Following a long and especially blustery winter, it’s the stocking of trout in local lakes and ponds that to many that signals the real end of winter and start of a new fishing season. With over 30,000 trout to be deposited across Nassau and Suffolk counties, the time is at hand to break out your lightest gear and set your sights on the initial flurry of action that produces some of best scores and biggest rainbows and browns of the season.
As is usually the case, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as New York State Parks, plans to load selected waters with a generous mix of trout ranging in size from nine-inch yearlings to two-year-old browns that average about 13 inches. The stockings began in late March and will continue through April and May, with additional deposits scheduled for October and November. You can see a listing of all waters to be stocked and the number of trout they will receive.
Following is a quick preview of four lakes that will receive significant stockings and, thus, should be on your early season hit list. Generally speaking, you can creel up to three rainbow and brown trout per day (combined) with no minimum size but brook trout must be released. Crushing down the barbs on your hooks will make those fish you wish to let go back in the water quickly and without damage. Check the DEC website for specific regulations at: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor.
Massapequa Reservoir: Located between Sunrise Highway and Clark Street in Massapequa, this lake is generously stocked with two-year-old browns, yearling browns and yearling rainbows. You’ll find the usual assortment of trout baits and small spinners work well here, as do small, dark nymphs presented with the long rod or suspended three feet beneath a small float.
One trick that has helped me score particularly well here is to use a four- pound test spinning outfit and place a single Berkley Trout Power Nugget or two corn kernels on a size eight or 10 gold beak-style hook. Add a small split-shot a foot up the line from the hook and simply cast the bait about 30 feet out from the bank. If you don’t get a hit after five minutes, reel in five feet and let it rest again. Be sure to use the floating style Power Nuggets to keep your offering just above the muddy bottom.
The entire perimeter of Massapequa Reservoir can be productive, but the outflow area at the south end of the lake is the undisputed hot spot. Wading can substantially increase your access to productive water but move with caution as the bottom is very muddy and there are a significant number of hidden sink holes to be encountered.
Belmont Lake State Park: This centrally located lake receives a nearly 2,500 rainbows and browns from the DEC, plus another 1600 two-year old brown trout from New York State Parks and Recreation. That’s a lot of trout! The additional stocking helps ensure success of the exceptionally popular Spring Family Fishing Festival (nysparks.com/ events) held here each April. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, April 11, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
If you haven’t given this program a try, you are missing out. It’s the ￼perfect opportunity to introduce family and friends to the wonderful sport of freshwater fishing – and the freshwater fishing license requirement for anglers age 16 and older will be suspended for the program. In addition to open fishing, there will be fishing instruction, fly casting demonstrations, and a fish cleaning station. Loaner rods and bait will even be available free of charge, although you are encouraged to bring your own gear if you have it. A vehicle use fee of $8 will be in effect. Parking is free for Empire Passport holders. In the event of inclement weather, call I FISH NY at 631-444-0283 or Belmont Lake State Park at 631-667-5055 for any event updates. There is no rain date scheduled.
Given a little wind or rain, Belmont Lake can get pretty murky. For this reason, Power Baits seem to have a significant edge over more traditional offerings, although a worm works just fine under most conditions. If looking for an edge here, try tossing a green florescent Panther Martin Classic spinner in size 4, or a 1/16-ounce Wordens Roostertail model 208 in rainbow trout pattern.
Belmont Lake has been nominated by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation as one of the most family friendly fishing locations in the United States. Right now, the organization is running a sweepstake to pick the 100 top spots. If you enter, you can win a free trip to Disney World Resort, including a guided fishing charter. You can vote for Belmont Lake, or any of the other nominees, at takemefishing.org. You have until April 12 to cast your vote.
West Lake, Patchogue: Located off Montauk Highway just west of Patchogue Village, this 20-acre oasis is one of the most productive trout waters on Long Island. Most anglers fish from the southern bank using live worms, spinners and small spoons.
You’ll do even better from a kayak or small johnboat if using a fly rod to present small, dark nymphs. If the sun comes out and heats up the surface for a day or two, Hendrickson and tiny Blue Dunn patterns will score admirably at mid-lake.
For those intent on tangling with two-year old browns or holdover fish from previous stockings, this is a good place to make your stand. Instead of tossing the standard offerings, however, try using a small black/silver or rainbow trout Rapala, or a purple Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow.
Work these lures with a steady retrieve just below the surface and don’t be surprised if you also catch a few out-of-season bigmouths. If you need tips on hooking-up here, J & J Sports Center is just a half mile to the east.
Upper Lake, Yaphank (Lily Lake): The Town of Brookhaven put a lot of effort into dredging weeds and muck from this once super-productive trout and bass pond. Now fully cleaned to a depth of 5 or 6 feet in most areas, it is hoped Upper Yaphank Lake can reclaim its glory. A fresh deposit of trout that will include 450 two-year old browns this spring should get things off to a great start. With less weeds and renewed depth, this lake should be a great place to works spinners, spoons and even small crank baits. To avoid the possibility of having your car towed, park in the lot on the east side of the lake, not near the restaurant in the southwest corner.