Between the Long Island Sound, the Atlantic beaches and even a few lakes, Long Island offers a whole lot of shoreline opportunities for rod and reel. Though surfcasting can be fun anywhere, the East End in particular is known around the world for the migratory fish that crash through the suds. But Long Island has some surprisingly big largemouth bass in its lakes and rivers as well.
While New York winters are famously freezing, you can find fish year-round. Spring and fall are still the most dynamic, and there’s fishable water everywhere for the most technical angling techniques to the ol’ can of worms. Anyone over the age of 15 will need to purchase a state license to fish freshwater, or sign into the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry (free) to fish saltwater. There are hundreds of miles of fishable coasts, rivers and ponds, but here are some famed and lesser-known spots to hook up.
The rich-with-life Long Island Sound gets skinny to its west, ending between the Bronx, Harlem and Nassau County’s northern shores. Tucked off the main body is Manhasset Bay, the areas of Port Washington and King’s Point, with a rich maritime history. There are a number of productive surfcasting spots with plenty of charters from Port Washington that will get you out into the deeper waters. The shoreline here is often brackish water.
Local tip: Target tautog among any kind of rocks or outcroppings, as they tend to eat mussels and crustaceans that collect around structure. Otherwise, striped bass are the local shore anglers’ favorite as well Bluefish, which tend to be great fighters.
East End Beaches
The literal end of the road for Long Island, Montauk Point Lighthouse is the iconic structure that sits as far east as you can go. To the north is Long Island Sound. To the south the Atlantic Ocean. Montauk Point State Park itself boats some amazing views, hiking, playgrounds for the kids, surfing and even hunting. But the surf, sand and rocks here are one of the most storied and exciting inshore fishing grounds in the United States. Anglers nab bluefish and flounder in the suds but in the spring and fall, the focus is absolutely on the striped bass, often referred to as rockfish. Striper fishing here has created its own culture. “Stripers” are migratory, known for their strength, trophy size up to 40 and 50 pounds, and close-proximity catches hooked right off the beach. The key is to match whatever bait they are chasing, depending on the ocean temp.
Local tip: While fishing charters are usually thought of for boat fishing, there are a number of Long Island fishing guides to help match you with the right surfcasting spot for the season. They can provide the right knowledge and tackle, plus help navigating Montauk’s famous fishing crowds. Guided or solo, you’ll need a solid surf rod; 9-foot or larger. In the warmer, late summer months, also consider targeting “albies” or false albacore, a smaller pelagic fish that puts up a good fight.
Long Island’s largest freshwater lake is worth a look. There is no swimming in this 243-acre body, but it does offer fishing opportunities from small boats. Most of the access to the lake is part of Lake Ronkonkoma County Park, where you can cast and launch kayaks or boats (with electric motors only) close to each other on the northwest corner of the lake. If you’re fishing from shore (the lake is home to largemouth bass, occasional pickerel, crappie, perch, carp, smallmouth and even some stocked walleye), an easy place to start is the pier that falls under the jurisdiction of Suffolk County Parks on the lake’s north side off Lake Shore Road.
Local tip: Look for structure. Two decades ago, the state, county parks and local fishing groups worked together to drop a number of tree stumps into the lake to create underwater fish habitat. Once off the water, it’s a five-minute walk from the county park beach to Little Vincent’s Pizza, cash-only but delicious.