P.O. Box 582, Oakdale, NY 11769-0582
Connetquot River State Park Trout Hatchery : Victim of Nature and Dysfunctional Government
For over 120 years, until January 1st, 2009, the last 36-years of which have been under the auspices of New York State Parks, the hatchery on the Connetquot River has produced countless thousands of vigorous, superbly- conditioned and well-adapted trout. Innumerable anglers, especially the handicapped, have enjoyed superb fishing on an “assigned-beat” system, possible only because of the regular stocking of the river. Moreover, hundreds of schoolchildren and adult visitors to the Park Preserve have been able to witness the trout “husbandry “in action. From its 19th-century beginnings until the present, this hatchery has played an integral part in the history of Long Island, New York State, and the history of trout fishing in America. Indeed, the facility has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now a virus, a set of well-meaning but ill-conceived environmental regulations, a slothful bureaucracy, an antiquated design, and an economic downturn have conspired to do what natural disasters, two world wars, and the Great Depression could not: bring its operations to an indefinite halt.
The Idle Hour Fly Fishers, a club dedicated to the support of the Connetquot River Preserve (CRSPP) and its fishery, have been actively, but quietly, involved in discussions with NYS Parks (OPR-HP) and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) about this problem . We believe, however, that the time has come for us to disseminate our position in the hope that the public will join us in demanding a better, swifter, and more logical response from our governmental institutions.
WHY THE CLOSURE
In 2007, following “emergency” regulations instituted by NYSDEC, every state-licensed fish hatchery in NY underwent testing for a large number of possible fish diseases (more on this later). The trout in the CRSPP hatchery tested positive for Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis virus (IPNV), one of the “proscribed” diseases. There had been NO outward signs of any illness affecting the trout. The regulations forbade the stocking of any infected fish into NYS waters after Jan. 1st, 2009. After consultation between Parks personnel and the NYSDEC, it was decided to immediately cease stocking any trout up-stream of the hatchery, destroy the existing fingerling trout population, utilize the older fish for stocking downstream of the hatchery only, and require only the use of plain rubber-soled boots below the hatchery (up-stream wading already having been banned for years) in an attempt to prevent spreading the disease .In the interim, NYSDEC permitted the CRSPP to obtain disease-free trout eggs and fingerlings from outside sources and raise them during 2008, with the proviso that the yearlings would have to be re-tested. The eggs were incubated using a different water source, but still part of the stream system. Unfortunately, the resultant fry were not tested for IPNV before being transferred to the raceway ponds.
The re-test of yearling rainbow & brook trout took place in November, 2008. Some 46 of 60 sampled brook trout, and 1of 60 sampled rainbow trout again tested positive for IPNV .Having been held in the raceways for most of a year, no original source of infection (incubating water, raceway water, or contaminated raceway sediments) could be pinpointed. As a result, NYSDEC put the hatchery’s operating permit in-abeyance until it could demonstrate that the fish reared were free of diseases. Moreover, OPR-HP was directed to seek the help of professional consultants to investigate how or whether the existing hatchery could become re-operable. Just prior to the December 31st, 2008 deadline, all remaining trout in the hatchery were released into the river downstream of the hatchery. Because of competition for food, most of these fish found their way into the estuarine portion of the river where they were caught in large numbers by anglers outside the Park.
The CRSPP hatchery remains shuttered to this date. To keep the Park open for fisherfolk, a small number of trout of ‘stockable’ size have been purchased/obtained by OPR-HP and placed in the lower river. But, as a result of the closure, the fishing public has stayed away in droves, unwilling to pay $20.00 for four hours in which hardly any fish are to be seen, let alone caught.