It’s no surprise that boating anglers head out into ocean waters in search of keeper fluke when the summer begins to swelter. As water temperatures inside the bays and harbors push the mercury toward the upper end of the flatfish comfort scale, the shallow water bay and harbor bites tend to suffer – especially where legal-sized fish are concerned. Out in cooler ocean waters, however, big summer flatties stay on the feed even through the dog days, sometimes seemingly paving the bottom a half-mile to a mile offshore in 40- to 70-foot depths.
While boaters clearly have the edge this time of year, shorebound anglers aren’t without recourse, for a generous number of aggressive summer keepers go largely overlooked in the sudsy ocean curls that kiss the beach. These waters are easily accessible and well worth investigating if you want to put a few tasty flattie fillets on ice without ever putting a prop in the water. Better still, the competition for fluke along the surf line is generally far less intense than in the most popular boating hot spots. In fact, it’s not unusual to have the summer flatties all to yourself when casting in the curls.
PLENTY OF APPEAL
When you think about it, there really are plenty of reasons why it makes sense for fluke to invade the surf zone during summer hot spells. For starters, the water, although shallow, is naturally cooler than in the bays and harbors. It is also constantly being refreshed and mixed with oxygen as waves break against the shore. No doubt, baitfish also get tossed around in the wash. Diving down to the bottom to escape the turbulence and undertow, they are easy pickings for summer flatties pressed tight against the sand. Now, add in a dropping tide pulling a ready-made chum slick of baitfish schools out of the nearest inlet and spreading them down the beach, or the refreshing influence of a crisp flood tide easing into a depression just beyond the breakers, and you can imagine there is plenty for a flatfish to get excited about.
Like the toothy flatfish, anglers also get excited about sampling the surf. While some will argue that you’ve got to fish through a multitude of shorts to find a fish big enough to bring home, others seem to have plenty of success with keepers and there is no shortage of legal-sized surf-caught fluke amongst the more experienced surf fishing crowd. Occasionally, anglers even hang true doormats, like the 17.5-pound, 36-inch rug of a summer flattie beached just a few weeks ago by Philip Todd of Egg Harbor Township, NJ. That monster inhaled a live minnow presented from an Atlantic City jetty.
GO LIGHT, GO MOBILE
“To connect with fluke in the surf, it helps to be mobile,” explains Chris Lido, editor of The Fisherman’s New Jersey edition. “Don’t be afraid to cover a lot of ground. It’s not unusual for the most successful anglers to spread their efforts over half a mile or more of shoreline.”