The Ponquogue piers and ramp provide shore and trailer boat anglers with access to a wide range of fishing opportunities.
My first trip to fish the Ponquogue was about 20 years ago. I was always looking for another hot spot and started bridge fishing that year. I would head to the Wantagh, Meadowbrook, Loop and Captree regularly from Manorville. Then one day, Fred Golofaro said I should try the bridges closer to my house, namely the West Bay and Ponquogue. The West Bay was easy as it was close to the water line and few fished it. I had bass and blues there to 25 pounds. Moving farther east to Hampton Bays, the Ponquogue Piers were next. They were very productive, but at times overly crowded with bait slingers and divers, making it tough to fish effectively.
One night while fishing there, I saw a bass being hoisted out of the water from the highest point of the bridge. I thought I was seeing things. Then I realized it was a guy on the “big, new Ponquogue” that was doing the hoisting. From that point on, and for many years, my fishing at the Ponquogue was done from up top. It was a good choice, but really not a safe one. Today, when I fish the Ponquogue, it is from the safety of the newly renovated north and south fishing piers. These two piers offer ample parking on both sides and the ability to be close to the water. They are also prime areas for the entire family, especially the kids.
A Little History
The Ponquogue Pier is located at the base of the Ponquogue Bridge, located approximately one mile west of Shinnecock Inlet. 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 Bridge approaches of the old bridge in place to be used for fishing access into the prime area of Shinnecock Bay. Unfortunately, years of being battered by storms and the lack of funding effected its stability. In 1997, funding was secured to turn the old Ponquogue Bridge into two fishing piers. All was good until 2012, when Hurricane Sandy took its toll on the area. In November of 2018, a $1.9 million renovation project was completed. The project restored the piers on both sides making for great fishing and diving access for all to enjoy.
The south pier offers ample parking and a boat launch for all to use. This pier is closer to the main channel, and offers slightly deeper water for anglers and divers to explore. The currents in this area can be fast, so best times for bottom fishing is an hour before, during and an hour after the slack tide periods. Fishing with artificials can be done throughout the tide stages, but often the best action also occurs around the turns of the tide. The north side pier was shortened by about 300 feet in 2018 but it is still well suited for fishing.
For parking purposes, the north side is free, but you can only park in the designated area. If all spots are full, you cannot park. On the south side, any Town Trustee Boat Launch or Old Ponquogue Bridge Non-Resident permit, or Town Parks and recreation Full-Season Resident, Non-Resident and Senior Citizen permits allow parking. For info and fees, call 631-728-8585. For the ramp, the non-resident yearly permit is $90.
In speaking with Scott Jeffrey of East End Bait and Tackle I found out that not only is the Ponquogue Pier area a great shore bound spot, it also offers a great fishery for boaters. From anglers in kayaks to boats upwards of 30 feet, the area holds ample space and opportunity. Most times the kayaks and larger boats are looking for bass, blues and fluke, but the last several years have seen an explosion of porgies.
“From the very beginning of the fishing season, stripers are on the prowl, with fish from school size and larger showing as early as April. The real “run” however starts in late May. Following on the stripers’ tails will be blues. Bunker stack up in Shinnecock Bay and filter in and out of the inlet regularly, and the bridge is a prime area,” according to Scott.
Scott also noted that fluke action and triggerfish are super in the area. Anglers can bucktail fish from the bridge, or utilize a kayak or small boat along the flats. For stripers, clam bellying in the early season is a great way to catch a keeper. For triggerfish, work the bridge abutments on the slack water periods for best results.
Scott also said, “As the summer approaches, the rips and holes along the flats make for great action on topwater plugs for stripers and blues in the early a.m., while bouncing a small bucktail along the bottom will account for fluke. The last several years have seen a porgy bite like no tomorrow. Anglers are using pieces of clam off both the north and south sides for porgies to 22 inches! Now that is a slab of a porgy.”
Moving east of the Ponquogue Pier, a channel that runs between a small island and the shore, especially on the dropping tide, has played host to larger stripers. You can fish this from the shore, but a boat or kayak is a better method. Try using live bait like a bergall, kingfish, spot or bunker for best results. When using live bait (from a boat/kayak), stick with a 7-foot rod rated for 20 to 40 pounds, and spool up with 30- or 40-pound test braid or mono. The braid will give you the ability to use a smaller drail or slide sinker to get your bait down into the water column. From the shore, it is tough to sling a live bait far enough from this area. Try throwing large pencil poppers at dawn.
Stripers in the spring will succumb to clam bellies, with anglers anchoring up on the incoming tide and allowing their baits to head towards the bridge abutments. From the piers, the same results can be had as both piers are in line with the larger abutments, making them easily reachable.
Although blackfish can be found at the piers, the supply is not like it used to be years ago, but the hard-nosed blackfish angler can still pick some keepers in the first few weeks of the season come October. The spring fishery is basically non-existent.
The Ponquogue Pier and adjoining flats and channels can be very productive throughout the year. Whether you ply the area by boat or use the newly renovated fishing piers, be sure to include the Ponquogue Bridge on your itinerary.