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New York's Montauk Striper Bonanza

New York's Montauk Striper Bonanza

Touted as the world's best striped bass fishery, the waters off Montauk, Long Island, begin providing hot action starting right now!

Photo by Milt Rosko

Shortly after spawning each spring, striped bass vacate their winter quarters in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and the Hudson River. Some fish move through Long Island Sound as they migrate, while others traverse the open waters of the Atlantic. Sooner or later, they all pass Montauk, Long Island, as they head to the waters of New England and Canada's Maritime Provinces for the summer.

As a result, Montauk has developed a reputation of providing visiting anglers with the world's best striped bass fishing, no idle boast. The thrilling striper fishing builds momentum during May and June, with a repeat performance in October and November as the fish head back to their winter quarters.

Montauk is at the tip of New York's Long Island, with Block Island Sound to the north and the broad Atlantic Ocean to the south. The waters teem with forage species, such as menhaden, herring, bay anchovies, mullet, spearing, sand eels and squid. Linesiders can gorge on a variety of forage species and add weight after a winter of hibernation.

Anglers may choose from a variety of ways to catch America's favorite saltwater game fish. There's a sizeable fleet of party and charter boats and one- or two-angler guide boats. Or you can trailer your own boat because there are many launching ramps available. Also, many of the marinas in Lake Montauk's harbor have transient slips available.

Boatmen enjoy trolling, live-bait fishing and deep jigging. There's also sight-casting to cruising stripers, which is perfect for the fly-caster.

Surf-fishing for stripers at Montauk is great, too, with gorgeous beaches, some studded with massive boulders, and other areas with miles of picturesque sand. Then, too, there is the challenge of fishing from the rocks beneath the famed Montauk Lighthouse, built in 1796, where currents clash and linesiders school up to feed.


Montauk is a cozy community that caters to tourists and especially to recreational fishermen.

For boat fishermen, the end of West Lake Drive is where the action is. There are 34 charter boats that sail from Lake Montauk, a dedicated group of captains who are members of the Montauk Charter Boat Association. Their president is Captain Jack Passie, who may be reached at (631) 668-5741.

A fine fleet of party boats sails from the docks, including those of the Viking Fleet, which also has ferry service from New London. (Call (631) 668-5700 for more information.) To assure being on the water at optimum times, any of these captains will give you up-to-the-minute information relative to sailing times, which occasionally vary based on tide conditions.

On West Lake Drive and Star Island are numerous marinas that have transient slips should you come by boat, or launching ramps should you decide to trailer your rig. The Gone Fishing Marina, at (631) 668-3232, has a fine launching ramp that we've often used, and the staff is ready with a wealth of information on local hotspots that are producing best.

Transients with big boats often tie up at the Montauk Yacht Club, at (631) 668-3100, which has excellent shore-side accommodations and dining. Nearby is the Star Island Yacht Club and Marina at (631) 668-5052. Both of these marinas can be reached off West Lake Drive on Lake Montauk.

When you sail aboard party, charter or guide boats, you can sit back and relax. Should you fish from your own craft, you'd be best served to seek the counsel of local anglers. Johnny Kronuch of Johnny's Tackle Shop in Montauk is an excellent source of information. Ditto for the staff at Freddie's Bait & Tackle at (631) 668-5520.

Some of the most exciting fly-fishing for stripers takes place when anglers exit Montauk harbor and turn to the west to fish the shallows ranging all the way to Goff Point. This region is ideal for small-boat anglers. Techniques include poling across shallow flats not more than 100 feet from shore, and then sight-casting to cruising stripers.

Most of the striper action for boatmen occurs in deeper water, in the rips and along the ridges and shoals to the east of the harbor, down around the point, in front of the lighthouse, and then west along the boulder- strewn ocean beaches.

Usually during spring, the fish will be feeding deep, a natural for wire line trolling with parachute jigs, tube lures or drifting with live baits. Jigging and casting with artificials also produces.

Good beach catches occur at North Bar, Jones Reef and Scott's Hole on the north side of False Point. Along the south shore beaches, Caswell's, the Coconuts, Ditch Plains and Gurney's all produce during the spring run.

Both Johnny's Tackle and Freddie's will be pleased to direct visiting anglers to these spots. Striper anglers who fish from the beach will find parking available at the end of many streets leading to the ocean off Old Montauk Highway.

Montauk is a cozy community that caters to tourists

and especially to recreational fishermen.


The south shore beaches have produced fine fishing all the way from the point to Hither Hills State Park, both with natural bait and lures. There's parking and access to the waters beneath Montauk Light at the end of Route 27. Stripers often can be observed chasing baitfish right in among the rocks along the beach extending all the way to Shagwong.

Anglers traveling with four-wheel-drive vehicles score along the beaches all the way from Gin Beach at the harbor inlet to the point. First-time visitors to the area would be well served to contact a local surf guide. They will tell you precisely what's happening, and if they're booked, they'll put you in touch with a select group that really know the beaches.

You really can't appreciate Montauk's striper fishing unless you're able to set aside four days to a week, where you can settle into the hamlet and spend some time walking the docks, talking with the skippers and mates, stopping by the tackle shops and rubbing elbows with the countless bass anglers, professional skippers and guides in the region. They're all part of the charisma of Montauk, and it would be to your advantage to give an attentive ear to the fishing advice you'll garner along the way.

A stroll through the village of Montauk is also worthwhil

e. There are fast food and gourmet restaurants, convenience stores and a variety of shops to accommodate your every need. One of the oldest restaurants in Montauk is the Shagwong, where you'll see natives and visitors gather to swap fishing yarns and plans for the day ahead. This is truly a striper angler's gathering spot, and the fish you eat there were invariably caught that day. In fact, you can bring in your own catch of the day and they'll prepare a scrumptious dinner second to none. That's just the way things are in Montauk.

For more information on lodges and restaurants, guide services and charters, contact the Montauk Chamber of Commerce at (631) 668-2428, or access their Web site at By accessing the chamber's Web site anglers may also obtain a copy of their vacation guide, complete with maps and current information.

As for me, I'll be heading east on the Southern State Parkway as I've done for many years. I just know the stripers will be aggressively feeding in the rips and along the beaches at the easternmost point on Long Island. Montauk is where it's at and one visit will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

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