As a kid growing up in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn NY, some of my fondest memories are of my dad taking me on the party boats to go fishing for Fluke, also called Summer Flounder. The seasoned anglers were all the boats targeting Bluefish and the scene could get quite animated, but on those boats going Fluke fishing, all was calm and peaceful and the best way to spend time with my dad.
Forty years and several thousand Tuna, Dolphin and other offshore species later I still look back at my entry into fishing and wish that others can have what I did as a kid. Fluke fishing basics are not difficult to understand and the tactics that will be explained here can be used on private boats or the party boats fishing all along the Atlantic coast. Anglers who reside in New York can head on down to any number of ports such as Sheepshead Bay and hundreds of harbors in Long Island while others in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and other coastal states can do the same. It’s really not too hard to get started creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Fluke are pretty darn easy to recognize as they look pretty much like a Flounder on Steroids with teeth sharp enough to pounce on any unsuspecting prey to pass by and can be aggressive feeders. They generally lay in wait on the bottom blending in to the mud or sand but I have also caught them much higher up in the water column. The average size of the fish caught in coastal waters is under five pounds but occasionally you could latch on to a monster of 10-15 lbs. Fluke that grow to that size are called often referred to as doormats and can give you quite a fight.
Fluke Fishing Basics
Fluke fishing is generally done by drifting with the current over sandy and muddy bottoms. Because drifting is a key component of this type of fishing knowing the tides and wind can make all the difference. Drifting too fast can make it difficult to keep the bait near the bottom and too slow will limit the area you can cover while not presenting your bait properly. A drift speed of 1-2 mph is usually perfect but learn how to adapt for all conditions. I have had luck on a dead calm day by casting artificials and bouncing them back along the bottom.
How to Catch Fluke
The basic Fluke Fishing rig is quite simple and regardless of whether you prefer to fish for these Summer Flounder with light line or 6-15 lb. test or go heavier with 20-40 lb. test (I feel 20 is just perfect for me!) the basic rig is the same. A sinker from 2-6 ounces in weight (if you feel you need heavier, you probably shouldn’t be fluke fishing that day) attached to the end of your line with a snap as you may want to change the weight with the changing current.
About 18-24 inches above the sinker connect a about a 3 foot piece of 30 lb. test leader using a swivel or some type of appropriate knot. As an old school kind of guy I use a dropper loop and mono leader but others swear by fluorocarbon due to its low visibility and that it is less stiff than mono which could, depending on the bait provide a more natural presentation.
What Hooks do I use for Summer Flounder?
The type of hooks used for Fluke fishing actually depend upon what type of fisherman you choose to be that day. Leaving the rod in a rod holder (often called dead-sticking) is a method used by those of us that are out for a leisurely day of fishing and don’t feel like working too hard for their catch. This method actually works quite well when fishing for Fluke. Circle hooks are often a great choice for this type of fishing as there is a bit of play in the line as you are pulling against sinker before the leader and fish. The fish basically hooks himself.
Using hooks of about 3/0 or 4/0 is fine. If you are a proactive fisherman and prefer to bounce your bait along the bottom with subtle up and down movements of the rod you wouldn’t want to use a circle hook. Match your hook to the type of bait you are planning to use. Many fisherman use skirted hooks with squid strips while others prefer live baitfish while others will place a few dead baitfish on a hook. When fishing for fluke using the bounce method, it is necessary to set the hook by lifting up on the rod, this does not mean trying to rip the fish’s head off, just a subtle upward twitch on a taught line should do the trick.
Fluke Fishing Tips
If you are fishing on a party boat you will probably see a lot of people jockey for prime fishing spots on the boat usually on the side of the boat that will keep their lines away from the boat during the drift. This is fine on normal days but when the drift is slow don’t be afraid to fish the side of the boat in which your line goes under the boat. Your bait will pass by the fish first! This can also work if you are using heavier tackle on faster drift days, just use a heavier sinker to keep you on the bottom.
If fishing on a private vessel or a party boat with minimum fisherman I have had a lot of success casting a bucktail with a strip of squid and bouncing it along the bottom. Fluke tend to hit these baits hard.
When I was young Fluke fishing on Long Island, NY was among my favorite things to do. It wasn’t hard and it was something I could do with my dad for relatively little cost. As I got a bit older I moved on to Bluefish and later big game. But I will never forget the joy I felt sitting on a boat in search of the Summer Flounder, usually out of Sheepshead bay or Captree when the Breezes were warm and anything was possible.