Formed by ancient glaciers, Lake Ronkonkoma is the largest and perhaps best known of Long Island's freshwater lakes. Portions of its irregular basin are unusually deep for Long Island (65 feet), but most of the lake is less than 15 feet deep.
As a rule of thumb, it is unproductive to fish deeper than 15 feet in Lake Ronkonkoma because there is seldom enough dissolved oxygen to sustain fish beyond this depth. The primary gamefish are largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Lake Ronkonkoma holds large bass, but locating them is a challenge due to the scarcity of natural structure to attract these fish. Stumps have been placed into the lake for habitat enhancement (see below). Chain pickerel are extremely rare.
In the last two decades, white perch and yellow perch populations have increased to the point of upsetting the ecological balance of the lake. To control these species, the DEC began stocking walleye in 1994. Walleye over 27 inches long can be caught and provide a good targeted fishery. For more information on this species see the walleye fact sheet. (PDF, 118 KB) Lake Ronkonkoma also contains sunfish and crappie though large specimens are not common.
Lake Ronkonkoma Bass Habitat Enhancement Project
On a frosty December 2002 morning, a crowd of anglers, conservation professionals and curious onlookers cheered as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the New York Army National Guard airlifted over 150 weighted hardwood tree stumps and dropped them into Lake Ronkonkoma. This seemingly odd activity was part of a project to construct submerged reefs. The stumps sink to the bottom of the lake, where they provide fish with places to feed, rest and hide. The project was completed via a partnership among DEC, DOT, the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, the Long Island Bassmasters and the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation.
Fishing is an important recreational activity at Lake Ronkonkoma. A DEC study conducted during the summer of 2000 estimated that anglers spent more than 13,000 hours fishing at the lake between May and October. For several years, DEC fisheries staff and members of the Bassmasters wanted to supplement scarce fish habitat and improve fishing in the lake but had no practical means of moving the extremely heavy stumps.
The solution was GuardHELP, the New York National Guard's community support program, which links the Guard's training requirements to community needs across New York State. The Lake Ronkonkoma project provided an opportunity for troops based at MacArthur Airport to train in slingload operations--a necessary skill for Blackhawk aviators and crews. Instead of merely moving objects around at a military installation, crews received training while simultaneously providing a service to the people of Long Island.
Area: 243 acres
Maximum depth: 65 feet
Species Present (naturally reproducing):
Species Present (stocked):
There are several points of access to Lake Ronkonkoma:
The DEC maintains an angler parking area and a concrete boat ramp off of Victory Drive on the west side of the lake. This site is always open for boat launching and fishing. No special permit is needed to launch a boat or fish from the site. Organized events at this site must have a Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP) which are administered by the Region 1 Lands and Forests Office (631) 444-0285.
The DEC in cooperation with Suffolk County Parks purchased a 100 foot accessible fishing pier which is located in the Suffolk County Park off of Shore Road on the north end of the lake. Due to its proximity to some of the best habitat in the lake, the fishing pier is highly recommended as a shore fishing spot. Seasonal parking fees may apply.
Most of the shoreline of Lake Ronkonkoma is part of Lake Ronkonkoma County Park. Fishing from Suffolk County Park property is permitted, but a Suffolk County Green Key is required. Additionally seasonal park fees may apply for parking in certain locations. For more information about hours of operation and park fees call the Lake Ronkonkoma County Park at (631) 854-9699. For more information about Suffolk County Green Keys call (631) 854-949 or see Suffolk County Parks (link at bottom of this page).
Directions: Lake Ronkonkoma lies just north of the Long Island Expressway and east of Ocean Avenue in Ronkonkoma. To reach the DEC boat launch, take Ocean Avenue north to Rosevale Avenue. Make a right onto Victory Drive. The boat launch entrance, marked with a wooden DEC sign, will appear on your left.
Restrictions: Boats are permitted but may only be launched from the DEC boat launch. Electric trolling motors are a allowed; gas motors are prohibited. Shoreline access is available.
Health Advice on Eating Fish You Catch:
Visit NYS Department of Health website (link leaves DEC's website) for health advice on eating fish you catch. Scroll to the bottom of the page for Long Island freshwater waterbodies.