Charles has long experience fishing, hiking, exploring, and camping in the Northeast.
Typical Summer Fluke
Location, Location, Location
Fluke, sometimes also called summer flounder, are a unique fish found along the East Coast and Southern New Jersey's ocean and back bays. The fishing techniques we will be discussing will concentrate on these areas and have worked for years in targeting these tricky and tasty fish.
What are Fluke?
Fluke are a flatfish that has both of its eyes located on the top of its body. This evolutionary adaptation is well suited for its ambush style of hunting. Fluke lie in wait, flat on the bottom of the ocean or back bays, waiting patiently for their prey to swim over them. Then, in a burst of speed, the fluke strikes out and drags its meal to the bottom to eat. Hopefully, after reading this article, that meal will be your bait or lure attached to your fishing line! When targeting these fish in the back bays, location is very important.
Summer Founder season in New Jersey begins in May and ends in September. You can keep 8 fish 18" min. Check with the NJDEP for their updated regulations as fluke are highly regulated in New Jersey.
Fluke like to stay cool. Not hot, not cold, but cool. They accomplish this by hunting in shallow warmer water "sometimes called flats", early in the spring when the deeper water is cold. Fluke tend to head to deeper cooler water during the summer as the water in the back bays warms up. Remember these location and water temperature tips to put yourself where the fish are to be successful.
To get to these locations, you are going to need a boat. Fishing boats range in many lengths and styles and we would need another article to discuss all of the options. I will just use my current boat as an example of backwater fishing boats. I use a 17' Offshore center console fishing boat with an 85 HP Suzuki outboard for my backwater fluking trips. Two people on a boat this size is perfect. A boat with a shallow draft and enough room for two to three people is plenty for back bay fluke fishing. A boat somewhere in the range of 17' to 20' should be sufficient. A T-Top or Bimini Top is a must for long excursions on hot, sunny, summer days. If you plan on filling up that cooler with an all-day trip, you gotta have shade. I like to bring a cooler for drinks and lunch and I have a live well on board to hold the day's catch.
Example of a Typical Fluke Rig
Rod, Reel and Line
In this section, we will discuss the tackle, lures, and bait used when fluke fishing. To start you'll need a medium action rod, 6'-7', a spinning or casting reel that is matched to the size rod you are using, spooled with 20lb. braid of your choice. I like to use a fluorocarbon leader and rigs made from 20lb. fluorocarbon.
Lures and Rigs
The most popular fluke lures are bucktails. There are hundreds of color combinations but the most common seem to be: white "my favorite", pink, chartreuse, and yellow. 3/4 to 1 oz. should be heavy enough in the back bays and waterways. I tip the bucktail with strips of squid, mackerel, or sometimes flounder belly strips 3"-5" long. I have used minnows or frozen spearing as well. I like to try a combo of these different baits and mix it up to see what works best.
Another style of fishing for fluke is with bait. When fishing with bait, I employ a rig made from a three-way swivel, a sinker, or bucktail as my weight and a size #1 or #2 snelled fluke hook (see image). Baiting this rig is similar to the bucktail. I like using live minnow and squid or frozen spearing and squid. Both seem to work pretty well when fishing for fluke. I like to buy the whole squid, defrost it and cut it into strips myself. I have used pre-cut strips soaked in shedder oil purchased at the bait shops and have good success with this as well. When purchasing frozen spearing, try to find the largest spearing you can "big bait=big fish".
Normally I purchase my minnows the morning of the trip. Bring a minnow bucket to transport them from the tackle shop to the boat. You can use the minnow bucket to hold the minnows or try this tip: In a separate cooler with ice, place a rag soaked in seawater and wrung out on top of the ice and place the minnows on top of this. I think this keeps the minnows lively and they definitely last longer than when tossed over the side in a minnow bucket. These are the tackle, lures, and baits that I use, feel free to add suggestions to the comments section.
Let's begin by talking about the boat while drifting. Most fluke fishing is done in a boat while drifting. Drifting is accomplished by shutting off the engine or disengaging the transmission and drifting along with the current. You must take into consideration the wind, the current, and your surroundings. I like to orient my boat sideways with the wind pushing me slightly along with the current. This is not always possible and you may encounter wind against tide conditions or strong wind with the tide or just a strong tide. If I happen to encounter one of these last two conditions, I will employ what we call a drift sock.
A drift sock is used for controlled drifting acting like an underwater parachute that when deployed, slows the boat's drift rate. These can be purchased for under a hundred dollars at tackle shops or one can be improvised with five-gallon buckets. I've included a video below to better explain this technique.
Bucktail Fishing Technique
When fishing for fluke with a bucktail, I like to keep my rod tip up. I keep the slack out of the line as much as possible and jig the bait with a slight up and down motion trying to keep the lure in contact with the bottom as the boat drifts along. Sometimes I will jig aggressively, lifting the jig high off the bottom and letting it fall back down gently to generate a strike.
Bait Fishing Technique
Lastly, when fishing with either cut or live bait along with the rig that I talked about earlier, I will keep the rod tip up with no slack in the line maintaining constant contact with the bottom. I have noticed that when the strike occurs, it will feel as if you are snagged on the bottom. When this occurs I open the bail or release a few yards of line to allow the fluke to invest the bait without feeling resistance. I then close the bail. Wait until the line gets tight and then pull back and set the hook. This is called the drop back method or just dropping back. I hope this hub has been informative and good luck angling in the Southern New Jersey backwaters and along the East Coast.
Drift Sock Technique
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Charles Kikas
grizzlyff from Sugar Hill, GA on July 01, 2012:
Thanks for the informative article, I almost wish I was back in South Jersey this summer to have another go at summer flounders, also enjoyed catching the winter variety when I lived there. I only fly fish now, and have occassionaly caught flounder that way, although ususally as a bycatch.