Winter fishing around Long Island becomes challenging due to the lack of saltwater opportunities, but one option that will always exist are the freshwater lakes and ponds. And one pond in particular that is certainly worth a visit this winter is Upper Lake in Yaphank.
The lake was actually a stream at one point, the upper portion of Carmen’s River. Through damming at the southern end of the lake, the stream turned into a 19-acre lake that reaches a maximum depth of 6 feet. Within the past couple of years, the lake was cleaned up of its silt and excessive aquatic growth, making it more enjoyable for anglers to fish. The lake’s southern end also saw a new boardwalk, benches, and canopy. At the southern end, a new spillway was built that led into a small basin right before Mill Rd. The water in front of the basin goes down rather deep, and I’ve spotted a few large bass swimming in the area.
One main attraction to the lake is that it receives several stockings in spring and fall. Most of the spring trout that are stocked are usually taken or die off due to predation, with only a few holding over to the cooler months. Those trout stocked in the fall make the lake a great winter option because the colder water holds the fish a lot better, and they learn to have a chance to adapt to the lake, giving anglers ample opportunity for all the winter months. Over 400 brown trout went into the lake in October and over 200 in November, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2022 stocking list. This means that the majority of those fish are still in the lake over the winter, ready to be caught by those looking to break cabin fever.
The fishing is straightforward for these trout. I found that small tins from 1/4 to 1/2 ounce in colors like silver, copper, and gold get the interest of the trout. Small Rapalas twitched near the sandy beach by the park or close to the spillway will work well at times too. Inline spinners will also account for good catches here. Also, I don’t like to leave home without including a few hair jigs in my tackle bag as well. Natural baits like nightcrawlers, wax worms, or live shiners will sometimes catch the largest holdover trout in the lake when fished under a float. I like to fish these baits near the deeper spillway area.
Those who like to swing a fly rod should know that the lake now has plenty of room to do so. Strip a weightless wooly bugger near the beach or boardwalk for furious hits from the browns, or tie on a heavier bead head model to work in the deeper areas. I’ve actually had some luck myself nymphing the slow-moving basin below the lake before it heads under the road. It seems like a handful of the browns always make their way into that part of the water system and stage in that moving current.
Keep in mind that you can fish on the bar side of the lake, but they’ve recently cracked down on parking along that side. You’ll have to park in the parking lot directly across from that and walk the path to that side if you wish to fish it.
Getting to the lake is easy. Get off the expressway at exit 66 north and take E Patchogue Yaphank Rd/Sills Rd until the road splits. Go right on the fork, and the lake will be on your left-hand side. Follow the curve of the road until you end up at 518 Yaphank Middle Island Rd. and turn into the lot.