East End Fluking: The Cartwright Experience - The Fisherman

East End Fluking: The Cartwright Experience

Dawn Elio landed this 12.75 beauty with a strip bait off the Cartwright Grounds for a catch of a lifetime.

Are you looking for your summer doormat fluke?

As sure as there will be tides and taxes, you can be certain that come the month of August, the waters along the south side of Montauk Point becomes the feeding grounds to some very impressive size fluke in the double-digit range. And although the list of productive grounds can run quite extensive, let’s focus our attention to the area known as the Cartwright Grounds, since this piece of oasis has been and continues to be red hot for monster fluke each August and September. With a bit of knowledge of the area and knowing how to fish the grounds correctly, you just may find yourself with a 2022 Dream Boat Challenge contender that may award you a 23-foot Steiger Craft and Yamaha motor this coming winter.

A Big Piece Of Ground

Fortunately, there are stopovers beyond the Cartwright Grounds where big fluke will situate themselves offshore. The key is baitfish. Find the baitfish near or on the bottom and there is a good chance of finding fluke. Break lines and drop-offs are often suitable places to find bait at about any depth. On the average, it’s usually best to concentrate your efforts between 65 and 100 feet of water. Rocky Hill, the Radar Tower off Amagansett and the North Grounds just east of Montauk Point and right along the Windmills are the countless areas that are stopovers for big late summer and early fall fluke. If in your travels you find areas with lobster pot buoys exposed, try drifting around them since lobstermen place their traps in areas of rocky bottom which also draw big fluke during this time of year.

The rocky floor of the Cartwright Grounds (N 40.58.580 W 71.47.03944) located six miles south of Montauk Point is a seven-mile radius of rocky bottom resting in 80 to 100 feet of water. This area is strongly relied upon among Montauk’s party and charter boat fleet during the summer fluke season for the quantity and quality of fish. Fluke fishing around areas of obstruction such as the Cartwright Grounds are in a category all to itself, and to understand the layout of the bottom structure would truly be beneficial. While navigation charts and electronic devices will certainly assist in getting to the charted area, they will not tell you how they are structured. Therefore, brain salad, along with trial and tribulation will go a long way in putting planks in the box.

Basic 101 just will not cut it here. Drifting directly over a high piece of big boulders or stones often results in hang ups and lost terminal tackle. Hence drifting along the sandy fringes located in the nooks and crannies between the big boulders and large rock piles are where 75 percent of the fluke will ambush their meals. Being close to a piece of structure is relevant, being on top is not. Fluke tend to wander within a quarter-mile radius of the rocks. Therefore, a quality depth recorder is paramount during your search for the big boys. Monitor the screen closely, keeping an eye out for bait on or near the bottom. Should you mark an area with a considerable amount of bait, MOB (man overboard) the coordinates, and then set up your drift pattern to put you over the trail. Continue this procedure until you find the pot of gold you marked.

The grounds don’t lack opportunity to pick away at trophies during the months of August and September. This large fluke was caught by Alyssa Sussman aboard the Hammertime out of Montauk.

Drifting Right Vital

Drifting is an essential piece of the equation to the success of fluke fishing. A drift of 1 to 1-1/2 knots is ideal in the deep water since this speed will keep the fluke aggressively chasing down your bait while minimizing the activities of undesirables such as skates and dogfish. A drift slower than a half-knot often results in a burdensome pick of skates which can make for a frustrating time. One way to resolve that problem is by power drifting. Kicking the engine in and out of gear and keeping the boat at a knot to a knot and a half will help ease the skate activity. A drift over two knots may be too fast, requiring additional weight to hold bottom and will result in short strikes, particularly in water deeper than 60 feet.

A sea anchor is the solution to slow the drift down allowing the rig to stay on the bottom and give the fluke a shot at the bait. A sea anchor is a triangular type of bag attached to a piece of anchor rope placed overboard where it fills with the water. It acts as a drogue and slows a fast-drifting boat right down. To determine what size sea anchor you should use depends on the size of the boat. Quite often when the fish are in water depths of 60-feet or better, a fast drift requires eight ounces or better to touch bottom, a sea anchor can reduce the amount of lead to 4 to 6 ounces. Beneficially this will allow a better feel of a subtle bite and a more spirited battle with the fish.

If you want to go the artificial route, large grubs are known for great catches on the grounds.

Tackling The Monsters

Baitcasters and conventional outfits in the 20-pound class are best suited for the job. You’ll appreciate a combo light enough not to cause fatigue from working the outfit all day, yet strong enough to manage the brutality of those hefty sea planks. An outfit I rely on is the 7-foot foot Lamiglas TFX7020CT Tri Flex Series, constructed of graphite and fiberglass which gives me the sensitivity and power I need to make even the broadest of fluke fight a fair game of tug of war. I match the rod perfectly with an Abu Garcia Ambassador 7000I conventional reel with the power and speed at a 6 to 1 ratio to get the flatties off the bottom. Spro’s all new Saltwater Series 20- pound 8X Braid completes the combo as this form of braided synthetic is undoubtedly one of the smoothest, strongest and most sensitive. No matter your arsenal, an 8 to 10-foot shock leader, preferably fluorocarbon of 20 or 30 pounds tied to the main line via an Albright Knot should round out the line portion of the rig. Spro’s all new RT Leaders in 20-pound class is fine for the task at hand. The good ole and reliable Improved Clinch Knot will complete the terminal end if you decide to use a jig or a 3-way swivel for plain Jane rigs.

– Typically fishing jigs from 4 to 6 ounces will keep you on the bottom, in the strike zone when fishing Cartwright.

Choose Your Ammo

What can you say about the choices of fluke rigs, jigs and baits these days? The choices are mind boggling as natural baits will produce at one time and artificial baits will produce at others. The key is to know what is best depending on locations and conditions. Fluke rigs can be as simple as a plain hook and sinker, or rigs and jigs with all the bells and whistles.

Unsurprisingly, double-digit flatties are taken on just a plain hook and sinker baited with a spearing and a strip of squid all the time. And though us fluke hunters who have been doing this for years are aware of the fact, there’s something about bucktails jigs that certainly adds zest to the game. Bucktails from 2 to 8 ounces have brought a good share of big fluke to the net for me over the years. The Spro Prime Bucktail tipped with a Gulp 6-inch Swimming Mullet has been a personal hot ticket. The scent of the Gulp is more relevant than the color; however, if it is a concern, Nuclear Chicken and Chartreuse are what I would suggest. As for the bucktail colors, glow, white, spearing blue and crazy chartreuse seem to be the most consistent.

If you prefer to use the real meat on the jigs, the old standby of spearing and squid strips will produce. However, with the abundance of chub mackerel, bluefish and sea robins about anywhere you float above the fluke grounds means they will be in tune with these baits too—catch and strip them down. Freshly stripped-down mackerel, bluefish and sea robin work great on bucktails and plain Jane rigs.

The general location of Cartwright in reference to Montauk Point to the northwest on a map. Photo courtesy of Navionics.

The Weather Is Paramount

August and September can be a couple of the nice months to be on the water. Speedy boats and the simplicity of navigational electronics has made day trips possible for anglers who trailer their boats to the ramps at Montauk Harbor, or even from their home ports just to hunt for monster flatties, Although weather can be calm and mild, it can also be one of the most treacherous and hazardous just the same due to storm systems which transform into tropical depressions or worse, hurricanes, which often start to show by late August, through September. The remnants of any serious storm that begin to work its way up the East Coast are often without large swells until they hit the South Shore inlets and shallow beaches, that’s when conditions become treacherous. Therefore, I strongly advise to wait for the green light from the marine forecast before heading out. Then again, jumping aboard one of the Montauk open or charter boats, where the professional captains will make the proper choice of whether it is safe to sail is another excellent option.

The cunningness and cautiousness has allowed bruiser fluke to live a long life, and just like us humans, the older they get, the less aggressive they become. Therefore, be patient, never take the bait away from a fluke if you miss it on the first bite. The biggest mistake anglers make is taking major league swings, and then reel up to see if any bait remains. This is a no-no. Instead, keep the bait down there for at least a minute or two. Big fluke will follow bait a long time before committing to it. Therefore, give them a chance.

Every fluke angler I know dreams of catching that once in a lifetime doormat. If there are no major storms, history will once again repeat itself as it does each August and September. The window of opportunity is moderate, so rest assured there are monster flatties waiting along the waters of the Cartwright Grounds. Best of all, there is a Dream Boat waiting and it just might have your name on it, but that’s only if you are a Fisherman subscriber. It’s not too late to sign up. Just be sure your subscription is in place before catching your trophy, otherwise it won’t count. Do I need to say more? Good luck and happy fishing.




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