Introduction to Fluke Fishingby Capt. Terry Rand
Fluke. The summer flounder. The toothy cousin of the northeast’s smaller winter flounder. A flatfish with a real attitude. They lie flat against the ocean floor, camouflaging themselves in the sand and they ambush their prey with lightning fast reflexes. Few fish on the east coast are as sought after for their delicate white fillets and their fighting ability as the summer flounder.
Fluke begin their migration out of their deep water winter homes and begin to invade the shorelines of the northeast in May. As the waters warm, the fish continue to follow squid, sand eels and the other baitfish they feed on into the shallow waters along beaches, bays and into the mouths of tidal rivers. Usually, in the middle of the summer, the shallow waters begin to warm excessively and the fluke follow the baitfish a short distance back into deeper, cooler waters in the 30 ft. – 120 ft. zone. As the water temperature begins to cool again and the days begin to shorten in the late fall the fish begin their migration back into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the winter months.
Depending on where and when you are fishing, there are various approaches, techniques and tackle for capturing fluke on rod and reel. Where I fish, in Long Island Sound, our season starts in the middle of June and we usually begin fishing for fluke by drifting the boat in less than 20 feet of water, up close to the beaches. Our tackle in these conditions usually consists of both spinning and conventional rods and reels and jigs in the 1-4 oz. range tipped with strips of squid. Generally, the jigs are deployed straight down over the side of the boat. The idea is to use a heavy enough jig to keep your line vertical and in direct contact with the bottom where the fluke live. Without enough weight your jig will begin to scope back behind the boat and you will lose contact with the bottom.
As the boat drifts with the tide the jigs are worked by raising and lowering the jig about a foot or two off the bottom. Lift the rod tip no more than two feet and then slowly lower the jig until it makes contact with the bottom again. Another variation on this approach is referred to as “snap” jigging where the jig is aggressively snapped off the bottom and allowed to fall on a nearly slack line. This method can be deadly in creating a reaction strike from otherwise lethargic fish.
Once a fish is hooked and landed it is prudent to note your exact location by either visual triangulation or by marking a waypoint on your GPS unit. A location that produced a fish or two is worth a second drift or possibly more. Reposition the boat so you can make the exact same drift again. A GPS unit becomes an invaluable tool in the world of fluke fishing for just this very reason.
As the summer wears on and the shallow waters warm, the fish begin moving into the cooler, deeper waters of the 40-120 foot zones. That is when we begin to target fish in deep water using spinner rigs. Spinner rigs are one of the most common pre-packaged fluke rigs on the market today. Stop by your local tackle shop and take a look at the multitude of variations on the fluke spinner rig. Buy them pre-packaged for starters and then as you decide on styles that you enjoy using or find most productive, you can begin building your own rigs based on the designs you like.
A spinner rig is essentially a three way rig. One eye of the swivel is connected to your mainline. The second eye of the swivel is for connecting your sinker to. The last swivel eye holds a leader of 3 – 4 feet that terminates at the hook. Just above the hook is a series of colored beads and a spinner blade. Your favorite fluke bait is added to the hook and lowered to the bottom with a large enough sinker to keep you in contact with the bottom and keep your line vertical. As the boat drifts with the current, the spinner blade rotates ahead of the baited hook, creating a visual and vibratory fish attractor.
With a combination of shallow water jigging techniques as well as the deep water spinner rig approach, any angler will be properly armed with proven fish catchers. Tip your jigs and spinner rigs with squid strips, spearing or any other local bait species that fluke eat and your are on your way to catching some of the tastiest fish in the ocean.