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Lucky for us, fishing is the one activity that has been impacted least by the coronavirus.
By Fred Golofaro  |  March 17, 2020
Practicing social distancing at a local lake or pond is a good way to spend down time with the family.

Life as we are accustomed to has changed dramatically over the past several weeks, and by all accounts, we are still far from the finish line in dealing with the coronavirus. Major league sports are off the board, along with high school and college sports and activities, kids sports like Little League, soccer, lacrosse, dance and even sources of entertainment like concerts, movies, theatres, casinos and going out to dinner are falling by the wayside. Families with kids who are accustomed to barely having time to catch their breath during this time of year are suddenly being faced with more time than they know what to do with, as schools close and many businesses are keeping employees home.

Enter fishing – it’s the one activity you can do alone or with family members while filling your lungs with fresh air and even more important, maintaining some semblance of sanity. President Herbert Hoover certainly had it right when he wrote, “fishing cleanses the soul.” While the opportunities are limited this time of year, there are places to go and fish to catch. If you don’t have a freshwater fishing license, now would be a good time to get it, or your marine registry, visit online or with a quick phone call to 1-866-933-2257. A resident freshwater license will cost you $25. The marine registry is free but you must have it to fish anywhere in the New York Marine District.

On the freshwater side, the good news is that DEC will be stocking many of the lakes, ponds and streams on Long Island over the next couple of weeks. You can go it alone, or bring the kids since this easy fishing, often close to home, and trips can be as long or as short as you want to make them. Don’t forget to pack snacks and drinks for the kids. Some of the lakes and ponds also offer opportunities for other species like pickerel, largemouth bass, sunfish, yellow perch and crappies. Largemouth bass season does not open until the first Saturday in June but can be targeted for catch and release except for the period from May 1 to the first Saturday in June. Pickerel season is closed between March 15 and the first Saturday in May so if you do catch one, it must be released.

On the saltwater side, there are not a lot of options right now but that will improve with the openings of flounder and blackfish seasons on April 1. In the meantime, shore bound anglers might want to scout around for some herring. Most of the better action this winter has been limited to far west end piers like Canarsie and Coney Island, but you could still check out some of the more traditional spots like Magnolia Pier, the Jones Beach piers, or the Robert Moses and Captree Overlook piers. Come April 1, you can probe for flounder in places like Cold Spring Harbor, the Quogue Canal or the Shinnecock Canal. For blackfish, give the rocks on the backside of Robert Moses, as well as the east pier of the park a shot. The jetties at Moriches and Shinnecock inlets might be worth dunking some bait, as are some of the oceanfront rockpiles along west end ocean beaches. April will also bring the first solid striped bass action in the surf from Breezy Point to Ditch Plains in Montauk, and in most of the North Shore harbors and bays.

As I write this, very few for-hire boats have begun their season. That should change as April evolves and stripers, tog and flounder settle into our waters. We can only speculate what coronavirus restrictions will be in place at that time so it would behoove you to check on sailing schedules before heading to the dock. Currently, some tackle shops are open while others have yet to reopen for the season. We would expect they would conduct business as usual but again, a call to your favorite shop should be part of your trip planning.

There are plenty of other fishing related things to do during this “down time.” It might be a great time to take up rod building or fly tying for example. How about scouting out some new fishing locations for the upcoming season, or doing some pre-season tackle maintenance? What better time to replace those trebles on your plugs with in-line hooks to make releasing bass and blues easier and safer? If you do a lot of bait fishing, why wait until next year when circle hooks for striped bass become mandatory? Make up circle hook rigs now and be ahead of the curve.

If you have never ventured into Connetquot River State Park Preserve, you owe it to yourself to experience this oasis in the heart of suburbia. If you bring the kids, make sure you have a bunch of quarters so they can have fun feeding trout in the hatchery. Governor Cuomo has waived state park entry fees during this crisis so take this time to enjoy these wonderful resources. Also, the deadline for state park Beach Vehicle (4x4) and Sportfishing permits currently remains March 31. There is no access to park offices but you can go to 2020 Dashboard Permit (pdf) and apply online for a permit.