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As winter begins its strangle hold on Long Island, many anglers look to shows and the occasional offshore adventure in search of cod, pollock, and other wreck species. There is another viable option that will offer steady action, and a lot of fun on the freshwater side of Long Island – Laurel Lake.
By Tom Melton
Laurel Lake is one of the true kettle hole lakes on Long Island. The lake is approximately 30 acres with a maximum depth of around 45 feet. The lake has no inlet or outlet, and receives a small amount of runoff. As a result, it is one of the clearest lakes on Long Island.
The water clarity, depth and bait forage allow 8 to 9-inch stocked trout from the spring to grow to 14 inches by mid-October. The fall is the best time, but the winter months, even when the lake is iced over, offer solid action as well. Trout are not the only species. I have caught largemouths pushing 5 pounds from the southeast corner of the lake on jigs. Although most bass will be in the 1-1/2 to 3-pound class, you can count on some brutes as well. Pickerel are also quite prolific, with fish to 20 inches finding their way into the Freshwater Report every season. Spinners and live bait are the way to go for the toothy pickerel. Slab size yellow and white perch also inhabit the lake, are great fun on light tackle, and taste great in the frying pan.

According to Jimmy at J&H Outlet in Oakdale, Laurel, due to its “hidden” nature, is a real Long Island gem. The lake is stocked with trout yearly, but most anglers target bass, pickerel and other panfish. Every year, brown trout to 5 pounds are reported by well-informed anglers. In the winter months, Laurel is a prime area for ice fishing. And, if it is a mild winter, small boaters can utilize the great action as well. Jimmy suggests you fish the drop-offs and ledges of the lake. A good hand-held depth finder will put you on these hotspots. Best action in the winter months is with live minnows or nightcrawlers.

As most of the shoreline at Laurel is privately owned, wading or fishing from a small aluminum johnboat, kayak or canoe is best. The only access to the lake is the path from the parking area off Route 25. The path is narrow, so you must hand-carry your boat.
Laurel Lake is one of the better ice fishing venues on Long Island. The lake, as stated, is deep and has various drop-offs and ledges. The lake is also sheltered from most winds, which takes some of the bite out of those really cold days. When ice fishing, lighter lines – 4 pound test is a good choice – will improve your odds due to the clear water.

If you plan on ice fishing, safety is paramount. Always use the buddy system, and try to keep some distance between you. Check the ice thoroughly and make sure it is safe. Guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommend that if ice is under 2 inches thick, stay off it. Ice fishing or other foot activities are okay at four inches. I have been on ice at four inches, and although it may be safe, I prefer a minimum of six inches, and would suggest you use that guideline as well.

Another item is some form of ice pick, or other means to pull yourself out should the ice break. Ice picks are simply two ¾-inch dowels with a nail glued into the end. Put a small eye on the other end and tie a piece of rope between the two. Hang this around your neck and always wear it while on the ice.

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