Simeone says. Meanwhile, you can take photos of the mill and scenic Main Pond, which formed in 1750 after the river was dammed.
THE SOUTH SIDE SPORTSMEN’S CLUB
Visitors can take a 45-minute walk-through of the club’s Main House, a former lodging for U.S. presidents and millionaires who stayed and played in its cozy environs during fishing expeditions on the Connetquot. The building was constructed from 1820 to the 1890s.
“Theodore Roosevelt was a member, and Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote ‘’Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ ” Simeone said. Stops include two guest bedrooms, an area where deer, pheasants and other game were stored after hunting trips, a locker room (with a locker containing a typical guest’s gear), the billiard room and the trophy room lined with stuffed birds.
The tour also includes the ladies’ sitting room and dining room, where women were accommodated — to a point. “Ladies were not allowed past here,” Simeone says as she walks into the men’s quarters.
Along 50 miles of marked trails, hikers can see deer and other wildlife. Although it’s always wise to wear protective clothing, the tick population is under control, Simeone says, because the park is in the third year of a tick prevention program that transfers tickicide onto deer when they eat at feeders. For extra protection, Simeone suggests bringing a lint-roller to the park to remove any ticks that attach to your garments.
CONNETQUOT RIVER STATE PARK
INFO 631-581-1005, parks.ny.gov
ADMISSION $8 parking
EVENT Hatchery tour
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14
A family-friendly indoor presentation followed by a hike to the hatchery for a behind-the-scenes tour. Registration required, $4 a person, 631-581-1072.
EVENT South Side Sportsmen’s Club tours
1 to 3 p.m. most Sundays September to June, except January