Many head to Montauk for the salt but did you know about the fresh?
Fort Pond in Montauk may not exactly be hidden, but as far as freshwater fishing goes, it’s a hidden gem in my books. Located right in the heart of town, the pond offers 180 plus acres of fishing, over 3 miles of shoreline, and has depths to 25 feet. Add all this together and you have the perfect home for smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye that have grown to almost state record size, and an ample supply of panfish and huge carp. When they started stocking the walleye in 1997 it was to reduce the white perch population, but from what I can see, there is still quite an abundance of the little critters.
I had the pleasure of joining Chris Albronda for a morning this past August. Chris is a second-generation Montauk sport fisherman with 25 years of experience in salt and freshwater fishing. He fishes Fort Pond almost daily, but his real specialty is nighttime excursions for jumbo walleye. A few February’s back, Chris caught and released a walleye of 32 inches. A size to length chart indicates this fish would weigh about 13 pounds, only 5 pounds off the NY State Record. Another walleye sharpie in the area is Capt. John Paduano, who most of us know as the snap jigging expert on Long Island. What few don’t know however is that John is an excellent freshwater angler, and scores big time on walleye in Fort Pond.
Smallmouth And Largemouth
There are only two lakes on Long Island that have smallmouth bass in them – Lake Ronkonkoma and Fort Pond. In my opinion, the smallmouth fishery in Fort far exceeds the big pond up island. And I believe this is due to the white and yellow perch population in Fort. Smallies ravage the perch, making them much larger.
For smallmouths, the easiest way to score is to use your electronics and find balls of white perch. If you are fishing from shore, use small Ned rigs or jigs and try to catch a few. Once you find the white perch, light-colored swimbaits like the Keitech 2.8 or Strike King 1.5 crankbaits in Sexy Shad should be thrown right back towards where you had or found the perch.
For largemouths, they are less abundant in the lake but are also much bigger. They too like the perch, but also feed on small birds, turtles, bluegills, etc. Your best bet for largemouths will be west of the train trestle in amongst the cattails to along the north side of the lake, east of the train trestle down to about the mid-way point. Try and stay in the 8-foot depths or less for largemouths.
At the cattail area topwater frogs, Zara Spooks, or jigs are best. I have found the opposite side, north and east, where there is overgrown cover, is perfect for flipping jigs deep against the bank.
For both bass, Ned Rigs and Senko-style worms are also something you need to use and make great search baits. These baits will also help you find the perch. The last option, which can really only be used while in a boat is drop-shooting. The deepest portion of the lake is about 25 feet. The key however is how steep the decline is. For example, on the east side of the 25-foot depth, it goes from 8 feet to 21 feet in a mere 50 feet. Drop shot this area and walk your bait down, or up the ledge and I guarantee you will get smacked by a smallmouth.
Here is where Chris and John’s knowledge will help solve the puzzle of where to find and catch them. Chris guides on the lake and his main venue is after dark walleye hunting. Chris told me the best place for walleye is close to the train trestle area. This rocky terrain is a walleye magnet and the perfect ambush point.
Chris feels large baits in dark colors are the key. His favorite three are the Rapala Husky Jerk in yellow perch and 5/8 ounce, a Savage Gear 1-ounce shine glider in bluegill, and a Jackall Gantarel 1.5 ounce in spawn gill color.
These fish feast on the white perch, but even though the perch are light, the darker or more natural colors seem to get more bites for Chris. Quite the contrary for me as whenever I targeted and caught walleye in Lake Ronkonkoma, I always scored well with light-colored or even white crankbaits. Now I need to try these at the big pond!
As for John Paduano, he has a completely different, but highly successful approach. John does most of his walleye fishing from shore. According to John, “There are three things that are important to my shoreline success for walleye.” “Number one, I always use light tackle, usually 2-pound test outfits. “Walleye aren’t a particularly strong fish, so this tackle suits them well.” “Number two, light lures like a 1/16-ounce black marabou jig or 5 to 7 cm original Rapala.” “And the third is low light conditions”. John said his favorite and probably most productive time is night into dawn and dusk into dark, although they’ll also hit all night. As for locations, John, like Chris, prefers the rocky areas of the lake. John also feels any flat is good. There is a huge flat, where an island used to be years ago on the northwest end of the lake. Lastly, John feels any area where bass or perch can school up, is also a great option.
Perch And Carp
Although I do not fish for either most of the time, in talking with carp anglers I know, bread, corn, or your own favorite blend will always grab a carp or two. The best way to locate them is to walk the shoreline and look. They will be easily visible. You can also catch them on the fly rod with a bread fly…and believe me, this is a fight you will remember. For perch, worms under a float, small live freshwater shiners, or small colorful jigs will suffice.
Fort Pond is a great place to spend a day or night in search of bass, carp, walleye, or the abundance of white and yellow perch. It is easily accessible and offers an ample amount of shoreline access. Grab your favorite tackle, rod, and reel, and head east to the hidden gem in Montauk.