Fishing in Montauk is nothing short of fantastic. Thrown way out on the end of Long Island, surrounded by open ocean, everything here revolves around the water. The town has the largest fishing fleet in the state. It was also the stage for several world record catches. In short, Montauk is all about man versus the sea.
In this article, we cover the top fish species, methods, fishing spots, seasons, and more to make sure you get the most out of your time at “The End.” Become Brody in your very own battle with Jaws. Cast into bays boiling with fish during Montauk’s Striper blitz. Otherwise, just haul in some tasty treats with the family. Whatever you’re after, you’ll find it here in spades.
Top Fish Species in Montauk
Montauk is perfectly placed for awesome angling. Every species migrating in and out of Long Island Sound knocks on its door twice a year. Heading offshore, you get a 20-mile head start compared to the mainland. Then there are the strong currents and structure that predators love to hunt in. Add that all together and you get lots of fish. Here are a few of the local favorites.
The blue water off Montauk is home to a variety of huge, toothy terrors. Mako Sharks are the star of the show, known for their incredible acrobatics and almost human-like intelligence. You can also find giant Blues and Threshers – just ask the guy who caught the world record Blue Shark here in 2001.
Makos, Threshers, and Blues are the big three in the Montauk Shark fishing scene, but they’re not alone. You can also find Tiger and Hammerhead Sharks in the deepest reaches. You might even see a Great White. This is Jaws territory, after all. White Sharks are strictly protected, but even a glimpse of these majestic beasts is something you’ll never forget.
If you think Sharks are the only monsters patrolling these seas, think again. Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Albacore Tuna also pass by on their annual migrations. You can even find Bigeye Tuna out at the canyons, on the edge of the continental shelf. Nothing compares to the sheer power and determination of a hooked Bluefin, but all four species put up a serious fight.
There’s one more “Tuna” that people go crazy for in Montauk – False Albacore. Albies come screaming past Long Island at the end of summer. “Little Tunny” may only be a fraction of the size of “true” Tunas, but they put up enough fight to be listed with the best of them. In particular, catching Albies on the fly is an experience every angler should try.
Montauk’s Striped Bass fishing is the stuff of legends. During the annual Striper blitz, the shallows get so full of fish that there’s barely room for them to swim. You can practically walk on the water, it’s that thick with fish. If you’re struggling to imagine what that would look like, this should give you an idea.
Sound like fun? It sure is! And unlike deep sea monster hunts, it’s something that anyone can enjoy. Seasoned anglers can wrestle cows to beat their personal best. Beginners can feel the thrill of casting into the raging foam and reeling in their first Striper. And did we mention that Striped Bass are delicious? No wonder they’re one of America’s favorite fish.
Montauk is famous for its giant “doormat” Fluke, aka Summer Flounder. The world record was set here way back in 1975 at an eye-popping 22 pounds. Local anglers have been trying to beat it ever since. Even if you don’t catch a record-breaker, you’re in for some good fights and delicious fillets if you go Fluke fishing in Montauk.
But what about all the other Flounder species? We’re glad you asked. As well as the Summer Flounder, you can find Winter Flounder and Yellowtail Flounder in Montauk. These guys aren’t nearly as big or popular, but they do tag the Fluke out when the water gets cold.
If you’re just after a little fun and some tasty fish to show for it, Porgy fishing is for you. Also known as Scup, these little critters make for amazing table fare. They’re also easy for kids and beginners to catch. All told, Porgies are the perfect target on a family fishing trip.
It won’t just be Scup on the end of your line, mind you. Your average trip will also put you on Black Seabass, Tautog (Blackfish), and more, depending on when you go. You won’t go hungry after bottom fishing around Montauk.
Main Styles of Fishing in Montauk
You could write a book on the tricks and tactics for fishing in Montauk. In fact, several people have. Instead of spending the next five hours going into detail about every technique and tackle setup, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the two main ways of working these waters: charter fishing and surf fishing.
On a Boat
There’s a reason why Montauk has the biggest charter fleet in New York. Fishing on a boat really lets you get the most of your trip. In fact, it’s the only way to target species like Tuna and Sharks. You’re more mobile, allowing you to follow the fish. You can use techniques like trolling and drifting that just aren’t possible from shore. You can also carry a lot more gear.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though. The seas around Montauk are some of the most challenging in the Northeast. Think strong currents, hidden shoals, and big waves. It’s best to have an experienced local at the helm. Because of this, most people join charters or party boats. If you’re piloting the boat yourself, always fish with somebody who knows the area.
Montauk is the “Surf Fishing Capital of the World.” It’s as simple as that. The town has some of the most beautiful beaches you could ask for. Just beyond the sand, big boulder fields dot the surf, creating cover for fish and endless fun for anglers. Stripers are the star of the surf, but you’ll also find plenty of Bluefish and False Albacore if you time your trip right.
It can be tough to find space in Montauk during high season. Beaches are thick with fishermen or bustling with beach-goers. Once you find a spot, your fishing gear will take a beating from the rough seas (rod rental isn’t really an option). If you need repairs or replacements, Paulie’s Tackle should be able to sort you out – it’s a pillar of the local surf fishing scene.
Best Fishing Spots Around Montauk
We’ve covered the main pros and cons of each style of fishing. We’ve gone over what you can catch. Now you just need to know where to do it. Obviously, the best honey holes are a closely-guarded secret. The only way to find them is by spending time with local anglers. In the meantime, here are a few good spots to get you started.
Boat Fishing Spots
- The Elbow: This classic Striper fishing spot sits just off the tip of Montauk Point. The currents can be strong, but the Striped Bass and Bluefish don’t seem to mind.
- The Frisbees: Sitting a couple of miles off Ditch Plains is one of the best Fluke fishing spots in Montauk. Expect trophy-sized Flatfish as well as plenty of Black Seabass.
- Butterfish Hole: A classic Shark and Tuna spot just 20 miles south of Montauk. The fish don’t get that big here, but you can enjoy a slice of the action without the long journey.
- Fishtails: For monster Tuna, Sharks, and Marlin, head to the canyons. Also known as Block Canyon, the Fishtails are a good 70 miles away. It’s a long run, but well worth it.
Shore Fishing Spots
- Montauk Lighthouse: The rocks around the lighthouse are an amazing Striper and Albie spot. Nearby Turtle Cove is also great if you prefer to fish from the beach.
- Browns: Another rocky spot just south of the lighthouse. Park at Camp Hero and take a stroll until you see activity in the water. You’ll be locked in battle before you know it.
- Shagwong Beach: A great Northside Striper spot, especially when the outgoing tide washes fish close to the shore. You need a special permit to drive here, though.
- Ditch Plains: Sand, rocks, parking – what more could you need? Ditch Plains Beach itself can get busy, so explore east along the shore until you find some casting space.
When to Visit
Montauk is a highly seasonal fishery. Most species are only in town for a couple of months on their journey along the Atlantic coast. Because of this, you really need to plan out when you’re going to visit. You can also take part in some awesome events if you time your trip right.
Montauk Fishing Seasons
The Montauk deep sea fishing season starts in late June, when the first big Bluefin show up. By July, all four Tuna species are around, as are Montauk’s infamous Sharks. Bluefin head north in August, but come back for round two in September. This is the height of Montauk’s big game bite.
Inshore, things are pretty similar. The biggest Striper blitzes usually happen in September and October, which is also the only time you can target Scup on a charter. It’s not all fall fun, though. There’s a short spring Striper run, and Bluefish and Fluke are in town all summer long.
Montauk isn’t completely dead in winter, either. The cold months are actually the best time to target Groundfish like Cod. You can also catch the end of the Tautog season in December. However, most charter boats shut up shop or head south in the middle of winter.
Looking for more in-depth information? Check out our full fishing calendar for details on what’s hot each month and when to target all of Montauk’s top fish species.
Montauk Fishing Tournaments
For some people, the fish themselves don’t put up enough of a challenge. To others, half the fun of fishing is meeting interesting, like-minded people. If that sounds like you, you’ll be happy to hear that there are several fishing tournaments held in Montauk each year.
Big game anglers have two events to choose from. The oldest is the Montauk Marine Basin Shark Tournament. It’s been going for 50 years and focuses on catching one huge Shark per day while tagging the rest to help with conservation. The Montauk Canyon Challenge sees anglers speed out to the canyons on the hunt for Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Sharks.
Inshore, you’ve also got two main choices. Shore-based anglers reel in their best Stripers and Bluefish in the Montauk Surf Fishing Classic. Boaters can join the Montauk Mercury Grand Slam to target Fluke, Blufish, Striped Bass, and Seabass. This tournament has three divisions: recreational, professional, and party, so everyone can get involved.
You know what you want to catch. You know when, where, and how you’re going to do it. We won’t keep you off the water much longer, we promise. Before you go, there are a couple of things worth mentioning. Here are our final tips on fishing in Montauk.
We recommend that you only keep fish that you’re planning to eat. This is even more important for species that are facing extinction. Bluefin Tuna and Mako Sharks are both endangered species, while Thresher Sharks and Bigeye Tuna are vulnerable to extinction. Release these fish to make sure that your grandkids also get the chance to catch them.
Whatever you catch, it’s important to make sure it swims off healthy. There are a few simple ways to do this: Always use circle hooks, avoid using super-light tackle that exhausts the fish, and keep it in the water at all times if you can. These are easy changes that make a huge difference to a fish’s chances of surviving.
Don’t need a license to fish for saltwater species in New York. However, you may need to enroll in the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. This is completely free and you only need to do it once per year. If you’re fishing on a charter or party boat, you don’t even need to do this.
Some species, like Tuna and Sharks, require a special Highly Migratory Species Permit. Again, if you’re on a fishing charter, this will be covered by your captain. However, if you’re planning on taking your own boat out, make sure to apply in good time ahead of your trip.
Fishing in Montauk: Far From the Last Resort
Montauk has gained some pretty unfair nicknames over the years. Some call it “A small drinking town with a big fishing problem.” To others, it’s simply “The Last Resort.” However, for those in the know, Montauk is an angler’s paradise. From sandy beaches to the deepest reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, the town has some incredible angling waiting for you. You’ll love it.
Have you ever been fishing in Montauk? Where did you go, and what did you catch? Share your top fishing tips or tear ours apart. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!