Surf-Cast the Edge of the World

Fishing near the Montauk Point State Park lighthouse is like nowhere else on Long Island—or the entire East Coast.

Long Island reaches an abrupt end at Montauk Point State Park, where bluffs drop to the ocean's edge and the waves rattle over loose rock-strewn beaches. For surf anglers from anywhere on the remaining 110 miles of Long Island to the west (or any state between New York and Florida for that matter), Montauk is an otherworldly coastline. The Mid-Atlantic is known for its monotony of sandy beaches, and anglers are used to guessing at which sandbars will produce a fight. Montauk Point marks a transition to the bouldery coasts of New England.

Piercing out into the Atlantic, it’s no wonder Montauk is often referred to as, “The End.” A panoramic blue horizon stretches out with nothing to the east but Portugal. And to anglers, Montauk is known as, “The Surf Casting Capital of the World.”  With Block Island Sound to the north, and the Atlantic to the east and south, the point captures the attention of migrating sport fish—most notably, striped bass and bluefish.

The predators chase balls of bait fish toward the rocky shoals and reefs at Montauk Point using rock structure to trap and ambush. When the breaking waves batter and disorientate the bait fish, the game fish feast. Or, as anglers like to call the visual display: a blitz. Fishing Montauk Point is not just another day at the beach, it’s a pilgrimage—one every surf angler should make regularly.

Montauk Point Fishing Factors

First off, fishing Montauk is often an immersive venture. Casting to the bars and structure where you’ll likely hook up with fish can require wading. The water is cold and surf casters typically wear waders accompanied by a surf belt worn around the waist to keep your waders and gear secure. Cinched up, they can help keep water from filling your waders, too, should a wave crash on you. Montauk is also one of the few places you will see rod-and-reel anglers donning a wetsuit. The large boulders sticking out of the water off Montauk Point provide great casting positions to reach spots other anglers cannot. When you first see a neoprene-clad angler swimming out to one, holding an 11-foot rod above their head, you’ll understand how immersive (and hard-core) the locals can be.

Another factor sometimes overlooked by first-time Montauk anglers is that the rocks are SLICK. Studded wading boots, or a pair of water shoes with good sticky rubber, is an absolute must to avoid a wipeout.

Recommended Hotspots

The Montauk Point Lighthouse also stands out as a beacon for anglers visiting the state park. Start off fishing near the 80-foot sandstone block tower built in 1796 (the oldest lighthouse in the state). Follow the trail just north of the lighthouse and you’ll find a cobble beach perfect for wetting a line.

Hiking a half-mile northwest along the beach will bring you to one of the most popular surf-casting spots of Montauk Point State Park, the North Bar. Green waves wrap around the point, building and crashing across this rock bar that extends out from the coast. Anglers flock here to toss disoriented bait imitations, whether it be bucktails or pencil poppers.

Camp Hero is technically a separate state park on the south side of Montauk Point, but you can easily walk here from the main parking area. The 70-foot bluffs along the Atlantic Coast at Camp Hero provide a sense of adventurous surf fishing. Once you reach the water’s edge, those inclined will find gardens of large boulders scattered just off shore for increased surf-casting range.

Best Seasons To Fish

Though you can catch fish anytime of year at Montauk, the most exciting times are early fall and early summer. Through June, the target sportfishing action for striped bass, bluefish, flounder, and porgy really starts to heat up. Fishing can remain productive through the summer, although action ramps up again in September, when the stripers and blues migrate south for winter.

Before You Go

Fishing New York coastal waters requires registration in the state’s Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. There is no fee.

Added Bonus

Montauk Point State Park and Camp Hero not only provide world-class surf fishing, they also have some stunning hiking trails. Try the Oyster Pond Trail through forest, wetlands, dunes, and bluffs along the north side of the state park. A short detour down the Seal Haul Out Trail brings you to a lookout where the marine mammals regularly lay out at low tides. On the south side of the point, you’ll find the beginnings of the 125-mile-long Paumanok Path (considered Long Island’s long-distance trail), which follows the ridge of bluffs in Camp Hero and continues 3 miles through the park before continuing west. 

Where To Eat

You’ll be hard pressed to find fresher seafood than the West Lake Fish House. Sitting along the docks of Lake Montauk, favorites include the clam chowder, fish tacos, and sushi (though the West Lake Burger is tough to beat after a full day of saltwater and sun).

Getting There

Take New York State Route 27 East to the end of the line at Montauk Point State Park. Continue past the lighthouse to the state park’s parking area. At the entrance, stay to the right and head for the lower, overflow parking area—join the caravan of fellow anglers with camper-topped trucks and RVs with license plates from up and down the East Coast.

More Info

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.