Bigger Fluke


published in June addition of Jersey Shore Magazine

New Jersey will have for the first time in several years an early Summer flounder (fluke) opener. The month of May is always good for the biggest Fluke in our inshore waters

May fishing  usually sees  the problem of cold water. Fluke in southern waters begin arriving early April but getting them to take a hook can be difficult until water temperatures get over 63-65 degrees. However they can be caught and as a tagger for American Littoral Society I have caught many large Fluke beginning in early April and I will attempt to pass on some ideas I this article

First thing you have to do is slow down your approach, fluke in June and July are very aggressive but in May they are slow to take the bait and don’t react well to fast jigging

Now you are slowed down we will cover bait, my favorite is fresh strips of herring,  mackerel, bluefish ,squid  and shark belly. Forget about the theory “Big Bait Big Fish” as Fluke in May are feeding on much smaller food. I like to keep my strips no longer than 3” and in a pennant form  ½-3/4” at widest and narrowed down to a point. I also want the strip to flutter so I will remove some of the meat to assure the strip will flutter with a light jigging action. If fresh strips aren’t available frozen is a good substitute but you need to check bait often to assure it isn’t coming apart. If no strip bait available the next best option is the soft scented baits like Berkley Gulp Shrimp or shad. Minnows will work some days but in colder water minnow is my 3rd choice

Rigging, my favorite is a bucktail as light as I can get and still touch bottom once in a while. You don’t need to drag the lure through the mud as the fluke will come up and attack. My favorite rig is a 2 way swivel ,tied to the swivel is a 35-40” 40lb fluorocarbon leader with a 5/0 gold hook, just ahead of hook I add a ¾” inline float, than I tie  a piece of same leader 12-15”  to the same 2 way swivel, at end of this leader I put a bucktail with just enough weight to touch bottom

Numerous combinations can be made off this rig but this rig results in limited noise or bubbles in water while jigging. A top/bottom rig is another option but if you use a top/bottom rig I would recommend as little in the way of hardware as possible.

My bait combination on the above rig begins with the strip bait on the bucktail, and I will add a scented soft bait to bare hook. I start this way but I will change combination until I find a combination that produces the biggest fish

I will stay with this combination all year long BUT as water warms up my baits get larger,once water temperatures hits 65 my strips will be 6-8” but I still will trim down to be sure the strip flutters

Colors—sometimes color can be critical but I will start with white bucktails and depending on the bite will go with green, pink and combinations of the these colors with white

Whatever rig combination you prefer when fishing early in season I would recommend using long leaders

Where to find early season fluke —  Outgoing tides when water is 52-60 degrees is usually the most productive. Look for water moving off the many shallow flats towards deeper water. Fluke will lay on the edges waiting to the bait to come to them. Generally you won’t find the biggest fluke in the deep water you will find them later in the year ,water as shallow as 2-3ft can be very productive at times.Just keep in mind fluke will feed aggressively as water warms and water coming off shallows will be warmer. Some days the incoming will work best especially on sunny days but usually on edges of channels not in deepest .

Water temperatures are critical to success, once you find a  pocket of warmer water worked that area hard

Drifting is most productive but drift needs to be SLOW,if too fast a drift sock can help or if you can troll against the tide slowly it will produce. When trolling you may have to increase whatever weight you are using, keeping in mind you don’t need to drag the bait through the mud