Fluke, aka Summer Flounder, is one of the most sought after saltwater gamefish during the vacation season along the northeast coast. It’s a fish that can be caught on back bay flats, in creeks, and along channels emptying into the ocean. They provide plenty of entertainment for everyone and are fantastic table fare. To consistently hook up with these tasty treats an angler should study the fish itself.
They migrate east and west, wintering on the edge of the continental shelf then head into the back bay shallow flats in the early spring, enjoying the warm flats throughout the summer. Once the seasons start to change with the approaching winter, they return to the deep waters outside of the bays and inlets. Understanding how fluke relate to structure is the key to having multiple fish days.
Knowing where they want to be; mussel beds, sandbars, and flats with the slightest drop offs will put you in areas with concentration of fish. They will set up on structure allowing current to wash prey right into their quick, awaiting jaws. Small and medium size fish will dominate structure in back bays and out in the surf. The largest fish, nicknamed “doormats”, usually prefer the deeper structure.
In the early part of the summer season fluke arrive on the flats, soaking up the warm rays of the sun, sometimes in the inches of water. As the summer rolls on, they will reside in the creeks and channels, just off the flats, till the water temperature forces them into the inlets. The later summer into the fall has them returning to the deeper water near lumps, reefs, and wrecks.
Tidal Flow and Wind
Settling in to a good drift using the tide or wind to pull you along will greatly increase the amount of water that can be covered. In current, the Hobie MirageDrive can act like a drift chute giving the user the ability to create vary drift speed or allow you to stem the tide, slowing yourself down to present the bait in just the right manner.
Proper Bait Selection
The best all time proven lure is the bucktail. It is always a lure to start with because jigs varying in weight can be changed out with one knot. Other techniques that require multiple knots and attachment points take a little longer to change weights, hook and leaders. Over the years I have found the best color jig heads have been white, pink, and chartreuse. The weights will all depend on the depth your fishing: 1/8 to 1/2 ounce weights will serve most back bay waters. 1/2 to 2 ounces will cover most inlets, depending on how strong the tide is. When targeting fish in deeper water, weights can range from 1/2 to 8 ounces, or even heavier in really deep water or strong current. Sweetening the hook with a fresh cut strip of squid, herring, blue fish, mackerel, or even sea robins work great for attracting the more reluctant bigger fish.
Rigging up a section of leader with a dropper loop, tied 18 inches above a bucktail, is one of my favorite rigs to fish. Adding a strip of bait to the bucktail and putting a smaller bait on top, like a 3 or 4 inch Gulp shrimp or swimming minnow, completes the rig. Fluke follow the bucktail, but sometimes refuse it and instead eat the lure just above the bucktail. One trick I use (especially if there no tidal movement) is to use a minnow on the top hook to give some extra action on the bucktail below. Fluke crush the minnow most of the time with explosive strikes.
A fluke rig is another proven set up and a good choice for new anglers just starting out. It consists of a hook tied to a 2 to 3 foot leader, tied to a three-way swivel that is connected the main line and to a lead weight. Also adding a dropper loop to this rig will bring the bait off the bottom to entice those violent strikes and prevent sea grass from fouling the set-up.
There are several other jigging style lures that work well. Using jig heads and shad darts tipped with rubber baits like flukes, worms, shrimps, and scented baits ex. Berkley Gulp! are effective when bait is tough to catch or you want to challenge yourself. The past few years I’ve been using paddle tail swimbaits with great success. The slow vibrations of the swimbaits, such as Power Team Lures Swinging Hammers have been producing some of my bigger fish.
Where do you start with rubber baits? Fin-S, Zoom’s, Super Flukes, Gulps Swimming Minnows, and shrimp all produce well. Rubber worms added to the bucktails will entice the bites too. If you really want that doormat using live bait such as spot, small bluefish, and peanut bunker will give you ample opportunity to catch the bragging right size fish.
One thing to remember is do not be afraid to change your presentation. Experiment with baits, as some will work better over others at times. There is so much that could be written about baits and tactics. These are just a few basic tips. Hopefully they will help you put a few more fish on the dinner table. Just getting out and enjoying the experience with friends and family makes it all worth it anyway.