The Season Is Upon Us

You need to head west to fish for trout

    Time to wet a line. Tuesday, April Fool’s Day, marked the start of freshwater fishing — trout being the first species to become fair game. In the briny, the season for winter flounder also began on Monday. This year, both starts are iffy.

    Because of the extra cold winter, plus the fact that the State Department of Environmental Conservation does not stock trout in the Town of East Hampton, the joke is on Bonac’s trout anglers.

    You need to head west to fish for trout. Southampton has several water bodies that are stocked, but anglers must obtain a special permit from the South­ampton Town Trustees to gain access to stocked waters, and to find guides who will help you find the fish. In western Suffolk, the Carmens, Nissequogue, and Connetquot Rivers hold several species of trout. 

    The catch-and-release season for black bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, does not begin until the third Saturday in June, that’s the 21st this year. East Hampton has plenty of places to angle for black bass including Montauk’s Fort Pond, Big Reed Pond, and Fresh Pond. Montauk’s freshwater bodies also hold yellow perch, white perch, catfish, and in Fort Pond, the wily walleye. Walleyes become fair game on May 3. Perch may be caught any time of the year.

    The D.E.C. has a new, online guide to freshwater fishing. Google “freshwater fishing, Long Island, New York City, D.E.C.” and you’ll find it. The site lists the locations of freshwater bodies with maps that show the bottom depth contours. This could be helpful after a cold winter. Shallower water heats faster, and most species start to come alive in water when it reaches the lower 40s.

    There was a time when April Fool’s Day had local flounder fishermen digging out their rods, corn kernels (it’s the color that attracts them), lures, and worms. The season for winter, or blackback, flounder started Tuesday and will run through May 30.

    Only time will tell if the popular flatfish will make a comeback this year. The Lazy Bones party boat that used to begin its fishing season after winter flounder in Lake Montauk will not be doing it this year. The flounder have been in short supply in recent years up and down the coast. Efforts by the National Marine Fisheries Service to curtail fishing pressure have played havoc with commercial fisheries that catch them while targeting other species. In addition, efforts by the East Hampton Town Trustees to augment the local stock with farm-raised fry have been halted by the D.E.C.

    As recently as the early 1990s, baymen set fykes in Lake Montauk for flounder. Fykes, a type of fish trap strung along the bottom, were a staple gear of the inshore fisheries and were good at catching flounder early as they first rose from the mud to greet the spring.

    I fondly remember several outings with Tom and Francis Lester as they set their fykes in the lake. They spoke thick Bonac, Francis smoking his pipe, Tommy’s deep, gravelly voice relating the intricacies of a gear with centuries-old roots. I’m not sure anyone uses them today.