There’s no shortage of fun, variety and fish for the table when it comes to bottom fishing on the East End during July and August.
For those making the trek to the Island’s eastern tip, Montauk summertime bottom fishing is sure to provide its share of action and fun. The Point’s structure-rich, bait filled waters are the main reason why Montauk is such a productive area for sinker bouncers. The bottom fishing is so good from June to September that oftentimes it seems every piece of hard bottom, rocky reef, or sandy ridge holds fluke, sea bass and porgies.
The only deterrent to the summertime bottom bite would be heavy groundswells or the stronger currents that occur when low pressure weather fronts produce strong east, northeast or southeast winds. Thankfully though, for much of the summer months, the dominate weather patterns are high pressure systems that produce winds from the west, northwest and southwest, and these winds (unless blowing a gale) normally produce very good bottom fishing conditions.
By late June, the Montauk fluke population will be pretty robust, and will have spread out from their southside honey holes and along the northside in places such as the North Rips, Midway Rips and Alaska Rips. Here, when drifting conditions are slower (usually off the moon), the various sandy, and hard bottom ridges often produce fast and furious fluking. That being said, most of these very aggressive fluke fall under the legal size limit of 19inches. However, each season sees many respectable fluke between 6 and 9pounds come from the north side.
The current world record IGFA fluke of 22pounds, 7ounces was caught by the late Charlie Nappi in 1975. That huge fish fell to a drifted live snapper off Montauk’s southside. Each season, the southside areas of Cartwright, Frisbees, Gurney’s and Hither Hills probably produce more fluke between 7 and 15pounds than the rest of Long Island combined. I feel the prime time to fish these areas isduring the faster moving moon tides of July and August. September also sees a shot at good action, but for whatever reason most of the big fluke in September are usually caught in the 60- to 70-foot depths towards the lighthouse.
During the harder running stages of any tide, a drifted bottom rig baited with a strip bait cut from a keeper fluke, bluefish or porgy and teamed with a spearing is a go-to option for bigger fluke. When the tide slows, that’s the time to jig bucktail and teaser rigs baited with strip baits, spearing or Berkley Gulp! baits.
Porgy action gets stupid good in Montauk right after the first full or new moon in June. If I had to pick a time when the action really ignites I’d take the first to second week of June.By then, a colossal amount of Long Island’s porgy population has just finished up spawning in the shallower areas of Peconic Bay and the North Fork. Once done, the scup move inmass to the deeper cooler water found between Montauk and Block Island. The southside of Montauk is where many of these large porgies will be located for much of the summer. These porgies thrive among the many rocky patches and reefs that lie in 20 to 40feet of water just beyond the surf line. This line of rocks runs from the Lighthouse all the way west to Amagansett. Here it is best to anchor up over a rock pile and get a chum pot over the side filled with frozen clam logs. When the fishing is good, and it usually is, it’s not long before anglers get fatigued from the frantic up and down action.
By July, awesome porgy action can also be had on the northside in areas such as Outer Shagwong, the Elbow, Great Eastern, and the Porgy Hump. Anchoring and chumming works well here also, but I normally will just come to these areas an hour or so before slack current. This is when the drift speed is on the moderate side, making it easy to bang out some big porgies. Porgy action in all of these Montauk areas stays pretty solid until mid-October, after which they begin to migrate out to deeper water.
High-low rigs baited with modest clam strips are all one needs to catch porgies. Some anglers feel adding small red or green beads to the leader just above the hooks improves the catch. I personally prefer clam baits that have been salted to toughen them up a bit, but others prefer softer untreated clams, so the choice is yours.
Last but not least is the tremendous sea bass fishing found off Montauk. It’s no secret to The Fisherman readers that sea bass fishing has become a sham for New York anglersdue to over regulation by federal fisheriesagencies. The sea bass population has exploded coast-wide and is now considered 2.4 times over rebuilt status. However, the feds fear we might over fish sea bass if recreational regulations are relaxed too much. As a result, a flourishing population of highly aggressive sea bass are free to feed at will on the region’s sea life. Sea bass basically eat anything they can fit in their mouths, and are putting a hurting on the local lobster and crab populations and also on young finfish such as fluke, porgies, blackfish and winter flounder. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love sea bass. They’re easy to catch, grow to a decent size, fight hard, and taste delicious, but it’s a shame that they are being over managed to the degree they are, and New York is suffering the brunt of these regulations.
Sea bass arrive off Montauk in May, but the season in 2018 will not open recreationally until the last week of June. By this time sea bass can be caught on all of the same areas that I mentioned previously for Montauk fluke and porgy fishing. Basically, find any rocky or hard bottom and you’ll find sea bass. This means many, many sea bass will come as bycatch when targeting fluke and porgies. I guess bycatch status is appropriate because New York anglers will only be allowed three per person until August 31 when the limit will jump to eight per person for the remainder of the summer.
During the summer months, hard bottom areas and wrecks in 60 to 80feet of water off Montauk’s north and southsides will see the most consistent action with sea bass at, or over the minimum size limit of 15inches. Sea bass fishing will stay consistent in Montauk waters until early November when they head offshore for the winter months. As mentioned earlier, sea bass are not picky eaters and can readily be caught on hi-low rigs baited with clam or squid strips. I’d suggest baiting up generously to attract bigger sea bass and try to ignore the light pecks from smaller fish and wait for the more solid tug that comes when a bigger sea bass takes your bait offering.
Montauk is truly a unique and beautiful place to fish. Each season anglers travel from all over the world to get in on the great fishing that abounds here. As Long Islanders, we are lucky to have Montauk just a short distance from our front doors.