Tom Migdalski (above); Chris Woodward (below)
Montauk is the stuff of legends: the striper rocks in the shadow of the lighthouse at Montauk Point; the fluke grounds that stretch from the inlet to Block Island and beyond; the deep waters over the horizon where some of the biggest, meanest sharks ever landed haunted the depths.
The legends are well founded but only hint at the abundance available to the visiting angler.
Through the Seasons
"Montauk is a four-season fishing paradise," says expert local angler Scott Shane. January, February and March are great months for cod fishing, he says. Expect fish up to 30 pounds east of the lighthouse, up to 30 miles out.
In March and April the first stripers show. The big fluke start running in May, doormats to more than 20 pounds. "The beautiful thing about fluke fishing is you can catch them from the inlet in kayaks, on east for 120 miles," says Shane.
Shark fishing heats up in the summer, a specialty in and of itself, with blues, makos and threshers heading the hit parade. Porgies join the inshore mix in July and August, and the same months see the action kick up in the canyons - Hudson, Block and Atlantis - on the edge of the continental shelf to the south.
Tuna season runs from June through September. Small bluefins, 60- to 70-pounders, show up in June, followed by giants to 1,000 pounds and up and bigeyes, which run to 250 pounds. Standard canyonchumming strategy is the way to get them, with butterfish the bait of choice.
Striper fishing holds up through November, and then tautog fishing kicks in to finish off the year.
Most visiting anglers start with the prime months of summer and the mainstay species: stripers, fluke and sharks.
Capt. Mike Albronda (www.charterboatmontauk.com) covers it all, but the bulk of his fishing is for striped bass, and he says August produces the biggest fish.
"Last year we had three fish in the 48- to 49-pound range," he says. "We troll with big tubes 2 to 3½ feet long. They're eel imitations, and we troll them at 2 to 3 knots." Albronda commonly trolls with wire line. "We have lots of current and need to get the lure down, and the wire line does that," he says.
Early in the season when sand eels, sheering and bunker are the striper fare, trolled parachute lures and diamond jigs are both effective on fish from 15 to 30 pounds.
For real trophies, Albronda heads for the shark grounds.
"The giant shark fishing is better here than almost any place in the world," he says. His website shows him sitting atop a 2,397-pound great white. Threshers and makos, which run up to more than 400 pounds, are also popular with his customers. Albronda chums heavily and fishes any live baits he can get, with a preference for bluefish.
For most inshore work, 20-pound-test on a 6-foot boat rod will carry the day. For big bass you may want to heavy up, say 30- to 50-pound gear. The standard fluke rig is 20-pound braid or 30-pound mono on a rod stout enough to handle up to 12 ounces of lead, but sensitive enough to feel the bait on the bottom in 40 to 60 feet of water. Peanut bunker, strips and killifish are all effective baits, fished on a 5/0 to 7/0 hook. Pre-tied fluke rigs are readily available.
Specialized pursuits, such as canyon fishing, demand the appropriate tackle: offshore gear in the 30, 50 and 80-pound class and enough boat to make the long trips to the continental shelf.
Getting to Montauk is simple. Head east out Long Island on Highway 27 until the road runs out. At Lake Montauk, just beyond the town, dockage is abundant and so are well-equipped tackle shops, chandleries and other services. Tides in the region are moderate; fog can be an issue when conditions are right. NOAA Chart 13205 will get you started learning your way around.
Dockage and Services:
Gone Fishing Marina; www.gonefishingmarina.com; 631-668-3232
Montauk Fish Dock: 631-668-2201
Offshore Sports Marina: 631-668-2406
Star Island Yacht Club & Marina: www.starislandyc.com; 631-668-5052
West Lake Marina: www.westlake-marina.com; 631-668-5600
Montauk Boatmen's and Captain's Association: www.montaukcaptains.org
Visit www.dec.ny.gov for licenses and regulations.