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Both boaters and shore anglers converge on this productive piece of fishing real estate throughout the fishing season.
By Tom Melton
A view of the Ponquogue Bridge and the south pier, as seen from the north pier.
The Ponquogue Pier is located at the base of the Ponquogue Bridge, approximately one mile west of Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays. The pier was not always a pier. In fact, from 1930 until 1986, it was a drawbridge, and the only means of travel from the mainland to the Atlantic Ocean in the area. After the new bridge was constructed, The Southampton Town Board petitioned Suffolk County to leave both the north and south approaches of the old bridge in place to be used for fishing access on Shinnecock Bay. Unfortunately, years of being battered by storms and a lack of funding left the remaining structure unstable. In 1997, the town obtained funding, with the help of New York’s Department of Conservation NYDEC, to complete the project. The completed project provided anglers with not one, but two fishing piers in prime locations that provide excellent angling opportunities for most of the inshore gamefish that frequent our waters. The same project also provided a well designed launch ramp adjacent to the south pier, giving boat anglers easy access to Shinnecock Bay and Inlet.

The south pier offers ample parking, and the end of the pier borders the main channel and deeper water. Currents are strong here, so many of the regulars focus their efforts around the beginning and ends of current changes. The last hour or hour and a half of the incoming and the first hour or two of the outgoing current are favored by many anglers, although good bass fishing can be had at mid tide also. My largest bridge caught striper, caught during the middle of the outgoing current, weighed in at 40 pounds.

The north side pier is longer, and there is more room for anglers, but parking spaces are limited. This side is shallower and long casts are needed to reach deeper water, but decent action with fluke, school bass and bay blues can be found in the shallows surrounding the pier, as the fish corral baitfish in the skinny water. The end of the pier does jut out far enough however, so that anglers can reach the main channel, and work the faster currents and deeper water for bigger bass and blues.

Parking on the north side is free in the designated parking area and no permit is required. However, once the spaces are filled, you can not park there. A permit is required for parking on the more expansive south side, where any Town Trustee Boat Launch Permit or Town Parks and Recreation Full-Season Resident, Non-Resident or Senior Citizen permit will suffice. Non-residents can purchase a Boat Launch/Parking Permit for $35 per year from Southampton Town at 6 Newtown Road in Hampton Bays (631-728-8585).

Scott Jeffrey of East End Bait and Tackle in Hampton bays reminded that not only is the Ponquogue Pier area a great shore spot, it is also prime turf for small boat and kayak anglers seeking stripers and fluke in the sheltered waters west of the bridge.

Bass and blues are normally well established by early to mid May, with smaller fish the first to show. Boatmen rely on clams, bucktails or soft plastics for early season bass action, with live eels popular later in the month as some bigger bass settle into the area. Bunker become a prime bait when bunker schools settle into the area, according to Scott.
He added that fluke fishing can be very good at times around the bridge, with bucktails dressed with a strip of squid or Gulp very effective. You can bucktail from the piers, the bridge, or work the flats from a small boat or kayak. Work the bridge abutments during slack water periods with squid or clam baits for triggerfish.

June is prime time for tossing topwater plugs for bass and blues on early morning tides. Scott suggested working the rips and holes that mark the flats west of the bridge. Bucktails and plastics worked over those same flats will produce good catches of fluke.

Moving east of the Ponquogue Pier, a channel running between a small island and the shore has played host to larger stripers, especially on an outgoing tide. Live baits in the form of bergalls, eels, kingfish, or spot will draw the bigger stripers. When doling out clam bellies in the spring, boatmen should anchor uptide of the bridge on an incoming tide.
Blackfish are a main staple at the piers, but again, the fishing is limited to the hour or two around the slack water periods. Divers here have reported seeing ‘tog upwards of 15 pounds roaming the pier area, so you might want to consider some stout gear when plying the structure for blackfish.

The Ponquogue Pier and adjoining flats and channels can provide a variety of opportunities throughout the fishing season, so make it a point to spend some time checking out this South Fork hotspot.

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