The “sticks” are exactly what the name implies – sticks. Just regular black sticks coming out of the water with flags on them.
Throughout the years every angler has a honey hole where they know that, without a doubt, they can always catch a fish or two. It could be that 30-foot hole where a well-placed live bait will land you a doormat. Or, that deep drop-off in the bay where weakfish seem to congregate year after year. For fluke, there are many honey holes in the South Shore bays but over the last several years, and especially last year, nothing out-produced the “sticks” in Moriches Bay, in Harts Cove.
The “sticks” are exactly what the name implies – sticks. Just regular black sticks coming out of the water with flags on them. They have been there for as long as I can remember. In speaking with Captain Tom Cornicelli of Back Bay Outfitters, the sticks are the edge of the channel. If you go closer to the Coast Guard Station, there is a huge flat. With this in mind, if you are heading out of the ramp in Harts, stay east of the sticks after the first buoy.
The area is a solid producer for fluke throughout the season but can vary according to the tide as well. In the earlier part of the season, the best action is as the tide drops and the warmer bay water gets the fish a bit more active. As the season progresses, the last two hours of the flood and the first of the ebb get the nod. I have had fluke there on both tides, regardless of the timeframe, so if you are limited, do not overlook the area just because the tide is not perfect.
I feel the reason the area is so good is due to bait always being in the area, and the water stays pretty clean all year long. Between the small cove at the north end of Harts and the feeder creek of Seatuck Cove, baitfish always seem to be present. As summer approaches, the area is also home to great snapper action, which we all know is a great fluke bait, hence fluke will be chasing these morsels at the exit of the creeks and coves.
Hit The Water
In the early season, I will set up my drift on the outgoing, beginning north of the sticks. It may take a few drifts, but I prefer to run as parallel to the sticks as possible, staying east of them. As you drift south, you will also come across several variations in the water depth. Areas where it is 3 to 5 feet, then 4 to 6 feet, back to 3 to 5 feet in only 25 yards or so. These subtle depressions make for great ambush areas. As the season moves on, and the way the water filters into the area changes, your drift will probably be from southwest to northeast, which will bring you through the sticks. Change up your drift so you pass through the sticks in a different area each time until you find the hot spot for the given day. Captain Tom also reminded me that not only are the sticks a prime fluke area but if you drift deep into Seatuck Cove, hang on for more solid action.
The one thing I did see last year and the year before was anglers may not experience that big doormat over 8 pounds they may see closer to the inlet. One thing that isn’t lacking is plenty of action on keepers over 21 inches, plus that occasional 5-pounder, and plenty of shorts. Knowing this, I like to employ light tackle in this area. A 7-foot rod rated for 10- to 17-pound test, matched to a size 4000 reel is the perfect setup. I spool my reels with brightly-colored 10- to 15-pound test braid, I like PowerPro Slick. This braid is supple, silky, and super strong. Match it up to Seaguar fluorocarbon leader in 20-pound test and you are ready for action. As for the terminal end, I use the Berkley Fusion19 bucktail in weights from 1/2 to 1 ounce in either white, green/white, or pink. For trailers, I use a single large spearing, a strip of squid or a Berkley Gulp Swimming Mullet.
Fluke are aggressive feeders. Just because they are flat and primarily lie on the bottom, do not underestimate them. They will easily chase a bait to the surface or make a swift dart along the bottom for a meal. It has been the standard rule when fluking, that when you feel a bite, you drop back, and then slowly lift your rod. I have seen this first hand while fluking the clear shallows of Moriches and other bays. Fluke will charge a bait, and flat out lie on it. After a few seconds, and if the bait slides out, it may or may not eat it. However, if the bait stays put, the fish will back itself off and inhale it instantly! This is why it is imperative that when fluking, you drop back a few feet on the initial strike. For the hook set, I like to feel a bit of weight and even a little head shake before a give a quick set.
Another key tip is to always have a net at the ready. You can swing most fluke quite easily on smaller boats, but if it is a larger fish, you don’t want to get cocky and try to swing him in. If you attempt to swing a large fish, you run a serious risk of pulling the hooks. Most big ones are lost right at boatside. Keep the fish completely submerged in the water and wait for the net. Remember to always net headfirst too. Another common way to lose a fluke is to net it tail first.
Rental Or Private
What makes the area so nice it is sheltered from typical west and north winds. The area can be fished by small private boats, rental boats, and even a kayak. For the rental boat option, Silly Lily Fishing Station is just a short ride from Tuttle Cove and around the Coast Guard Station. For the private boater, there is a great ramp in Harts Cove, which is just minutes from the fishing grounds. Whether you opt for the rental or private boat, pack a lunch, bring a friend or two and rig up some light setups for some fun fluke action. The “sticks” will allow you to land a fillet or two for dinner on most trips.