One of the more easily recognizable fish in the Northeast waters of the United States, is the fluke or summer flounder. The fluke is a flat fish that lays at the bottom of the water. With the ability to camouflage in the mud and/or sand, this bottom-fish predator is able to feast on the unsuspecting prey that swims by. They have two eyes on one side of their body and as they age, the eyes slowly spread apart. With both eyes facing up, the fluke is able to attack its prey from the bottom of the ocean floor.
A fluke has noticeably sharp teeth which allows them to easily penetrate the bait fish that they eat. As fluke grow larger, they are often referred to as “doormats” since they are a large flat fish that almost replicate the mat that sits at the entrance of your home. Given the fluke’s relatively healthy diet, their meat is much to be desired for eating Add in the fact that these fish are abundant in our local waters, the fluke is considered by many to be “the best fish to catch”. By learning a few tips and tricks, almost anyone new to fishing can succeed with catching these delicious fish.
Summary of Best Fluke Fishing Tips
- There is an abundance of fluke = great for fishing
- Fluke fillets are delicious and healthy = perfect for eating
- Fluke fishing requires patience
- Larger fluke are located in deeper waters (ocean)
- Best Fishing Reels for Fluke
- Best frozen bait: squid and minnows
- Best live bait: killifish and bunker
- Best artificial bait: Gulp! Saltwater
- Best setup: Three-way Swivel
2020 – New York State Fishing Regulation for Fluke and Summer Flounder Fishing
- Season: May 4th – September 30th
- Minimum size: 19 inches
- Limit: 4 per person
Where do you fish for Fluke?
Fluke live at the bottom of both the ocean and the bay. The general rule when picking a location is to avoid areas where the bottom is covered with seaweed. These fish thrive in the mud and sand due their physical appearance and ability to hunt. In terms of water depth, Fluke can be caught in water as shallow as 10 feet or as deep as 300 feet. For the bay, I tend to fish between 25-30 feet of water for the best results. In the ocean, where the doormats live, I find myself in around 90-100 feet of water for the best results. However, you do not need to be aboard a boat in order to fish for fluke. A nearby dock, bridge or even beach can all be successful locations to bring in this fish.
Another great feature when fishing for Fluke is that the boat does not need to be anchored. Once you reach your starting point, you can let the boat drift and move with the current. Since fluke live on the bottom, it only makes sense to use a sinker or weight on your fishing line. Generally for the bay, a 5 or 6 ounce sinker should be sufficient The ocean usually requires a higher weight but that can vary. It depends primarily on the water’s current and depth. You will know that your line is touching bottom because you should feel the sinker bouncing off the bottom as the boat drifts. Sometimes the conditions for drifting aren’t always ideal. For a slow drift situation, always try to fish on the side where the bait tends to go under the boat. The reason for this is that the fluke will be able to stay with the drift and have an easier time eating the bait. For a fast drift situation, always try to fish on the side where the bait goes away from the boat. In both situations, you want to drop your line on the side of the boat that allows the fluke to engage with the bait the fastest.
How to catch a Fluke or Summer Flounder
When you finally feel that tug of your line, don’t pull or reel right away. Fluke tend to bite both the bait and lures between the tail and head, and continue to hold it for roughly 3-4 seconds before they try to swallow it. The best way I can describe this feeling on a live line is to think of a small tug followed by a heavier pull. Hold the line steady for another 7-8 seconds to allow the fluke to hook itself. The common error is that many new fishermen tend to pull the rod too early and too violently. This can not only remove the fish from your hook but also scare them away from your location. Next, you want to bring the fish up. In order to maximize your chances, keep your rod pointed up so that the fish remains hooked. Don’t let the weight of the fish cause you to break your form because that is how the fish can jump off the hook. The tight tension of the line in the fluke’s mouth will help hook the fish almost all the time.
Usually I always make sure I have frozen squid when I’m fishing for fluke. The long, white strip is very attractive to fluke. In addition to the squid, I add a single bait fish to the hook. I will have either a killifish, mullet, bunker, or shiner. Sometimes I have live bunker or live killifish, which almost always produces better results than frozen bait fish. I put these pieces on a traditional fluke hook which is shaped like a wide circle that helps better set the hook in the fluke’s mouth. Lastly, you will need a sinker. The eye-drop sinker is best for fishing off a boat while the triangle sinker is best for fishing off the beach. Putting it all together, the most common and simplest rig is a three-way swivel with an eye-drop sinker on one leg and the fluke hook tied to the other leg. By having the sinker on a separate line than the hook, the fish will not feel the direct weight of the sinker when they pull the line. Be sure to clean off the hook when your done fishing to best preserve the hook. The sharper the hook, the better.
If you don’t have live bait, the best alternative is Berkley’s Gulp! You can buy saltwater Gulp that smells, tastes and feels like real bait. In my experience fluke fishing, I have seen just as strong results using Gulp vs. frozen bait. For the best results, lightly jig the Gulp when your sinker is sitting on the bottom. Don’t forgot to dip your Gulp back into the container or bag in order to “recharge” the bait.
As you gain experience fishing for fluke, you will be able to adjust to more difficult conditions by slightly tweaking your gear. For example, on days when their is little to no wind, it will be difficult to have a steady drift. In this situation, it is best to use a bucktail jig. Jigging for fluke can be a very successful alternate method to live or frozen bait.