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Hot Spots


The first time I drifted for fluke off Isabella Beach, images of the Bahamas came to mind.
By Capt. Tom Migdalski

41.26167° N, 71.99167° W

The water here is gin clear – much more so than my native waters of Long Island Sound – and the beach about 1/4 mile north of me glimmered white in the midday sun. A more picturesque fluke hotspot is hard to imagine. Isabella Beach, typically referred to as just “Isabella” in the fishing reports, is about a half-mile long, slightly-banana-shaped stretch of sand on the south side of Fishers Island, NY. Fishers Island itself is about 9 miles long by only 1 mile wide, and is located off the eastern end of Long Island Sound. To its north is Fishers Island Sound, and to its south is Block Island Sound. It is this south shore that is a perennial fluke fishing hotspot.

Fishers Island was formed about 20,000 years ago by the late Wisconsin Glacier, the same one that created the north fork of Long Island and Block Island. Fishers Island is essentially a long barrow of rocky and sandy till, technically called a terminal moraine, which was scoured from the surface of southern New England and deposited here before the last glacier receded. It is this fascinating geographical history that gives the south shore its deep, current-swept, sandy bottom so conducive to attracting doormats each summer.

“When anglers report good fluke fishing ‘off Isabella,’” says Q Kresser, expert angler from River’s End Tackle in Old Saybrook, CT, “what they really mean is anywhere along the 2-1/2-mile stretch of sandy bottom from Wilderness Point to the west and South Reef to the east, not just off Isabella Beach itself. This whole area holds fluke.”

Earlier this season, most successful reports came from the comparatively shallow 40-foot depths, although keeper fluke are taken here in up to 100 feet of water. The tendency is for the fish to move deeper as the summer waters warm. One time-tested tactic, of course, is to follow the drift of the fleet. Or just make progressively deeper drifts on your own, starting in 40 feet and working your way out. Record your drifts on your GPS, which allows you to repeat productive tracks once you locate the fish.

Kresser also suggests trying Schooner Reef, which is on the east side of Isabella Beach. Here, there’s a 29-foot-deep high spot on the southernmost tip of the reef, which is a bit rocky. But flanking that to the east and west are sandy, 40-foot depths of excellent fluke habitat.

“Fish on the east side on the flood,” advises Kresser, “and drift up towards the high spot, being wary not to get hung up on the bony area. Likewise, on the ebb, drift the deeper water on the west side and drift shallower towards the hump.”

One of my secrets to “successful fishing,” especially when I have guests aboard, is to target one species but be prepared with backup plans if the primary fish fail. If the fluke aren’t biting on your day at Isabella, don’t hesitate to rig your fluke baits onto porgy or sea bass hooks and work the rocky areas of Schooner Reef from the 29-foot south end to the 21-foot north end. I would also try diamond jigging across that south-end high spot when the tide is ripping. And late in the day, you might try casting the boulder field off Wilderness Point with live eels or surface plugs for stripers and bluefish. You can study and pinpoint all these areas on Captain Segull’s Sportfishing Chart #FIO10, www.captainsegullcharts.com.

Isabella, despite being a go-to flukin’ hotspot, still requires the same strategies as other fluke areas: Bring enough weight to comfortably hold bottom, try to fish when the wind and tide are together and not opposing, and remember that when the current goes slack, so does the fluke bite.

The last piece of advice here is that the trip to Isabella often requires navigating near or through some potentially treacherous rips on both the east and west sides of Fishers Island. Fog rolling in off the open Atlantic is a worry here, too. So check your marine forecast and tide chart carefully before heading out to Isabella, but enjoy the great fishing and scenery once you arrive.

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