Long Island Sound Summer
By Rich Johnson
fluke articles come along, fishermen automatically think of Long Islands South Shore
bays & estuaries where fluke pave the bottom and anglers sort through dozens of shorts
to pick a limit. While North Fork doormats rate plenty of press in the spring, to the west
the rest of the North Shore is overlooked and underutilized when it comes to summer
flatties, known by their proper name as fluke. Sure youll hear reports of fluke from
May into June, but the attention then turns to striped bass and bluefish as the Huntington
Triangle and back bays are full of both predators, as is the Connecticut side of the Sound
as well. Whether its due to a lack of anglers targeting fluke or anglers perception
there arent the numbers of fluke as on the South Shore, the areas of Long Island
Sound from City Island to Port Jefferson has been on fire for those targeting these tasty
flat fish. So far this season there have been numerous fluke over 10 pounds caught and 3
to 5 pounds seems to be the average!
trailered my new 19-foot center console, The Fishing Line, up to Huntington
to film an episode of my television show. Joining me as guest on the show was Capt. Jimmy
Schneider of the Capt. James Joseph party boat sailing for fluke from Huntington daily at
7 a.m. I arrived at 5 a.m. and after putting the boat in the water we were on our way.
When we cleared the inlet to Huntington Harbor, we turned eastward and headed to the mouth
of the Nissiqogue River.
FOLLOW THE BIRDS. Who follows birds for fluke? In
my conversation with Capt. James Schneider, he explained the logic behind this trick of
the trade. When fluking shallow water of Long Island Sound, either on the CT side or Long
Island, you find fluke chasing baitfish right up to the surface and birds respond as they
would to a school of hungry blues doing the same. Our
first drop occurred just off the Lilco Power plant at Crab Meadow beach. We worked a flat
area with a drop-off, in which water depth starts at 5-foot and drops off the shelf to 11 & 15-foot. In this
instance, we work the drop-off, while terns screech and dive bomb sand eels pushed to the
surface by fluke on the bar. As we drift out over this ledge, fluke wait in ambush on the
down side of the slope.
instance where we looked for birds, was the west side of the mouth of the Nissiquoge
River. Fishing on the flood tide, we drifted in water 4 to 5-foot deep, to a depth of 6 to
8-foot and back again. Again, fluke were pushing sand eels to the surface on this shallow
bar and the opportunistic water birds took full advantage of this. There were times on
this drift when I could lift my rod and the bait came to the surface the water was so
shallow. Many of the big fish on this trip came from this area on shallow edges.
TACKLE. The key to fishing this area is working
very shallow water at the mouth of the river. We were fishing in water from 4 to 10-foot
in depth with bucktails and very light tackle. We
were using Fenwick seven-foot, medium action baitcasting rods with Ambassadeur 5600UC
baitcasting reels spooled with 10-pound test Berkley Fireline. The same tackle a
freshwater bass angler would use. If you prefer spinning tackle, that works also and a
Fenwick Eagle GLC six-foot spinning rod would also handle your bucktailing duties. This
rod (blank model ES 60 MH) handles weights of three-eighths to one-ounce, but is capable
of heavier workloads. A perfect compliment to this stick is the small Ambassadeur spinning
reel with eight to 10-pound test lines. The above outfits performed beautifully in these
shallow water applications.
BAITS. As for our bait of choice, I
turned Capt. Jim onto the Fluke Bullet, manufactured by West End tackle
right here on Long Island. Bucktailing is a deadly technique for fluke in shallow water
and while the typical bucktail heads will work, the new Fluke Bullet has been phenomenal
in catching quality fluke this season. The Fluke Bullet is actually a chromed, cannonball
style head bucktail. Our bucktails were one-half to one-ounce in weight and worked with a
short, hopping motion on a good drift. If you do not have a good drift, you have make one
yourself and cast around the slow moving boat, slowly crawling the fluke bullet across the
bottom back to the boat. We tipped our bucktails with spearing, but squid strips or fluke
bellies would also work very well.
Shore anglers may opt for longer squid strips on their bucktails, I believe the strip
should not exceed the length of the bucktail hair. The bucktail is supposed to look like
the main bait as an entity, not a bait with a strip hanging off the back. On the North
Shore I like to keep the strip very short and use it as a taste test for fluke. Once a fluke
tastes the hair of a bucktail, they spit it out. With squid on, they follow through on the
commitment to take the bait. South Shore anglers tend to let fluke chew their way up these
long squid strips, decreasing the amount of hook-ups. When you feel the first bump on your
bucktail, set the hook immediately. There should be no hesitation on the anglers
part when setting the hook while bucktailing.
the day with limits of fluke from 2 to 4 pounds and while there were doormats caught on
the trip, the week before and week after double-digit fluke were caught in this same area.
Get out and try some shallow water bucktailing in Long Island Sound this summer. For you
anglers on the South Shore, you can follow the same techniques and catch fluke where you
fish as well. See you on the water.