A Brookhaven Town project to drain and excavate mud and sentiment with heavy machinery from Lower Yaphank Lake, also known as Lily Lake, is set to begin within weeks, yet little is being done to protect resident fish and the native brook trout population in Carmans River below the lake. This follows a planned project in 2014 that was abandoned due to excessive amounts of sediment spilling into the lake from a similar project attempted on Upper Lake.
The plan to reclaim the weed-choked and sediment filled lake, which has been overrun by invasive growth such as cabomba and variable-leaf watermilfoil, involves draining the 25 acre lake and using heavy excavating equipment to remove several feet of silt and mud to restore the lake’s depth to its original 8 to 10 feet. The sediment will be placed in a Town of Brookhaven landfill, and the project is projected to be completed by next spring, barring complications from underground springs. Should these springs severely hamper the excavation process, the project would be terminated, according to Brookhaven Town officials.
The lake is populated by largemouth bass (fish to eight pounds have been caught here), yellow perch, sunfish and catfish. It also received annual trout stockings up until a few years ago when the lake was no longer considered suitable habitat for trout.
The plan is to allow resident fish to drop down into Carmans River during the draining process. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems associated with this approach.
First, I witnessed firsthand with the late Bill Ward, our resident conservation officer at the time, the effects draining a lake can have on the resident fish population and it wasn’t pretty, especially if you were a bass fisherman. Years ago, DEC decided to convert Westbrook Lake on Montauk Highway in Great River from a warm water fishery to a trout lake. The dam at the south end of the lake was removed and by the next day, many largemouth bass, some as large as 10 pounds, could be seen plowing through inches of water and mud in a vain attempt to find enough water to survive in.
Those that did survive the initial draining gathered in the deeper water remaining above the dam until the oxygen levels could no longer support them. Hundreds of bass, along with numerous panfish, met their demise as a result of that project.
Second, let’s say some of the bass do make it into Carmans River. The river below the lake falls within the boundaries of Suffolk County’s Southaven Park and contains one of the few remaining populations of native brook trout in the downstate region. Bass love to eat trout and the small natives would be extremely vulnerable to any bass that make their way into the river. Several fly fishermen have told me stories of largemouth bass darting out of the bank to grab hooked trout, so there is evidence that the bass will linger in the river.
It just seems like common sense for New York’s Department of Conservation to remove as many of those bass as possible and place them in Upper Lake and Hard’s Pond, which is located in Southaven Park. Both are within a couple of miles of Lower Lake so transportation time would be minimal, and it would improve the bass fishing in both bodies of water.
Contact Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher at 631-444-0345 or Natural Resources Supervisor Robert Marsh at 631-444-0270 and request something be done to preserve both these vital fisheries.