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WINTER ON THE CONNETQUOT

Flyrodders can now ply their trade year-round on that stretch of the Connetquot River that flows through Long Island’s Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale.

By Fred Golofaro  |  December 12, 2017
WINTER ON THE CONNETQUOT
The Connetquot can provide opportunities to catch quality trout throughout the winter months. Photo courtesy of Paul McCain.

The winter months offer few options for Long Island anglers to escape winter boredom. There will be some innings with herring, cod opportunities vary from year to year, and ditto for white perch. For those who consider ice fishing an option, safe ice is never a guarantee most winters. Trout fishing on Long Island is a year-round proposition, with a number of waters receiving fall stockings, but none of those waters can provide the opportunity to connect with quality trout like the stretch of the Connetquot that runs through the State Park Preserve.

More than10 years ago, the river was considered to be a world class trout water, with double digit fish caught each season and 5-pound trout hardly raising an eyebrow. That was before it was drained of its riches in the form of 80,000 rainbow, brown and brook trout. Discovery of the IPN virus (infectious pancreatic necrosis) in the Connetquot’s trout population in 2006 resulted in the closing of the hatchery and the release of the park’s trout into the brackish lower reaches of the river. The hatchery is once again fully operational, and aiding in the river’s revival was the hiring of hatchery manager, Norman Soule, the former manager at the Cold Spring Harbor Hatchery & Aquarium. Trout raised in the hatchery are free of IPN and if all goes according to plan the hatchery could be producing 30 to 45 thousand trout per year by next year. It has been a long road back but quality trout fishing has returned to the “Conny” and an increasing number of anglers are taking advantage of its resurrected fishery.

The really good news is that the river is being kept open all year long, with two sessions a day – 8 a.m. to noon and noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The park is closed on Mondays. The cost for one session is $25. For those not familiar with fishing in the park, the river is divided into 30 beats. You can reserve a spot one week prior to the date you are planning on fishing by calling 631-581-1005. Beat selection is on a first come basis the day of your reservation. Only fly fishing is permitted on the river and you must use barbless hooks. There is a two trout limit with a slot limit of 10 to 13 inches. All other fish must be released, and once you keep a second fish you must stop fishing.

Paul McCain of River Bay Outfitters in Baldwin (516-415-7748 / www.riverbayoutfitters.com) keeps close tabs on the Connetquot fishery and is an excellent source for fly fishing information or to fill your tackle needs. And if you really want to get into fly fishing, Paul offers fly tying classes at his shop through the winter months. He is a fly fishing expert who willingly shares his extensive knowledge and experience with anyone who walks into his shop. If you had to choose three fly patterns for fishing the Connetquot during the winter months, he suggested an olive or black Woolly Bugger as a first choice. Next would be a streamer like the Black or Grey Ghost, or Muddler Minnow. For those rare, warmish winter days his choice would be midge pattern like the Griffins Gnat in a size 20. Four to six weight rods will cover any conditions you might encounter on the river or the park’s main pond.

If you are looking to stay active during the next few months, or you are looking for a different fishing experience, the Connetquot beckons. Just being in the park is worth the price of admission. It is a unique piece of Long Island lost amid the hustle and bustle of suburbia. The fishing is the icing on the cake.

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