Expert advice on catching that trophy fluke with the season clock ticking away.
Every spring, anglers flood various areas in search of early season doormat fluke. Areas like the Greenlawns on the North Fork, the various “shoals” leading over toward Connecticut and farther out. And to some extent, the early season big fish period in the South Shore inlet mouths. However, for me, and for a lot of anglers I know, they can’t wait for the fall fluke migration and fattening up period in September and beyond. The fluke season closes this year on October 9 in New York, so there will be ample time to score your biggest fish.
I spoke to three anglers I feel have done very well with large fluke over the last several years. The first two concentrate their efforts in the deeper waters of Montauk and beyond, and the third has been plying Moriches Bay for 40 plus years.
Mike Lang – South Shore Tackle
Over the last several years there has been one angler that stands out when large fluke is concerned. Mike Lang, who owns South Shore Tackle (@South_Shore_Tackle on Instagram). South Shore Tackle makes awesome jigs and the famed poison tail teasers. And, Mike has put more 10-plus pounders in the net than anyone I know. I reached out to Mike to see just what his secret is. He replied “The way I target doormats is similar throughout my entire season because I am fortunate to be able to constantly hunt big fish areas such as Montauk, Block Island, and the Nantucket Shoals. In my experiences I care more about current speed than I do about what the stage of the tide. Wind directions aside, I like current speeds of 1.2 to 1.4 knots and seldom fish shallower than 70 feet of water. I do not drag bait, instead I fish jigs and Poison Tail Teasers from my line of jigs.”
I asked Mike about his tackle and if he used custom or ready built rods. His answer was “My rods are all built on CTS blanks, and I use 15- and 20-pound Spectra braid with a top shot of 30-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader on my Shimano Tranx reels. The gears in the Tranx allow me to fish as light a jig as possible even in deep and swift currents. My typical setup includes either a ball jig or a swing hook minnow jig attached by a double overhand loop knot which allows me to switch jig styles or colors easily. I add a 4- to 6-inch “T” knot about 16 to 18 inches above the jig where I add a Poison Tail Teaser.”
On the subject of color Mike told me, “Jig and teaser colors depend on bait or simply what works that day. My personal go-to colors from my lineup of jigs/Poison Tails are white, pink shine, super glow, pink glow, and my favorite and by far most productive color would have to be blue glow. Most often I use 6-inch Gulp Grubs on both jig and Poison Tails. My main go to Gulp colors are white, glow, pink shine and salmon red. Occasionally I will add a large fresh thin and trimmed filet of a bluefish, sea robin or mackerel to my bottom jig. My absolute favorite is a large fluke ribbon of which would be 10 to 12 inches long (or longer) and trimmed neatly. A key is to keep my line as straight up and down as possible, on or near the bottom constantly jigging this rig, teasing these aggressive fluke to bite even when they may be off the feed.”
Mike likes an array of different bottom features. He weighed in saying, “Areas I particularly focus on have hard bottom; rocky areas edged with sand; the edge of a wrecks where it meets the sand; big boulder fields where they meet the sand and a reefs edge where it meets the sand. My best areas to really key on would have a situation where I can fish deep to shallow (uphill) that would have intermittent rocky areas patched with sandy areas.”
As of this writing, Mike has 13 fluke over 10 pounds and counting, with his largest a fat 13.8-pound brute.
Captain Scott Leonard – Top gun Sportfishing Charters
I have known Capt. Scott for the better part of 40 years. In the early days, it was time on the open beach surfcasting where he would take up prime spots before I got there to score big time on striped bass, weakfish and monster blues. As the days moved on, Capt. Scott has become one of the top captains on the South Shore and East End—fishing out of Babylon and Montauk. What a lot of anglers do not realize is Scott is not just a striper hound, scoring outsized fish on live bait every year, he is also adept at fluking, where he has put his fares on numerous doormats.
When I asked Capt. Scott about fluking, he kept it short and sweet. “I like to use a three-way swivel with a short leader. I will use 6 inches for a bucktail and a 3-foot leader with a double hook about 4 to 5 inches apart for large strip baits. You can use whole squid or sea robin bellies, and even jumbo sand eels and spearing.”
The last tip Scott offered was on the strip bait side. Clean a keeper fluke if you get one early in the trip. The white fluke belly can be stripped and made into a killer fluke bait that will entice some of the largest doormats. Just remember you must keep the fluke rack of the stripped fish on the boat until you’re back to the dock to stay within the laws.
Rich Stavdal – Local Fluke Sharpie
Rich Stavdal is a local guy and friend that has been plying Moriches Bay for 43 years! I have fished bass and fluke with Rich, and what I can tell you most when it comes to fluking is his detail to every aspect of his game.
“As the days grow shorter and our waters cool ever so slightly, Moriches Inlet is my go-to fluking grounds. Fluke will be literally stacked up in both the East and West cuts before pushing outside and beyond for the winter” said Rich.
When it came to feeding the fish, Rich said, “As for bait, it’s a game of bigger is better, live peanut bunker on a simple fishfinder rig works well. Also, large strip baits on a bucktail are also very effective. Over the years I have found that the flood tide and start of outgoing to be my tide of choice. Friends of mine who free dive the inlet tell me large fluke tend to be off the rocks of the West Jetty where the sand bottom starts. There are several areas where deep holes have large car-sized boulders that hold trophy fluke. When fishing the west tip, keep things simple with a single hook rig and sinker.
Go Get ‘Em
September is a time the large fluke exiting the bays and leaving the shoals – heading to offshore wintering areas. Take these tips and maybe this fall your largest fluke will make its way into your landing net. With Berkley and Fishbite soft plastics, properly prepared large strip or live baits, plus proper jigs, I am sure this will be “your” year for a trophy.