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SHINNECOCK CANAL

Located in the hamlet of Hampton Bays the Shinnecock Canal joins Peconic and Shinnecock Bays.
By Tony Salerno
SHINNECOCK CANAL

As a main thoroughfare for boaters and anglers using both bays, this narrow passage is controlled by four sets of gates. Their opening and closing are influenced by the tide. As the water builds from an incoming tide in Shinnecock Bay, it forces the gates shut. At the same time the tide on the Peconic side of the canal does just the opposite and begins to ebb. Fishing at this point becomes quite simple as the current is eliminated, making fishing with light tackle enjoyable. This condition lasts for approximately six hours until the tide changes and the entire process is reversed. The Shinnecock Canal, for the most part, is a migratory path for many species of fish entering or departing both Shinnecock and Peconic Bays. Since baitfish of all sorts can often be found in the canal, many bottom dwellers and gamefish use the canal as a feeding ground. This is particularly true during the spring as flounder, fluke, weakfish, porgies, blues, stripers, and sea bass work their way north into the Peconics.

While angling opportunities in the canal are possible throughout most of the year, it is the spring that attracts anglers from far and wide to the banks of the canal. Here it is common to nail stripers, blues, weakfish and fluke inches away from your car, and it’s even possible to catch all four species on any given day. The season kicks off with a shot of weakfish from late April to mid May. Please don’t hold me to it as the weakies can arrive a bit earlier or leave a bit later. Weakfish are short-lived in the canal as they are just passing through from Shinnecock and heading for the spawning grounds surrounding Robins and Shelter Islands. Locals will fish every day in anticipation of the arrival of the main body of fish. Once the fish start funneling through, the bite can last a few days to a week. White Water Outfitters (631-594-3336) or East End Bait & Tackle (631-728-1744) in Hampton Bays are good sources for updates on the action. Fin-S-Fish, Bass Assassins and Spro Squid Tails all get the job done on 1/2-ounce leadhead jigs bounced along the bottom on spinning outfits in the 8- to 15-pound class. By the time fluke season opens up, the flatties will be waiting, eagerly accepting soft baits and bucktails tossed at them. The same soft baits that produce weakfish will certainly produce fluke. As for bucktails, 3/8 to 1/2 ounce in white, yellow, green and pink tipped with a white 3- or 4-inch Gulp! Alive Swimming Mullet work best.


Don’t go too fancy or too expensive on those jigs and bring plenty of backups as many jigs, rigs and lures have surrendered to the unforgiving bottom here. Bluefish will terrorize the canal during the spring with 1/2-ounce Kastmasters suited best. Anglers bouncing Tsunami Swim Shads just before and after the gates open may find stripers answering the call. By mid-June, the canal swings into summer mode, so make it a point to get out there early. The Shinnecock Canal offers ample free parking to the public. However, to park legally after dark you will need a Suffolk County night fishing permit.

Travel to the canal is made simple by driving east on Sunrise Highway (27A) to Exit 66, which is North Road – Shinnecock. At the end of the ramp you will come to a stop sign. Take a left on North Road and go under the overpass to Montauk Highway. Take a right onto Montauk Highway over the canal, and make the first right past the overpass onto Canoe Place Road. Then take the next right onto Holtzman Street.

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