Nestled between Upper Pattagansett Road to its north, and Route 1 to its south, Pattagansett Lake is a 128-acre, lazy-S-shaped body of water in East Lyme, Connecticut. The pleasant and winding country road along its north shore offers water views and takes you past a family-owned, organic farm named White Gate (www.whitegatefarm.net), a favorite among East Lyme residents for its fresh produce, market, farm and cooking classes and open-air dinner events. It’s a great place to visit after a Saturday morning of fishing. And for an early breakfast before hitting the water, try the famous Shack Restaurant (www.shackrestaurants.com), both only about a mile from the lake’s access point.
The term “Pattagansett” appears to be an anglicized corruption of the Native American word “Pattaquonset,” which, according to town historian Elizabeth Kuchta, means, “small round hill.” Kuchta believes the settlers named the lake Pattagansett in the early 1800s, and not the Native Americans, as there’s no island or “hill” in the lake.
\The lake’s surrounding shores are privately-owned, but the water is accessible by a public boat launch located on its south end at 290 Boston Post Road (Route 1). The launch area, which offers 15 parking spaces, is shallow and weeded but can handle small to medium motorboats. The launch faces north, so it may be a challenge during strong north winds here, where the fetch is greatest.
The lake regs allow any horsepower motor, but it has a speed limit of 8 mph, except higher speeds and water skiing are allowed from June 15 to the first Sunday after Labor Day between 11am and 6 pm. Assuming you’re not reading this for water skiing or tubing information, you’ll naturally have a more enjoyable and productive fishing experience by avoiding those days and hours, especially on hot weekends. During fall weekday afternoons, the East Lyme crew team uses Pattagansett for training, so be courteous and give the students some space to do their rowing.
The lake is about 35 feet deep maximum at the center with gradual bottom gradients north and south but more abrupt slopes east and west, especially the east side. Historically, these waters have produced large specimens of largemouth bass, chain pickerel and the state record crappie (calico bass) of 4 pounds. Pattagansett also offers sunfish, yellow perch, bullhead and eel.
Pattagansett Lake is fed by the small and slow Pattagansett River, originating from Powers Lake a mile upstream, which, combined with these two lakes, comprises the Pattagansett watershed, one of several feeders eventually reaching Long Island Sound. The river enters the lake through a cove in the northwest corner, which is lily-pad-choked in the summer but which offers good pickerel fishing in the spring. The mouth of the cove is popular for both pickerel and bass in the spring, too.
The north and east shores of the lake feature steep drop-offs, grass beds and lily pad patches. This is where most anglers target pickerel, largemouth and sunfish. The southeast and south shores, on the other hand, become weed-choked and stagnant in summer. Weedless lures are a must here. Try fishing the docks area in the southwest corner, which is excellent for all species, as it also sports a well-established weedline. Ice fishing is good here, too.
Productive lures in Pattagansett include 4- to 6-inch rubber worms, small Slug-Gos, buzzbaits, weedless spoons, jig & pig, most Rapalas, jitterbugs, crankbaits and poppers. Live bait options include shiners and nightcrawlers. Fly casters occasionally work Pattagansett, too, and floating line cast to the weeds are sure to draw surface strikes using flies like a Bass Popper, Bluegill Bug, River Rodent, Weedless Sneaky Pete Popper and Peeper Popper. For tackle supplies, try www.hillyerstackle.com, about 6 miles from the launch.