May 31, 2006

Some Tips For Catching Spring Fluke

As luck would have it, late May into early June is almost perfect for catching fluke. While the summer months often prove to be productive for fluking, some of the biggest doormats have been hooked in the springtime.

Remember that a keeper fluke must be at least 18 inches in length and there is a four-fish bag limit. Also be aware that a fluke is an aggressive predator and a bottom feeder, eager to chase down bait as swiftly as bluefish, which is why both fish are attracted to the same baits and lures.

From past experience, nothing works better than finding and using the freshest bait you can buy or collect on your own. Ken at White's Bait and Tackle in Greenport suggests using long, thin squid strips to keep the bait from turning around. Squid and spearing in combination are always an unbeatable team. He is one of the premier fishermen on the North Fork, so when he gives advice, your likelihood for success increases tenfold.

A recent example of a double-digit prize fluke was the 12.25-pounder that I wrote about last week. Weighed in at WeGo Fishing Bait and Tackle in Southold, it was caught by 11 year-old Thomas Johnson of Eastport. The youngster hooked the monster after it ferociously hit the fresh squid strips and jumbo spearing that are two of WeGo's specialties.

There are numerous local experts from the world of angling with sage advice about how to go home with great fluke. Rich Johnson of "The Fishing Line" television show recently interviewed Capt. James Schneider of the Capt. James Joseph party boat which sails daily for fluke. Schneider explained that it is of the utmost importance to keep your eyes on the birds. "In shallow water, you find fluke chasing baitfish right up to the surface and the birds respond in the same way that they would to a school of hungry bluefish doing the same," he said.

In his article "Long Island Sound Summer Flatties," from the Fishing Line website, Rich Johnson suggests something called the fluke bullet as a type of successful bucktail manufactured by West End Tackle of Long Island. To quote Johnson, "if you do not have a good drift, you have to make one for yourself and cast around the slow-moving boat, slowly crawling the fluke bullet across the bottom and back to the boat." Of course, it's always a good idea to tip the bucktail with something like spearing or squid strips.

Some anglers say terminal weights from four to 12 ounces are needed. However, Capt. Pete Jakits, when fishing Montauk's south side at this time of year, suggests that going lighter sometimes works to your advantage. According to Jakits, "if the drift is fast, a slight drop back may be necessary to give the fish time to find the hook. A solid lift is all that is required to set that hook."

He mentions the importance of reeling toward the fish with a solid bend in the rod and reminds anglers that some really big fish often escape due to drags that are too tight. It is at this specific moment that patience on the part of the fisherman or woman comes into the limelight and works to bring success to the angler.

It is imperative to understand that the fluke we are dealing with now are ravenously hungry after their long journey from the Continental Shelf. They tend to feed quite aggressively and, if you use the freshest bait you can find, your hard work should be rewarded. Well, that's if you have taken into consideration such variables as tide, water depth, wind direction, currents, moon cycle, rod, reel, tackle and everything else that matters to any experienced angler. A few prayers help too!

One thing I have learned is that one must invest in a really good net in order to be ready for the doormat fluke. It's not difficult to lead a biggie into your net, but you can certainly lose one if you try to scoop from beneath the tail. (That's a story in itself about how I learned by unfortunate experience and went home without the big fish!)

With a few good tips from the experts and some decent luck, you are well on your way to putting that doormat fluke on your dining room table.

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