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Digging in at Oak Beach Park for crabs, fun

At Oak Beach, members of the Chan family

At Oak Beach, members of the Chan family dig for clams as others in the family catch blue claw crabs. (Aug. 4, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Lorina Capitulo

It doesn't get much better for many folks than catching dinner under the warm glow of an evening sunset along Fire Island Inlet. For those who drive Ocean Parkway to reach Oak Beach Park, it's as close as throwing a line off the pier or rock jetties that line the channel.

“We go with the whole family, maybe for three to five hours,” said Mauricio Guerrero, 40, of Hempstead, who fished one recent afternoon with his wife, Hilda, 29, daughter Ingrid, 8, and son Andrew, 11, and other relatives. “Mostly we catch crabs; they're easier to catch.”

That's true, according to Tim Taylor, harbormaster for the Town of Babylon.

“People especially like to come here to crab,” he said. “It's a popular spot for nonresidents because you don't have to live in Babylon to fish here.”

The park is toward the eastern end of Jones Beach Island, between Gilgo and Captree state parks and not far from the Robert Moses Causeway, along the inlet that leads from the Great South Bay to the Atlantic. It's buffered from the ocean waves by Fire Island.

The size limit on blue claw crabs is 4 1/2 inches point to point, and Taylor said the bay constables enforce that, asking those fishing to return smaller crabs. They also tell visitors about registering for a free saltwater fishing permit in person or online at the Babylon town clerk's office. No permit is needed to go crabbing, Taylor noted. The limit is 50 crabs per person per day.

Visitors also catch snapper, the occasional triggerfish, fluke and striped bass, Taylor said, and flounder in the winter.

Clammers head to the Great South Bay side where it's flatter, but first must hoof it over Ocean Parkway from the parking lot.

Sebastian Paci, 65, of East Meadow, said he steps lively to get across the roadway but has been crabbing on the bay side for several years.

“It's very peaceful,” Paci said. “That's one of the reasons I keep going back.”

Water in the bay runs through the inlet past Oak Beach Park, so the current can be strong. The water is about 8 to 10 feet deep in the channel, Taylor said, and there's a sandbar.

The park is also a launch site for canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Andrew and Amy Baur of Bethpage went paddleboarding after attending an antique car rally.

“It's a scenic area, with lots of birds, and it makes a nice paddle,” said Andrew Baur, 48. “You can go pretty far, but you've got to remember you've got to paddle back.”

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