Long Island anglers have long been able to count on a fertile and productive freshwater fishery. From panfish to trout and largemouth bass, our sweet waters offer superior action. One person who has been instrumental in keeping this stellar fishery both productive and accessible is NYS DEC senior fisheries biologist Chart Guthrie, who retired this week after 36 years on the job.
“One achievement I’m really proud of,” said Guthrie “is getting the Forge Pond Fishing Access Site redone. It greatly increased the accessibility for one of the best fishing lakes on Long Island.”
The once small site now features an ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant boat launch with parking spots for cars and trailers.
A second highlight for Guthrie, who started his career in October, 1981, was involvement in establishing a permanent fish passage on the Carmans River, just inside Southaven County Park. That project got the ball rolling for additional passages to be built.
“This was the first permanent fish passage on Long Island,” noted Guthrie. “There are over ten now with another 20 or so either on the drawing board or under consideration. Alewives use the passages to move from tidal waters to freshwater spawning grounds. That’s great for these river herring, and it provides an additional food source for freshwater predators.”
Guthrie sees a continuing struggle to keep the fishing first rate. “Water quality has declined,” he admitted. “That’s a function of population pressure. We have 300,000 cesspools putting nutrients into the groundwater, some for 50 years. It’s going to take longer than that to reverse the damage.”
Still, he points out, there are opportunities for improvement. Reopening of the trout hatchery at Connetquot River State Park serves as an example. The park’s famous trout hatchery was closed several years ago after testing positive for IPN (Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis) virus, which cripples and kills young trout. The waters now test clean and anglers are again enjoying super trout fishing.
The ongoing revitalization of Lake Ronkonkoma offers additional hope. Residents there got the lake designated a NYS Waterway, making it eligible for local waterfront revitalization funding. Suffolk County, Smithtown, Islip and Brookhaven are working together to identify and eliminate nutrient inputs. The DEC plans to assess the fisheries community this fall, and SUNY Oneonta has a masters student doing a thesis on the lake. “With concerted effort,” said Guthrie, “you can really improve a water body.”
What impresses Guthrie most about Long Island’s freshwater fisheries as he prepares to step away from his management role?
“So many people I’ve worked with over the years who moved away tell me they miss the fishing here,” he said. “We’ll never compete with Great Lakes steelhead, but if you want to go to a pond and have a reasonable chance to catch some quality fish, Long Island waters are tough to beat.”
Buckley brothers score huge doormats
Memorial Day weekend will be one to remember for the brothers Buckley. Saturday saw Capt. T. J. Buckley of Buck Tales II charters, Orient Point, put Rob Eilers of Babylon on a doormat fluke that weighed 14 lbs., 1 oz. — after being bled! On Monday, Orient Star V skipper Dan Buckley found a 12.5-pound doormat for Neil Levy of Huntington. Eilers’ fish struck in 35-foot depths off East Marion while Levy’s huge flattie was hauled from 50-foot depths off Shelter Island.