Tag Archives: connetquot river

The 2015 Comeback of the Connetquot River

The first trout I ever caught, in upstate New York, came courtesy of the New York DEC stocking program. The first trout I caught on fly came courtesy of the fish hatchery at the Connetquot River. I spent a lot of time in the  1990s learning how to fly fish by targeting those stocked trout.

Brown Trout Underwater

Though I agree with everything Kirk Deeter wrote in his Fly Talk post about hatchery fish, I was sad when the Connetquot hatchery closed in 2008. And I am happy with the report from Andrew Cuomo’s office that the hatchery is reopening in 2015.

I’ve listened to others mock the Connetquot for it’s prior reputation as a trout fishing fantasyland, and I’ve written about my own conflicted thoughts about it here before.

And of course you can take it deeper and delve into why growing trout in a hatchery only masks the larger problem about why wild trout populations in the region would be unsustainable. That is all true.

swirling rainbow

But for all that it is and isn’t, the Connetquot is an excellent resource as well as a learning ground for teaching angling ethics and stream stewarship. The place demands it, and the threat of a year-long or lifetime banishment for violations is not a vacant one. (Read about the rules and etiquette on the Long Island Trout Unlimited site.)  I look forward to taking my daughters.

The Connetquot River Is Coming Back

Early on in my fly fishing pursuits I found myself releasing my 14th trout in two hours of fishing the Connetquot River. I felt good about this until a man walked by claiming to have caught 50. He’d grown bored, he said, and was going home early. Adding insult, he scooped a dip from his lower lip and flicked it into the water, where a trout rose to meet it.

The Connetquot River has been described as Long Island’s blue ribbon trout stream, a once private fishing club turned into a pristine State Park with an on-site hatchery that stocked it with kamloops rainbows, brooks and browns. Some of the fish held over and reproduced, creating a small wild population, and some below the dam attained sea run status, heading out beyond where the river dumps into the Great South Bay.

brook trout spring 08

It worked via a beat system–a valid NY fishing license and $20 reserved the opportunity to fish an assigned stretch of river (choice of spots given by the order of sign in) for a four hour segment.

Fishing there always made you feel like a better fly angler than you really were; the deck was stacked in your favor like Kim Jong Il on the golf course. It fished that way until 2008, when an outbreak of Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis forced the State to shut down the hatchery.

The park opened early in the winter of 2009 and started a cull-fest, encouraging anglers to keep every fish they caught in order to rid the river of contaminated fish. I went one day; most stretches of water had been picked clean but I witnessed one young angler konk an old kyped brown trout and stuff it in a plastic bag.

In its heyday the park always had detractors for obvious reasons, and I’ve felt conflicted about it, but mostly enjoyed my times there. My friends and I learned a lot about fly fishing making pre-dawn pilgrimages from Hoboken and New York City.  The fish were stocked, but some of them held over and the browns in particular could prove as challenging and rewarding as any fish anywhere.

Winter Brown

Fishing at the park itself was steeped in ethics. It was one of the first places to ban felt sole, making rubber-soled hip waders mandatory in all wading spots. (One justification for the hip-waders–you couldn’t wade out too far and degrade the river bed with your footwork.) Barbless hooks were mandatory, egg patterns were banned, and general assholery not tolerated. Gil the riverkeeper walked the trails along the banks making sure your gear was copacetic, that you were respecting others’ space or to gently explain how your clumsy wading was ruining it for every angler downstream. Violations resulted in banishment.

Trout Unlimited and the Boy Scouts and other local conservation groups kept the waters and trails clean and practiced stream restoration.

These types of things carry over.

So I was thrilled this week to read in Newsday that the Friends of the Connetquot organization raised the necessary funding to get the hatchery back on track. The river is an amazing resource and, according to the article, the fly fishing brings in $300,000 of much-needed revenue annually to the park.

Thanks to Friends of the Connetquot for making this happen.

More on the Connetquot Matter

Brookie Underwater

Of interest mainly to people in the NYC Metro:

My buddy Stefan wanted to find out more about the Connetquot and forwarded me this email response he got.

On Behalf of Ronald F. Foley, Regional Director, LI Region March 25, 2009
Dear Mr.REDACTED :
On Behalf of Commissioner Carol Ash, I am writing in response to your e-mail of   March 19, 2009 concerning the Connetquot River State Park Preserve Hatchery.
Trout in the Connetquot River and hatchery have tested positive for Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN).  We are working closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to address the matter.
No trout will be hatched or raised in the hatchery this coming season in order to give us time to both develop a long-term strategy, and to implement immediate tactics to decrease the virus throughout the hatchery and the river.  However we ultimately resolve the IPN issue, the park preserve will remain open to fishing, riding, hiking, birding, nature walks and all the programs and activities the public has come to enjoy.
IPN is not a simple condition and there is no simple answer that comprehensively addresses the complex impacts IPN presents to the natural ecosystem of the watershed, to everyone’s satisfaction.  We will do our very best to achieve the state’s objective to eradicate IPN in the Connetquot River and our hatchery, and to continue to provide world-class fishing, as well as the opportunity to visit and witness the operation of our 19th century hatchery.
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, its buildings, grounds, the river and the hatchery are “a jewel for all to enjoy”.  Our goal is to ensure that the park and the experience will continue for generations to come.
Sincerely,
Ronald F. Foley
Regional Director
Long Island Region

Bad Hatchery Craziness

This Ken Shultz article came out just before the NY State DEC discovered IPN.

The Connetquot represents in one localized microcosm the best and the worst of a hatchery sustained fishery. On the one hand, a stream this close to such high population density could never support pure wild fish with unrestricted access to them. Operating a stream on a pay-to-reserve English beat system with a carefully managed stocking program allows for solitude rather than shoulder to shoulder and the chance to fish larger than normal brown, brook, and rainbow trout.

On the other hand, it is not reality.

On the one hand, the big sea runs and the cagey eight-pound holdovers with the hooked jaws exist in numbers not seen in normalcy.

On the other hand, the fish just out of the hatchery will hit a cigarette butt.

On the one hand, the state park encasing the stream is well protected and maintained and offers sanctuary for deer, wild turkey, fox, osprey, even bald eagle. The fishing is restricted to fly only, with barbless hooks. Rules violations result in banishment.

On the other hand, the catching can be so prolific it becomes a numbers game.

And then you have the bizarre scene now where in order to save the river, the trout must be killed. The hatchery had to close its doors and dump 80,000 fish into the river. Since January 1st there’s been a 10-fish a day bag limit. It’s been pretty fished out.

Some really big browns–feral holdovers that shed their hatchery dumbness years ago–are still left. Some guy pulled a 30-incher out last week. Of the few fish we saw caught, we estimated one to be 7 pounds and the another probably four.  They were not released.

It’s bittersweet.

TROUT: A Return to the Connetquot River

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I took a late afternoon trip to the Connetquot River on Long Island yesterday. The rules have changed since they discovered a virus at the hatchery this winter. For one, the use of chest waders and felt-bottomed boots is prohibited. There is limited wading on the river below the hatchery, but only in hip waders. (Very few people can wear hip waders without looking ridiculous, and odds are you are not one of them.) I’ll put up the official new rules in a future post.

What else has changed? The days of retarted meat slab fishing (or hero fishing, depending on your perspective) appear–at least for the time being–to be over. The park is still stocking the river, but you can no longer approach a hole, cast a piece of yarn on a size 16, and expect a stocked brook trout to assault it. The trout are still numerous, but in each of my visits to the river this season they’ve behaved like, well, trout. They spook if you approach the river without caution, they don’t forgive you if you flub a cast, and they hightail it somewhere else if you brazenly false cast over their heads. Where it used to be normal to catch upwards of 20 trout, with days of over 40 (then it could rightly be called stupid fishing), this year I’ve averaged around four a trip. Yesterday I worked hard to catch a couple of wary browns and a chunky brook, and connected with a reel-zinging rainbow of serious proportions that would have qualified for Slab of the Month status had it not straightened out the hook. But no one wants to read about almosts, so I’ll end it there.