Fluking in the New Year - The Fisherman

Fluking in the New Year

Fluking New Year
Now’s the time to check over the arsenal, from the tackle box to the fish box, and every nook and cranny of your boat and safety gear to hit the water running in 2017.

A few tips to tide you over until the first tides of 2017

Most anglers I know, myself included, have come down with a severe case of cabin fever since the fluke and striped bass seasons ended. To while away the time, we’ve been tying rigs, oiling reels, checking out leaders for nicks and cracks, replacing the line on various reels and finally attending fishing shows and flea markets.

And seriously, how many times can you re-read the fall editions of The Fisherman Magazine when the action was hot and heavy?

With the shortest yet longest month of the year now passed – and the spring kick off for blues, bass, weakies and fluke on the immediate horizon – I wanted to share some thoughts I had with regard to season preparations, sort of as a primer to getting your fishing arsenal ready for various species.

Lighten the Load

Fluking New Year Jennifer
Summer flounder is a family angling tradition in the tri-state region as the author’s daughter Jennifer shows.

I know the majority of the anglers reading this are hardcore veterans who in most cases have a substantial collection of rods, reels, lures, rigs, etc. So how do you make an educated selection from your fishing arsenal on any given trip? When I first started targeting fluke in tidal rivers, I tended to bring along approximately 10 rods for the trip; my fishing partner for the day would typically do the same. This meant that the total number of onboard rods almost popped various rivets in my aluminum boat from just the shear weight of the sticks and reels. Now, I only carry two rods per trip for tidal river fluke: one spinning and one conventional. My boat now sits higher in the water column with fewer rods and reels.

Simple elimination? No, actually, a simple strategy. I looked at my fishing arsenal and focused my trip’s selection on three key considerations: the water depth I’m fishing, the weight of the species I’m targeting, and the technique being employed to smell up the fish box. It doesn’t really matter if I’m targeting tidal river fluke, inshore striped bass, inlet weakfish, sea bass or tuna, I use the same considerations.

In terms of early season fluke, the spinning rod I’d use for fishing waters in the 5- to 8-foot range, while the conventional outfit would be geared towards waters in the 10- to 15-foot depths. Both outfits are 5 feet in length, have medium-lightweight actions, and tend to be an extension of my angling arm. Now I’ve addressed my first criteria consideration, the next order of business was the business end of the battle.

My early-season tidal river fluke tend to be in the 2-pound class. Admittedly, some of the fluke are in the 3- to 5-pound class, and on a few rare occasions there are fluke, which I can’t budge off the bottom. This latter class fluke is especially a challenge with my lightweight outfits, which I rarely win, but it always brings a grin to my face.

Something Old, Something New

As you’re walking through aisles of your favorite fishing and outdoor show this month, you’re sure to spot a few of the newest lures and rigs on the market for 2017; sure, we all give the latest stuff a shot going into a new season. But that’s not to say you should replace everything in your spring and early summer tackle box either. Some of my old standby lures and rigs from decades ago often put more fluke in my cooler than some of the newer options; some of them require some “working in” period to get a hang of it.

Have patience and be sure to have that old “tried and true” in the mix. For example, when I set to drifting in around 5 to 8 feet of water, my spinning rod is rigged with a pair of 1/4-ounce white bucktails fashioned in a high-low pattern. When the water is a little murky, I add a 5-inch Gulp! mullet along with a fresh, live bait (small to medium size). When drifted and jigged along the bottom, this offering resembles a school of baitfish trying to avoid a hungry fluke.

On the other hand, when my water depths are in the 10- to 15-foot range, I typically opt for the Wonder Rig, something introduced to me some time back. To rig this, I tie the end of the reel’s line to one eye of a black three-way swivel. To another eye, is fashioned a 12-inch dropper leader tied directly to a 5/8-ounce white bucktail with its hair trimmed back. To the final eye of the swivel, I attach a snelled 4/0 Octopus style hook along with the biggest live bait (killie, chub, etc) that I can find at the bait shop. This rig is fished on my conventional rod, and will in most cases catch the biggest fluke of the day except for those, which I can’t budge off the bottom – such a problem to have.

Folks fishing the bays and rivers in New Jersey and Delaware are anxiously awaiting news of the summer regulations for 2017, which should become official any day now. Before figuring out if we have that May fishery in place again, you may want to give these thoughts some consideration and use the next few weeks to assemble and fine-tune your gear. It’s only a matter of time at this point, and I hope to be ready…are you?

HAVE YOU? SPRING CHECKLIST

With the free time over the winter comes a few mental checklists. The question is, have you…

  • Checked the hinges on your fish cooler to verify that they are not cracked or broken?
  • Looked over the net bag to confirm that the bag is not frayed or torn and needs replacement?
  • Gone through your onboard first-aid kit to make sure that the contents are up to date?
  • Checked the expiration date on your flares and fire extinguisher?
  • Cleaned and sharpened your filleting knives?
  • Inspected your boat’s drain plug to confirm it’s not dry rotted?
  • Looked at your personal floatation devices to make sure that the gas tubes are still within the expiration date?
  • Registered to fish or purchased required licenses and permits for 2017?
  • Charged the batteries in your camera?
  • Safely tucked away a spare set of boat keys?
  • Tested out the electric winch on your boat trailer to make sure it is not corroded?

Related

SUNRISE-CAST

Surf: Know Thy Stick

Know your rod and surfcasting consistency will follow.

BERKLEY-FUSION-19-HOOKS

Inshore: Staying Hooked Up

Choosing the right hook for your soft plastic fluke offerings.

freshwater

Freshwater: Steep Shoreline Senkos

Hit ‘em hard now, before the crowds, pressure and summer vegetation.