It’s been a tough spring for anglers along the Mid-Atlantic Coast with air and water temperatures running well behind what is usually expected by now. To top it off there has been an inordinate amount of rain with associated run off impacting fishing in bays and tidal rivers all Spring. These conditions can significantly affect fishing for summer flounder (fluke), one of the most sought after species in the region. Here are some things to consider when you head out on your next fluke foray.
Not only are the beach temperatures colder than normal, but from everything I have been able to dig up in the way of information, including from some SCUBA diver friends, the bottom temperature farther offshore on artificial reefs and structure in 50 to 70 feet is still in the low 40s. The last few years we would have been taking nice catches from these deeper spots, but water that cold inhibits feeding and tends to send the fish out in search of warmer areas. To beat the cold water, you have a couple of options. You can fish inside waters –– bays, tidal rivers and near inlets –– or you can work shallower areas near the beach in less than 40 feet. Both strategies have been paying off.
When the fluke are stacked up along the beach looking for summer there will be a mix of keepers and lots of shorts. The best way I know to lure bigger fish into biting is to break out the light spinning tackle and bucktails sweetened with strips of squid, fluke belly or other natural baits and don’t forget to bring the GULP. The 4-inch GULP swimming mullet on the bucktail, with or without a strip-bait, is deadly. Work your bucktails close to the bottom, but keep them really active. Big fluke are aggressive predators and will even rise off the bottom to follow and attack something that catches their attention. Use the lightest bucktails you can get away with and still stay on the bottom. And don’t be afraid to tip them with long strips: Big fluke definitely like big prey.
If you know areas of prominent structure near the beach get close and work the transition area from rock to sand. Bigger fluke will lay in wait on the bottom in the transition area very close to the structure. If you are lucky enough to have a sonar system with a sidescan option like those made by Lowrance or Humminbird this is an ideal situation to benefit from the unit. Use it to position the boat within casting distance of the structure, cast bucktails into the transition area and work them back to the boat with a nice, frisky bounce. It works wonders for me when I use my Lowrance HDS with StructureScan to put me in the best position to fish these areas.
Every year the best place to catch early season fluke is inside shallow bays and tidal rivers and with the lagging water temperatures this year bay fishing is still a very good bet for better fishing. I played weigh master at the inaugural RFA Bass River Fluke Tournament, a low key family affair held out of Viking Yachting Center in New Gretna, over the weekend. The prior couple days saw Tropical Storm Andrea push through with drenching rains and gusty winds so the bays were pretty stirred up, but there were still some excellent catches of nice fluke up to 6 1/2 pounds by the more knowledgeable anglers (including a few limits of good fish all taken on the inside). The key was light tackle and bucktails worked on flats and along channel edges. Once the water clears up the fluke fishing inside should only improve. As the ocean temps warm the more traditional offshore spots and artificial reefs should start to produce, too, so keep track of the conditions.
Get out there and catch some summer flounder and don’t forget to bring the kids. Fluke are fun for the whole family.