Long Island’s Best Shores for Fishing

Head to these beaches, estuaries, harbors and even inland-lake hotbeds for easy, year-round access to world-class fisheries.

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.

Manhasset Bay

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.

Lake Ronkonkoma

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.

Fire Island National Seashore: A young boy learns to surfcast with his family on a sunny summer day. Fire Island National Seashore partners with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to offer free family fishing clinics. Photo: NPS

Jamaica Bay

Though technically not Long Island (much of western Nassau County is an extension of New York), the bay here provides anglers with one the most interesting wetland areas in the country. And yes, the brackish bay waters do hold fish—and a vibrant urban fishing scene. Jamaica Bay separates the barrier beaches from Brooklyn. With a lot of freshwater leading in, it’s an estuary as rich in diversity as the cultures surrounding it.

You’ll get flounder, tautog and bluefish here. But menhaden, or “bunker” also travel into the bay and predatory fish follow them, including prized striped bass—right in the shadows of the NYC skyline. Beginners can also easily fish here without a huge investment into gear with a nice spinning rod and reel combo. 

Laurel Lake

This clear freshwater fishin’ hole, which is halfway out the North Fork, just west of Mattituck, holds surprisingly diverse species. And with a depth of 47 feet, Laurel Lake is stocked with trout (locals claim up to 14 inches), but there are naturally reproducing largemouth, pickerel, bluegill, yellow perch and bullhead plus your pumpkinseed, which is also known as a sunny. Live bait is good but lures can offer a lot of fun, active fishing as well. Public access is limited and boat fishing is best, so find the Department of Environmental Conservation access point in the town of Laurel, park and plan to carry, or wheel in, your canoe, fishing kayak or SUP

Fire Island 

This is one fascinating geographic feature of the Long Island coast: a slim and lengthy barrier island that faces south into the Atlantic Ocean, separated from the rest of Suffolk County by the Great South Bay. Part of the reason Fire Island is so interesting is because there are certain public areas you can drive to, but most of the beaches, villages and back bay are only accessible by ferries and water taxis out of Patchogue, Mastic Beach, Sayville or Bay Shore. 

Fire Island National Seashore remains an unspoiled place of natural coastal wonder. Fish on either the Atlantic side or the Great South Bay. It takes some planning as you will need to be either adventurous, well connected—or like many local anglers, have a beach buggy and Sportsman’s Vehicle Permit. The ocean-side fishery is prime for bluefish, fluke and highly prized striped bass. Flounder is popular as well, with summer flounder season running May 1 to Oct. 9 (limit four fish per person over 18.5 inches). Meanwhile, Great South Bay hosts all of those species plus kingfish, which like the warmer waters of the summer months, and blue crabs, which can be a lot of (tasty) fun from June through September.

Local tip: A Fire Island National Seashore Recreational Driving Permit is $50 for four-wheel-drive vehicles only. You will need a separate driving pass to access the beaches of Smith County Park and Robert Moses State Park.

Stony Brook Harbor

This harbor is a somewhat complex body of water that leads into Smithtown Bay near the town of Stony Brook, a tidal estuary of the Long Island Sound, whose shoreline is marked by the Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area and Long Beach Town Park, collectively 1,000 acres of wetland habitat. The town is something of a North Shore destination. 

While striped bass are the prize here, sound anglers also find sea robin, bluefish, flounder and kingfish. A good place to start is the Stony Brook Fishing Pier in the town of Brookhaven

Hempstead Lake Park

While you’re not going to land yourself on the cover of any fishing magazines angling at Hempstead, it’s a scenic, sprawling recreation area (picnic, hiking, sports facilities) that’s relatively close to the village of Valley Stream at a confluence between Long Beach, Huntington, and the eastern ends of New York’s larger boroughs. You can access the lake through any of a network of trails that lead to its shoreline. This lake literally dried up during a drought 20 years ago and it has since been stocked with trout worth targeting year-round, though it also produces pickerel, black crappie, yellow perch and even largemouth bass.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.