For anglers who don't own a boat but want to be captain for a day, rental skiff fishing makes good sense.
For less than $150, you can rent a small but seaworthy vessel complete with an engine, all the required safety gear and enough gas to reach nearby fishing grounds.
"Check out this monster," says Mike Pansos, hoisting a whopping 17-inch porgy up with a smile. Pansos, a 40- something building super from Astoria, Queens, was culling through a pile of slab-siders he and two buddies caught aboard a skiff rented at Captain Marty's Fishing Station in New Suffolk. "We love it," he says. "It gets us on the water for some fun and fresh air."
Renting a boat
Because these boats sport simple engines, no special skills are needed to navigate.
"Rental skiff fishing is less expensive than owning your own boat," says Candy Caraftis, of Caraftis Fishing Station in Port Jefferson. "Divide the cost of a trip by four people, and it's really a bargain."
What's more, you'll have more flexibility out on the water. "If the fish stop biting, go clamming or hit the beach, suggests Gary Grunseich, owner of Silly Lily Fishing Station in East Moriches. "You're the skipper, so you decide."
What to bring
- Your own fishing gear and bait, plus a cooler with ice to keep your catch fresh.
- Stow lunch and drinks in an additional soft cooler. A large zip-top bag keeps cameras, cell phones and car keys dry.
- Sun block and a hat.
- Pliers for removing hooks, a knife to cut bait and a net in case you hook the big one.
- A New York State saltwater fishing license (apply online via www.dec.ny.gov or by phone, 866-933-2257).
Check local fishing reports and pick a rental station near fast action. On the water, target nearby fishing holes before wasting time and gas on getting to further-flung destinations.
Most importantly, ask the staff for tips on hot spots, baits and which fishing techniques have been working best.
Where to rent
Most skiffs accommodate three to four people, some handle up to six. Full-day rates are for eight hours, half-day rates are four hours. Prices include gas. Reservations are usually required - check before heading out. Some stations also rent larger boats.
CAPT. MARTY'S FISHING STATION
When|Where 6 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, First Street, New Suffolk
Cost $140 full-day rental 18-foot skiff ($95 half-day)
The hook Excellent fishing for porgy, fluke, weakfish and blues at South Race and Robins Island. Try Cutchogue Harbor for blue crabs.
When|Where 6 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, 99 Adelaide Ave., East Moriches
Info 631-878-0247, sillylily.com
Cost $115 full-day 16-foot dory
The hook This is fluke country, but bluefish and stripers are also plentiful. Excellent crabbing. Buoy 15 is always a hot spot.
Info 631-473-2288, caraftisfishingstation.com
Cost $130-$140 for full-day rental of 16-foot dory boat
The hook Target fluke, porgies, bluefish and striped bass in summer. Hammer blackfish each fall. Buoy 11 and Cranes Neck usually see solid catches.
Info 516-431-4193, tedsfishingstation.com
Cost $80 full-day rental of 16-foot skiff ($55 half-day). On weekends, half-day rentals available only in the afternoons.
The hook Enjoy Reynolds Channel fluke right outside the marina.
When|Where 7 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends only, 301 E. 9th Rd., Far Rockaway
Cost $90 full-day rental of 16-foot skiff (only three people in each boat); plus $30 deposit.
The hook Catch fluke, bluefish and blue crabs near the railroad bridge five minutes from the dock.
Info 516-432-4665, scottysfishingstation.com
Cost $80 full-day 17-foot Carolina Skiffs ($55 half day)
The hook Target fluke in Reynolds Channel just seconds from the dock.
SHINNECOCK BAY FISHING STATION
When|Where 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 22 Shinnecock Rd., Hampton Bays
Info 631-728-6116, shinnecockbayfishingstation.com
Cost $140 full-day rental of 15-foot dory ($75 half day)
The hook Tackle fluke, bluefish and stripers in gentle bay waters. Try Tiana Bay for summer flatties, Ponquogue Bridge for striped bass.
When|Where 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 444 W. Lake Dr., Montauk
Info 631-668-3799, uihleinsmarina.com
Cost $160 full-day rental of 16-foot skiff
The hook Fish the calm waters of Montauk Lake for fluke.
Fishing tips from rental station experts
"Stay in the bay and fish where it's safe. Shinnecock is a productive bay. There's plenty of fish close to port."
"Always remember that there are no 'stupid' questions when it comes to fishing. Ask us about what you want to catch, how to catch it, and where to go. We'll give you up-to-the-minute advice and that can make a big difference."
- Christina Loria, Captain Marty's Fishing Station, New Suffolk
"Work the edges of the sandbars and channels for fluke. Always try to fish where the tide and wind are moving in the same direction to ensure a decent drift."
- Gary Grunseich, Silly Lily Fishing Station, East Moriches
"Don't move around too much. The people who burn the most gas usually catch the fewest fish. We'll point you in the right direction. Wait 'em out, and you'll do just fine."
- Candy Caraftis, Caraftis Fishing Station, Port Jefferson
"Keep it simple. A squid and spearing combo is the best bait in our area. It catches fluke, bluefish, stripers, sea bass and porgies."
- Robbie Sternkopf, Scotty's Fishing Station, Point Lookout
"Live killies are always a good bait for fluke. Fish near the bridges, and you can catch both fluke and stripers.
- Ted Wondsel, Ted's Fishing Station, Point Lookout