Residents restock Canaan Lake with native fish

Bass to be released this May

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What’s more romantic than flowers?

Restocking an entire lake with native fish for your wife, who loves to fish.

“We bought this house because the lake was nice and we were able to fish,” local Canaan Lake resident Ray Crescenzi said, also noting he enjoys taking his eight grandkids on the water as well.

In all seriousness, though, Crescenzi, a retired IT professional for an international bank, and his wife Teresa have lived on the lake since 1995. When the lake was drained, cleaned and refilled, unfortunately the native fish disappeared, he explained.

“After the work they did on the lake, we were assured it would be brought back to the way it was,” he said of the county breaking that promise by not restocking the native fish. “They won’t do it,” he said on the back and forth between the county and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Back in October of 2021, when the project was completed, former Legis. Rob Calarco, who spearheaded the project, explained that he anticipated the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to fulfill their trout restocking project last fall. According to current Legis. Dominick Thorne, over 900 rainbow trout were restocked in April of last year and a few hundred brown trout in November.

The DEC, at that time, was also reviewing a Suffolk County permit request to stock largemouth bass and yellow perch in the lake. Restocking species requires that the fish be certified disease-free, native species, and are a fish species that have been present in a particular water body in the past.

However, after multiple failed attempts to have Suffolk County or the DEC restock the lake with native fish, Crescenzi set up a GoFundMe. About 35 people helped raise $2,500 of the $7,500 largemouth bass price tag; the rest, he said, they have self-donated. When asked why he has taken the project upon himself, he simply replied, “a lake should have fish.”

He has since placed an order for 500 largemouth bass and 250 pounds of feeding minnow, with delivery confirmation for mid-to-late May. The fish will come from upstate New York, a requirement of the DEC.

According to DEC spokesperson Bill Fonda, the standard program consists of stocking brown and rainbow trout to waters throughout the state, including at Canaan Lake, to enhance fishing for license holders. These stocked species are not expected to reproduce or have a sustained population in these water bodies, but are stocked to provide angling opportunities.

The DEC suspended stocking operations in Canaan Lake in Patchogue in 2011 due to a draining and dredging project that was being conducted. Since the completion of the dredging project, DEC has resumed stocking and completed the 2021 fall stocking of 200 brown trout and the 2022 spring stocking of 900 rainbow trout. 

Additionally, DEC issued a stocking permit to the Canaan Lake Home Owners Association (HOA) to restock other fish species in the lake. DEC reviewed previous fish surveys in Canaan Lake and approved species that have historically existed there, including largemouth bass and yellow perch. Additionally, fathead minnows were approved, as they are a commonly used baitfish and often stocked with bass as a food source.

Although largemouth bass are not native to Long Island, they were approved due to their presence in most Long Island waters and were inhabitants of Canaan Lake prior to the dredging project. DEC approves stocking permits based on existing or prior fish communities but does not dictate the size or number of fish and rather suggests that the permittee follows hatchery guidelines on size and number for the acreage of the water being stocked. The cost associated with stocking any species into a water body other than state-raised trout is the responsibility of the lake owner or HOA.

This fall, Crescenzi hopes the county will make good on their promise by setting aside the budget for the remaining species, which he estimates will cost about $5,500. The lake is also missing pickerel, assorted sunfish, and perch.

“With their surplus, they should be able to do this,” he said, pushing the county. “Dominick Thorne has been working to get it funded for the fall.”

Thorne not only promised to push for the funding for the restocking project, but also noted the significant and inherited flooding problem in the same area.

“Ray is a real community guy; he really cares about the lake,” he said of his determination. “The DEC has restocked trout, but that’s all they will stock.”

As for the flooding issue, he explained, several residents in the Newman Street area of the lake have reported flooding and cesspool buildup since the lake has been refilled. Thorne hopes this issue can be resolved by cost-effectively removing a few boards to relieve the lake water level a bit.

“We are working with the county executive’s office to have these boards removed,” he promised.

He also is looking to work with the Department of Health to allow residents in the area to become a priority to receive alternative wastewater system grants and eliminate their cesspools.

“The new systems will protect the environment and help alleviate their issues with flooding,” he said. “I am working diligently to be able to find sensible and appropriate solutions.

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