Finding Fluke: Prospect New Grounds - The Fisherman

Finding Fluke: Prospect New Grounds

2018 5 Prospect New Grounds Fish
While there are days when everything comes together and the fish practically jump into the boat on their own, far more often it takes some extra work to top off the cooler.

The first three drifts of the day produced a total of nine fluke, seven of which were keeper-sized. The last three drifts produced only two shorts. I proceeded to ask myself, “Is it time to move on, or do we make one more drift hoping to pick off a few more fish?” Sooner or later we all come to the point when we need to look around to keep the bite going. While there’s something to be said about grinding it out, even the hottest of hot spots eventually dry up, conditions change, and the fish just plain move. Fortunately in this scenario I already had a game plan in mind of where to move to in the event that things did not stay red hot.

So what are the keys to prospecting some new ground when this happens? Here are a few methods that I use when it comes time to start looking elsewhere for fluke. Having strategies like these will separate the fishermen from the blind-drifters and the followers.

Change Some Variables

2018 5 Prospect New Grounds Map
Down-tide side of a transition (here rock to mud/sand) can be ambush locations for fluke. Pockets or points along those edges can be of particular interest.

One of the first things I look at when the fluking begins to slow is to change up the depth zone at which we’re fishing. This is usually a quick and easy change to make. If the tide is flooding, or it’s early in the season, I make a move to shallower water. If the tide is ebbing, or it’s later in the season, I adjust my drifts to deeper water. These simple adjustments are usually enough to get back into some action, but if not, I look to move locations altogether.

My next spot to seek out is a transition area. These are where the bottom changes composition from sand or mud to rock or boulders. These edges often act as bait highways. Fluke are ambush predators so they orient themselves along these edges or transitions to put themselves in the best location to ambush bait. Edges of flats can also be excellent on a dropping tide when baitfish are flushed off of the flats. I prefer the down-tide sides of these transition areas as it’s where fluke tend to stage an ambush. Areas where there is a pocket or a point along these edges are often prime spots to seek out.

Structure doesn’t have to mean massive drop-offs or shoals. Even subtle structure can be enough to make a fluke call it home if it offers the ability to ambush prey and there’s a source of food. Often times a lone lobster or crab pot sitting by itself is a small clue that there’s some type of structure there. I have one spot that I favor, which has one or two pots that appear as if they’re located in the middle of nowhere. However, a drift in close proximity usually provides for a few nice bites. From looking at my sounder it appears that there’s a small rock there that is just large enough to attract a little life.

If fishing a harbor or bay, try your drifts near the edges of channels, the mouth of bays, rivers, estuaries, or other areas where the bottom composition changes dramatically. If the tide is switching to an ebb, try the mouth or any narrow areas where the bait will be forced through a confined area. Fluke stack up at these locations during these tide stages to get easy pickings. During periods of low water, look to deeper pockets within the bay, especially if they’re near an area with flats. Behind large pilings and points will also be areas that tend to hold a few fish in these back waters.

Trolling is another way to find fluke when the primary bite turns off. Yes, you read that correctly, trolling for fluke. When the tide dies and you have no drift the fluking can get downright S-L-O-W. While power-drifting is another great method, I tend to equate that tactic more to holding over one spot or adding a little power here and there to keep the drift moving faster. Trolling is a little more deliberate. Slow-trolling a few baits along the bottom allows you to cover some ground and often aids in locating additional scattered fish. This is especially effective in sandy or soft bottom areas. You may have to take your boat out of gear from time to time to keep it slow enough (1.5 knots or less), but it does work.

2018 5 Prospect New Grounds Catch
Find the squid and you have a good chance of finding the fluke. This fluke was gorging itself on fresh squid; evidence provided as it hit the deck.

Seek Out Bait

As with most fisheries, if you find the bait then you’ll often also find the fish that feeds upon it, and this holds true with fluke. Early in the year we have a tremendous amount of squid in my home waters off the Rhode Island coast. While I don’t usually mark the fluke on my depth recorder, I often mark large pods of squid once they arrive. Fishing around these pods of bait has paid off tremendously for me with some decent doormats. Often times a hooked fluke comes up to the boat spitting up squid or with a large lump in their belly – like they just swallowed a softball. These are tell-tale signs that they’re gorging on the bait. When fishing around pods of squid you might feel small bites and have trouble hooking the culprit—it’s probably the squid playing with your bait in these cases. You may get lucky and even hook a few for extra bait.

This scenario continues to hold true later in the season when striped bass and bluefish can be found actively feeding on small baitfish. Fluke will often follow these blitzes to feed off the remains if not actively partake at times.

These blitz spots may or may not be regular spots where one would typically look for fluke, but if it’s close to a spot that sometimes holds a few of these fish then it’s even more reason to give them a look. Many a time we’ve finished off the end of a striper or bluefish blitz with some fluke from the exact same spot.

Consult a Logbook

For those that keep a detailed log of their fishing excursions, the information will help as it starts to pile up and it can be a great asset when the bite goes south. Several years of data can uncover a general pattern for fishing your area. If you don’t have a log you should consider starting one, even if only with basic information. Key items to consider recording besides your success level are water depth, water temp, and location. Other items like tidal stage, speed, and weather can also be important.

While there are many ways to build your strategies for finding fluke, these are a few that have worked through the years for me. Hopefully they’ll help add a few flatties to your box as well.

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