For saltwater kayak anglers, the waters of the southern Long Island coast provide one seriously engaging environment. Credit the fishing fun to the sheer diversity of habitats. At Captree State Park, near the western edge of Fire Island National Seashore, anglers can weave their boats through tidal creeks hidden between tall stands of cordgrass. Or perhaps you’d prefer to prowl sandflats, sight-casting for game fish that cruise the shallow bars enroute to the deeper, colder water of the Atlantic. Near Captree, the Great South Bay, which stretches between the barrier islands and the mainland, is the traditional home fishing grounds of the Massapequas and Secatogue—and it still remains treasured as a productive fishery today.
Kayak anglers have many solid options when launching at Captree State Park. No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to understand that the tides, especially near the Fire Island Inlet, are strong. And on summer weekends, the added boat traffic in the inlet can be substantial. Plan accordingly by checking the forecast and tide times, paddling prepared to yield to larger vessels in the main channel—and always equipped with the right outerwear and safety gear.
First, try drifting with your fishing kayak out the inlet toward the Atlantic Ocean. When leaving Captree, turn right (heading southwest) with the outgoing boat traffic. (It's best to time your departure with an outgoing tide, and return on the incoming high tide.) The inlet provides sloping sand beaches, tucked-away lagoons, strong exchanging currents, and rock jetties. Choosing the north or south side of the jetty will provide different terrain. The deep channel and fresh flushes from the Atlantic bring many baitfish and bigger game. Catch bluefish cruising the channel, or fish the bottom along the banks for summer flounder. Continue out to the open Atlantic, or stop to stretch your legs at the wrapping cape of Democrat Point before turning back.
Directly north of the Captree State Park kayak launch is Captree Island, home to twisting tidal creeks and a marshy environment that plays nursery to saltwater fish. To reach Captree Island, paddle north around the fishing pier. Be sure to give the pier a wide berth to avoid the anglers tossing a line from up above. There is a boat channel between the state park and Captree Island proper. The boat traffic is largely the charter fishing fleet leaving the park’s boat basin.
Once you’ve reached Captree, work the perimeter of the island, or enter the labyrinth of tidal creeks. The tall stands of cordgrass can make it seem you are lost from the rest of the world. Game fish like flounder, bluefish, and striped bass wait at opportune places like the mouth of a creek, or where two converge. Think like a predatory fish and you’re sure to get some exciting fights around Captree.
For one of the ultimate challenges in kayak angling, fish the sand flats just south of Sexton Island. At low tide, the water on these flats can be as shallow as ankle deep. The flats can be gin-clear on a good day, and fish cross these flats or travel the channels between them to reach the deeper water of the bay and inlet. To reach the sandflats, also called shoals, head east from the Captree State Park launch. If the wind is calm, standing and sight casting will be ideal.
Continue across the fingers of sandbars and reach Farm Shoals. At this point, you’re close to the north shore of Fire Island National Seashore, a great place to stop and walk to the Fire Island Lighthouse. Then cool off with a swim, and continue fishing along its bayside beaches before crossing the boat channel back to Captree.