May 10, 2006
As I noted last week, anglers impatiently awaited the new opening of fluke season, as directed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. That ruling stated that summer flounder for recreational anglers would require a season from May 6 through September 12, with a bag limit of four and a length limit of 18 inches. Yes, many complained but more agreed that it could have been much worse, so we simply are required to play the cards we've been dealt regarding these regs.
Actually, opening day seems to have had a lot of memorable moments. Posted reports from such reputable websites as Noreast.com revealed there was a lot of bluefish action around Shelter Island, although a good percentage of them were shorts.
As for keeper fluke, several anglers fishing off the Greenlawns took fluke to seven pounds in several of their secret locations. One angling foursome, fishing from a private boat on Saturday, managed to tally up 10 fluke to a bit over six pounds with a lot of curious bluefish in the water.
Off Orient, the Prime Time III, captained by Mike Boccio, noted in his Noreast log that "opening day was very good with a solid number of quality fish caught, most in the 18-23 inch range, but we returned at least a quarter of that amount. Those that we took home included several in the five to six-pound class and a pair of seven pounders, with the pool fish weighing in at just over seven and one half pounds."
Reports from Peconic Bay noted that numerous fishermen and women were grabbing some decent fluke, thanks in part to the wonderful weekend weather. It didn't seem to make any great difference in results if you were using spearing, sand eels or squid in combination.
Just about anything offered in the correct location at the best timing of the tide seemed to result in a good catch. This brings good tidings for the rest of the season.
Noreast.com also logged in a report from the Shinnecock Star, again on opening day this past Saturday, mentioning that "the morning trip was a blitz, we put 17 in the box. But the p.m. trip wasn't as blitzy, yet the fish were larger. Biggest that day to come over the rails weighed in at nine pounds, four ounces." It looks like fishing just outside the Shinnecock Canal proved beneficial for all of the anglers onboard.
Sunday's weather was just about as terrific as the previous day, holding an ocean that shimmered like glass in the morning and allowed a lot of boats entry into some spots which would have proven impossible to reach under windy conditions. It does not often happen, at this time of year, that two days in a row turn out to be so perfect! Even those who went for fluke off Montauk's southern shore pulled up a very productive number of flatfish that ended up on the dinner table.
Since summer flounder is my second-favorite catch (after striped bass, which I prefer to call the Escalade of fish), it is good to be familiar with their haunts and food sources. Fluke have rather large mouths, spiked with some fearsome-looking teeth. They are bottom feeders that patiently wait for prey to swim by above them and have the ability to use protective coloration as a disguise and can alter their hues when necessary.
If you could go underwater and actually watch a fluke approach its prey, you would observe a fish that can straighten out its tail in order to swirl the sand into a cloud. They prefer actual bait as opposed to bucktails and lures and your best bet at landing them quickly is with squid and spearing in combination. Just keep it fresh because fluke are not known to bite on bait that has been in the water too long.
Fluke are specialized by their ability to secure both eyes on one side of its head. This flatfish is referred to as left-handed since its eyes rest on the upper surface when the fish is facing left. These incredible masters of disguise can turn a myriad of shades from grays to blues to greens and even to black.
The fluke we now pursue have begun to move into inshore areas as the weather continues to get warmer. They prefer the protection offered by wharfs and pilings and won't begin to migrate away from our shorelines until the autumn season is in full swing. That makes the next few months just about perfect for anglers to catch them.
Be aware that summer flounder really do feed more actively during daylight hours, eating a wide variety of fish including menhaden, hake, bluefish, and small weakfish in the wild. In terms of invertebrates, they like crabs, squid, sand shrimp, and other mollusks. Known as strong, aggressive predators as adults, fluke will often follow the same type of technique as bluefish when they chase down small schools of bait fish and pursue them hungrily.