Winter Freshwater Series: New Life At Canaan - The Fisherman

Winter Freshwater Series: New Life At Canaan

Looking north from the spillway, the lake is once again filled with water and life!

A waterless pond not long ago is now filled with freshwater life.

The first lake to start this winter series off is what I would definitely refer to as a “sleeper spot.” — Canaan Lake, located in North Patchogue, in the town of Brookhaven. This lake gets overlooked due to the fact that it’s not located next to a major road or highway but, in my opinion, has just as much potential as any other pond in the area. One of the reasons I partly believe that the lake has been passed in recent times is due to the fact that the body of water was completely drained a few years ago to clear out a lot of the excessive growth that it was known for. The bottom was scraped with heavy machinery to remove sediment during the whole process. I actually visited the lake several times during the process and was amazed at what was done to it. For years, this spot was so choked out with vegetation that it nearly made it impossible to fish a bait, discouraging anyone who visited it. The lake was also known as a summer vacation spot back in the 20s for those who didn’t know. Upon recent exploration, I’m happy to say that the lake is much more fishable and accessible, too, after the conclusion of the $4.15 million project!

Pickerel were not stocked in the lake after its refill but found their way back in through feeder ponds.

More Access Than Ever

The lake is accessible from several different locations, including Traction Blvd on its south end, the park off Old North Ocean Ave, and the northern portion at the end of Ohls St. The northern access loops around the northwest portion of the lake and after its recent drainage, was rebuilt with a rock jetty along most of the stretch, providing shore access that was never there before. A small kayak or boat can be walked down the trail at the Old North Ocean access point and launched easily at the small park to gain additional access.

The lake itself has rebounded nicely after being filled in with water again. Largemouth bass were stocked at about 12 inches and have been growing larger since then. Pickerel somehow found their way back into the lake after its drainage. I suspect they were holding over in the small pond to the north of the main lake and came back down once the two connected again. The NYSDEC has reintroduced rainbow and brown trout into the lake in recent years, and they have been holding over well due to the cooler waters coming from its north end.

Largies were reintroduced into the lake through a stocking program. This one was caught on a live shiner

Going Live

During the colder months, when I want some immediate action with the bass, pickerel, and larger trout, my go-to bait for getting a bend in the rod in this pond is, without a doubt, live shiners. They can be hard to find, and remember you will need certified baits as per the law, but luckily and conveniently, J&J Sports, located in Patchogue, has been carrying them throughout the winter to use. They stay alive pretty well during the colder months of the year, but using a small aerator will certainly extend the life of your bait once you get them in a bucket of water. Be careful with these little guys because they are delicate.

Keep rigs and setups super light for presenting shiners. Starting with the reel and rod, a 1000 or 1500-sized Shimano spinning reel paired with one of the 7-foot St. Croix Avid Series Freshwater Spinning rods will allow you to cast far enough while being able to finesse out the live bait and prevent it from flying off. I’ve grown fond of the ASFS70MLF for these kinds of fishing situations. Some anglers prefer monofilament for freshwater, and I could certainly see the advantage when fishing during freezing temperatures, but until it gets too cold, I’ll use a 5-pound braid on my spinner to get that extra casting distance. If I make the switch to mono, I’ll use a 4-pound test. When sticking with the braid, I still use a monofilament leader of around 6 pounds and about 3 feet in length tied directly to my braid with a Uni-to-Uni knot. Don’t go heavy on the leader at all because you want to keep that shiner alive and swimming as freely as possible. For the rigging, I’ll use the lightest weighted float to help with casting distance and not to weigh down the shiner from swimming around. My choice is something with about a half-inch diameter that is high visibility so that I know exactly when the shiner is getting “nervous” or getting hit. Smaller and lighter wire hooks are important for keeping the bait alive. A heavy or larger hook will stress out the bait and kill it quickly. This is not to say that a dead shiner won’t work, but it will certainly decrease your success rate. I’ve been using a Gamakatsu Octopus-style hook in size #6. If the bait isn’t staying down, you can add a very small split shot a few inches above it. The float is also set about 2 feet above the shiner, keeping it right above any vegetation on the bottom. When hooking the bait, don’t go through the lip. It will provide an unnatural presentation and will make the bait more vertical as opposed to horizontal. I like to barely impale the shiner right through the top right under the dorsal fin. This will keep the bait swimming naturally and at the right angle. A dozen or two live shiners should keep you busy for a couple of hours during this time of the year, but even if you have extra by the end of the day, don’t worry because they’re hardy this time of the year and will stay alive in your bait bucket inside of a cold garage. And if you don’t want to deal with the shiners, those tried and tested nightcrawlers cut into ¼ pieces will catch a fair share of bass and trout as well.

Rainbow trout have held over well here since they started stocking again a couple of years ago.

Artificial Options

If casting and reeling is more your thing, then you have plenty of options with that also, and you can use the same type of rod and reel setup for the live bait. For the pickerel and trout, I’ve done well with smaller silver or gold Kastmaster, Phoebe, and Little Cleo lures. It’s just a simple cast and reel technique. The only tip I can offer is not to go heavy at all on the lure weight. The heaviest I’ll use is 1/8 ounce to keep it out of any of the weeds and growth. The lake is relatively shallow still, so anything heavier will hit the bottom too quickly, causing you to retrieve too quickly for those slower cold water fish.

Small inline spinners can be worked along the northwest portion and upfront by the spillway with success. Trout Magnets are another good option to fish under a small float in the subtle moving water on the northern end as well. I like to let the breeze do some of the work for me. Use a 3-foot leader of 6-pound test directly tied to the braid and directly tied to the lure for fishing with artificials.

Fly fishing is possible here as well and effective for the trout by the park off Old North Ocean. On some of the days without any wind and glass conditions, I’ve observed trout rising to the surface for hours. The other spots are a little tougher to cast and can only be fished by roll casting from the shore. A small Jon boat or kayak will open up your fly fishing potential at this lake, especially towards the back end, where I’ve seen a lot of trout rising.

Access is not an issue not at Canaan Lake at all.

No Bad Ground

As I mentioned already, the lake is surrounded by access now, which is totally different from what it used to be. This lake was surrounded by trees and could only be fished from a few spots. The newly added access opens up the potential of this honey hole.

Starting with the southern end of the body of water, you have a wide open sidewalk, with the only obstacle being a waist-high chain-link fence that can be fished over. I’ve done well in this area for pickerel and bass. Trout can be found here when stocked, but eventually, they make their run for the northern portion when they discover their surroundings. You might be wondering about the small pond on the south side of Traction Blvd, and I was too. Before the work was done on the lake, this small pond would hold some pickerel and trout, but it seems like it shallowed up a lot since the work was done, making it hard to fish. I’m not saying there’s no fish in this smaller body of water, but I’ve yet to catch anything there. Fishing right in front of the spillway is also a good option. It’s deeper and a good ambush spot for bass and pickerel to pick off any small baitfish.

Moving north, the access park off Old North Ocean has ample parking and fishing area. This is a good place to bring the kids because it is easy to get to and a flat fishing area with no obstructions. It tends to shallow out a little here, but I’ve caught plenty of trout in this part of the lake. A few pickerel have found my offerings in this portion, too.

The extreme northern portion of the lake might be one of my favorites. It has a good amount of moving water and some drains where bait, along with fish, can swim in and out of. The access is tougher right by the tubes, but wrapping around that bend of the lake and through the trail is plenty of shorebound access. That whole stretch seems to have been dredged out when the work was done and is deeper. I’ve caught all species back here and have done well with the trout especially.

Enjoy this hidden pond! The new life it has gained has also added new and promising opportunities for those still looking to wet a line and bend the rod throughout the winter months on Long Island.



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