Long Island’s streams are all spring creeks and, as such, the temperature is about the same all year long. The bottoms are primarily sandy, with abundant vegetation and undercut banks the trout use for cover. Because these are small and shallow streams, it is important to be as stealthy as possible. One shadow will send the fish running for cover.
The Connetquot is the most well-known fly-fishing destination on the Island and is recognized by the state as a wild, scenic and recreational river. The fishing is amazing, with many trout over 15 inches and a few that will push the 20-inch range. There is a fish hatchery onsite that supplies a generous amount of trout. It is a pay-to-fish river with a beat system, which means you are assigned a portion of the river and given four hours to fish it.
The Nissequogue River in Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is also a pay-to-fish river with 9 beats that you can fish for four-hour time slots. It is smaller water, but it holds some very impressive trout, and is stocked from the Connetquot hatchery every few weeks. This is a north-flowing stream and there is a short section outside the park that can be fished at any time. Because it is tidal, you need only a marine registration to fish there, but be mindful of the tides and your etiquette since you are fishing in residents’ backyards.
The Carmans River is also in a park and there is a small daily fee to fish there. The difference is you can come and go at any time in the season, and there is no time restriction. The river is heavily stocked each year with more than 2,000 rainbows and browns, in addition its population of naturally reproducing brook trout. The brookies aren’t very large, but they make up for it with their beauty and spirit. The river is also rich in aquatic insect life and, at times, several hatches occur simultaneously, making it the most challenging of Long Island’s trout rivers.
The Carlls River is the fourth-largest river system on Long Island. It starts in Wyandanch and flows south in Belmont Lake State Park. From there, it passes through wooded areas to Southards Pond and Argyle Lake to empty into the Great South Bay. The state stocks Belmont Lake, and the areas below the lake and below Southhards Pond. Tree cover and numerous small springs help keep it cool during the heat of the summer. Because of the steady temperatures in the stream, there are a fair number of holdovers, so with a little exploring, you will have memorable day.
Massapequa Creek is the most well-known stream to contain a fishable population of trout in Nassau County. This is suburban fishing, as there is a bike path along most of the creek’s length that you will be sharing with joggers, walkers, skate- boarders, and cyclists. Here, you will find stocked rainbow, brown and brook trout. The creek flows into Massapequa Reservoir, which gets generous stocking in the spring and fall that draws crowds, especially on the weekends.
Other stream possibilities are Beaver Dam Creek, Browns River, Champlins Creek, and Crabmeadows Creek.
Mill & Kettle Ponds
With its mild weather and longer growing season compared to the rest of the state, Long Island has some of the best warm-water fly-fishing New York has to offer. Mill ponds can be found on just about any of the streams. They tend to be shallow, with weeds to give cover to both prey and predator. Some can be waded, while others are best fished from a watercraft.
Kettle ponds were formed by retreating Ice Age glaciers and tend to be round, with shallow shore-lines dropping to very deep centers. Bass, pickerel, panfish and carp gather near the shore, and trout hang out in the cooler, deeper middle.
Most of the kettle ponds are in Suffolk County. The two that I prefer are Deep Pond in The Schiff Scout Reservation and Laurel Lake. Each was formed by a large chunk of ice partially buried in the ground when the last glacier retreated. Deep Pond is known for large yellow perch and hold-over trout. There was also a very good population of pickerel, but their numbers have dropped in recent years, so pickerel are currently catch-and-release only.
Laurel Lake should be fished from a watercraft, but there is a 100-yard carry to get to it. Many anglers agree that it’s worth the effort since bass, big bluegills, pickerel and some very large trout call this pond home.
Hempstead Lake State Park is a series of mill ponds in western Nassau County that receive fall trout stocking, but this is primarily a put-and-take fishery since the trout are unlikely to survive the summer heat. However, there is a very good, over-looked warm-water fishery there. Hempstead Lake, South Pond and McDonald’s Pond have very good populations of warm-water fish. You can wade in the larger ponds, but McDonald’s must be fished from shore. Every year, bass to 5 pounds and lunker pickerel are caught.
Just a few miles to the east is a chain of mill ponds, part of the Twin Lakes Preserve. This is a wooded preserve that will make you forget it is in the most populated county in the country. Trout are stocked in the spring and fall, but it is the large bass that draws most of the anglers. If you want a real challenge, go after the golden bone sh—a.k.a. the common carp. Nothing compares to a 10-plus-pound fish tearing across the pond—and you’d better bring something larger than a 6-weight.
Massapequa Reservoir is one of the better large-mouth bass-fishing waters in Nassau County. It is shore-fishing only—you can’t use any watercraft on any body of water in Nassau County except the big lake in Hempstead Park (with a permit).
The gem for me is the Peconic, Long Island’s biggest river. It is a series of cranberry bogs and mill ponds, with Forge Pond being the largest. With a maximum depth of 6 feet, it is a bass-fisher’s dream. There is very limited shore access, but it has a well-maintained boat ramp. Throw in the monster pickerel—some pushing the 30-inch range—easy access and beautiful scenery, and you have the makings of a warm-water heaven.
Long Island’s waters will never replace trips up north, but it is certainly nice to have places close to home where I can grab a few hours of fishing.