I find it both surprising and ironic how many Long Island anglers pick April Fool’s Day to kick off their freshwater fishing season. Two decades ago April 1 did indeed serve as the legal opening for trout in both Nassau and Suffolk counties but these days you can fish most stocked ponds year round.
I guess old traditions die hard, or maybe by this time each year the wind and temperature are agreeable enough to encourage local anglers to begin prospecting. Either way, your odds of success on the trout front are excellent right now. That’s because the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC,) along with New York State Parks and Recreation, each year stock Long Island waters with approximately 30,000 trout across more than 20 locations.
The heaviest stocking each spring takes place at Belmont Lake State Park, where DEC and State Parks combine efforts to deposit nearly 4,000 trout. That’s meant to ensure anglers have a great time at the annual I Fish NY Spring Family Fishing Festival (call 631-444-0283 for details).
This event is a one-day trout fishing extravaganza scheduled for Saturday. Hopefully the weather cooperates. You don’t need a freshwater fishing license and entry is free although there is an $8 parking fee. The festival runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and the DEC provides free bait and fishing gear to those who need it (bring your own if you can). There will also be casting demonstrations plus a variety of activities for younger kids.
Fly fishing has resumed at Connetquot River State Park Preserve. After being closed for several years due to the Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN) virus in the river’s trout population, the park’s redesigned hatchery is once again growing trout. DEC and NYS Parks are once again providing fish to stock the river.
Until the closing of its hatchery in 2008, the “Conny” was considered a world-class trout stream. It re-opened to fishing last fall and reports are that it is now well on the way to rebuilding its once legendary reputation for producing quality catches of rainbows, browns and brookies. Only fly fishing is allowed here. There is a $20-fee for each four-hour session, and fishing spots are awarded on a first come, first served basis. Call (631) 581-1005 for additional information.
Make sure you have purchased your freshwater fishing license. With few exceptions, you’ll need it for ages 16 or older. It’s also important to check out the latest NYS freshwater fishing regulations. You can do both, as well as examine the official trout stocking list, online at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.
If you are still waiting for stripers, bluefish, fluke and other saltwater favorites to arrive, Sunday offers a chance to make last-minute additions to your fishing arsenal at the Patchogue Fishing Flea Market. It’s being held at the John A. Danzi Athletic Center of St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, kids 12 and under are free.