Fluke facts and tips from experts
Fluke (summer flounder) fishing is starting to crank up nicely with good size fluke being caught off southern coastal shores, off Newport and in the lower Bay. Rick Bellavance of Priority Too Charters said, "We have been taking anglers striped bass fishing around Block Island and then targeting fluke. Fishing for both has been very good." In Narragansett Bay, Tautog fishing and striped bass fishing has been the focus and not fluke fishing.
Our fluke fishery is in good shape as RI has under fished its recreational quota for the past couple of years. Fish managers lowered the minimum size this year to 18 inches and have established an eight fish/angler/day bag limit with a fluke season running from May 1 to December 31.
Will follow this month with a column on where to find fluke as the fluke season is expected to heat up soon. Also visit No Fluke next week for news on an experimental recreational fluke cooperative that is testing an innovative fishing approach to improve accountability and conservation of the fluke population while increasing flexibility and stability for the Rhode Island charter boat industry.
• In May, fluke move in shore from deep Continental Shelf waters where they spend the winter. They stay inland until October and then move back to the deep water.
• Fluke return to the same areas, Bays, etc. year after year
• Fluke are a flat fish with two eyes on the same side of the fish. They are bottom fish that do not look aggressive, but they will chase bait aggressively and eat the same bait that bluefish and striped bass eat. The difference is that they feed off the bottom.
• They can be caught from a boat (usually while drifting) or from shore with little knowledge, so they are an ideal catch for beginners and children
• Fluke are chameleons, they change color to blend with the bottom.
• Largest fluke on record is 26.6 lbs. and 36" long
from the experts
Capt. John Rainone, Li'l Toot Charters, Pt. Judith. "Now that we have larger sizes of Fluke to be legal, I have switched to a larger wide gap hook 3/0 instead of the old J style hook. It is easier to release a short fish without hurting it due to the style of the hook. Like a circle hook, it is usually hooked right in the corner of the mouth. We also have started to use bigger baits, and sometimes even a stinger hook with a very large bait. When the mate fillets a bluefish, he saves a nice long strip of the belly or underside of the bluefish for baits. Whole squids work well too, or larger strip baits of squid, instead of the old 3" strip of squid. You can also save some fluke belly or striped bass belly from your fillets to use on your next trip. Just put them in some salted water and keep cold."
Capt. Robb Roach, Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown. "Wind and tide in line otherwise stem it. Bigger fish are on sharper edges… meaning a steeper drop off will hold the bigger fish. Don't forget to fish in the vicinity of wrecks. Live bait works best and snapper blues are THE BEST Fluke bait. Clean the skin off of the squid when baiting"
Capt. Rick Bellavance, Priority Too Charters, Pt. Judith, RI. "When I fluke fish with charter clients, I typically use a large style pre-rigged fluke rig which I purchase from a local bait shop. We try to use a piece of fresh bait such as the belly meat of a bluefish to act as an attractant. We use a 3-way snap swivel with a large snap to facilitate changing sinkers (which the mate does often). I believe the smallest weight that will hold bottom is best. Much of our fishing effort takes place around Block Island and just about any piece of shoreline will hold summer flounder and we always drift, usually picking the side of the island with the strongest tide or wind. When we start catching, I record the depth and I also make note of specific depths where bigger fish may be congregating…"
Additional fluke tips
• If possible, fish when the tide/current and wind are going in the same direction
• Fluke face into the current to feed, so you want to drag your bait over them, drifting with the tide and wind when in a boat or slowing pulling your bait over the bottom when on land
• When fishing slack or flood tide with no water movement try trolling perpendicular so no matter what way the fish are facing you are passing them at least on a right angle
• When it comes to fluking, squid is the bait of choice. Some anglers cut it in very fine strips to mimic sand eels, others cut it into an inch thick strip and still others like to use the whole squid.
• One of my favorite fluke baits is what I call a fluke cocktail. The recipe… a fluorescent green or white plastic squid rig, baited with a horizontally hooked minnow or silverside (a tip from Gary Leatherberry of Erickson's Bait & Tackle, Warwick), a squid strip and topped off with a strip of fluke belly. This arrangement doubled my keeper ratio.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
The second annual Pabst Blue Ribbon striped bass and fluke Tourney (for RI, CT and Long Island) will take place June 1 through September 15 with weekly, monthly and overall tournament prizes in boat, shore and junior categories. RI striped bass record holder Peter Vican said, "It is going to be another great tournament this year with a $10,000 top price for bass (boat division) and $5,000 from shore." The top fluke prize is $5,000. "Funds raised from the tournament will be donated to the Arthritis Foundation." said Peter Vican. Visit www.pbrfishing.com for information and registration.
Where's the bite
Striped bass. Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown said, "The bass at Block Island are still small with the largest about 20 pounds… but the fishing is good. The North Rip and the south side are hot with anglers using Diamond Jigs and trolling umbrella rigs." With warm weather worm hatches in South County ponds are expected this week. "Fishing along the southern coastal shore is still good… customer John Hooper of Wakefield weighted in a 30 pound bass that he caught from shore." said Elisa Martin. We found bass on my boat in Greenwich Bay near Sally Rock and at Sandy Point Prudence Island this week. Bass at Sandy Point were hooked using jigs tipped with squid. Patti Ferrara of Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, " Customer Kyle Armstrong of Warwick landed a 27 pound bass in the Providence River live lining Atlantic Menhaden". Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, "Bass fishing is good in the Providence, Tauton and Seekonk Rivers with some good sized fish mixed being caught along with bluefish."
Fluke fishing continues to improve along the southern coastal shore from the Block Island Ferry Lane to the Watch Hill area in 25 to 50 feet of water. Elisa Martin of Snug Harbor said. "Fluke fishing gets better every day… the fish keep getting larger." No reports of fluke being caught in the upper part of Narragansett Bay. The Frances Fleet reported a slow fluke day Monday, however, the fish are getting larger and they are coming up with squid in the bellies which hopefully means that we may have a squid run.
Scup. "Scup have arrived and anglers are landing them in Bristol, Wickford and in Greenwich Bay.", said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com; his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.