Party Boat Fluke: Limits And More - The Fisherman

Party Boat Fluke: Limits And More

This 12.8-pounder was taken on the Montauk Star during one of their early season fluking trips.

Gain more success when fishing a party boat for fluke this summer.

Year after year, anglers aboard party boats catch a lot of fluke, and a lot of times, the fluke are on the large side, especially the pool winners. I can remember back in the early 90s when Greenport had a wicked run of double-digit fluke that came into the area chasing large squid. Capt. Dave Brennan of the famed Peconic Star party boat would stop by the Shirley Fisherman office every Monday morning with several photos for me to look through for potential covers or, at the very least, “Report Covers.” He would bring in photos of fish from 12 to 16 pounds each week! Although those days may be long gone, for the most part, party boat fluke fishing always renders some quality fish throughout the season.

I have been plying the waters around Long Island for fluke for many years and have caught my fair share of keepers and larger fish. Let’s take a look at what I feel will increase your odds while on a party boat and maybe have you taking home the pool-winning flattie.

Slip gut is a big problem but if you keep your rig simple, then check often, it will not impeded you catching.

The “Right” Gear

All party boats on Long Island provide rods, reels, bait, and tackle. And they will even rig you up as well. However, if you are like most anglers, your favorite rod and reel will always be the one you use. For fluke, I like two different styles. I will use a spinning rod and reel outfit or a baitcasting/revolving reel outfit. The outfit used on a given day depends on water depth and current, plus the size of baits/sinkers needed. Ocean fishing will generally require heavier sticks, while you can almost always use spinning gear in the bay. I use a lot of bucktails for fluke, so I like spinning tackle to be able to make it dance. In the ocean, I also use bucktails, but heavier bucktails and teaser rigs require a beefier rod and reel setup, more capable of controlling your bait.

While fishing aboard the party boat Fishfinder II out of Captree, this fat 10.8-pound doormat was caught on the reef outside.

Baits Of Choice

Bait will always be provided free of charge on all party boats. The key with baits is to not go overkill. Just because a party boat may offer spearing, squid, killies, strip baits, and artificial soft plastics does not mean you need all of them on your bucktail or teaser rig at one time.

For me, I like to keep it clean and simple. I may use one strip of squid or one spearing on a teaser rig. On the bucktail, I will almost always adorn it with a single spearing. The key to successful fluking is to change it often and change it up. Do not let your bait get old and raggy looking. If it does, change it out. Another key – changing it up is also important. Suppose you are not scoring well. Or are catching a lot of smaller fish, make some adjustments. Use a different bait on the hook – swap out spearing for a killie, use a larger strip bait on the teaser, etc.

An assortment of bucktails and teaser rigs us usually all you will need when party boat fishing. And, if you don’t have it, all party boats will supply tackle to make sure your day is successful.


Rigs are the easiest item to totally mess you up. Are you trying to catch a fluke or trying to be the most colorful angler on the boat? I have seen anglers with rigs that made Christmas trees look dull. Spinner blades, hi-vis skirts, soft plastics in every array of color, and so on and so on. When party boat fishing, there are only two rigs you really need. The first is a simple bucktail rig. This is best used during slower periods of the tide. Adorn the bucktail with either a single strip bait, spearing, or Gulp or Fishbites soft plastic. The second would be the bottom rig with a three-way swivel or Dropper Loop and a single hook – a 4/0 is a good choice. You can add in a teaser about 6 inches above the sinker, but make sure the main hook has at least a 30 to 36-inch leader. On this rig, the teaser should be kept simple – single spearing or soft plastic. On the main hook, spearing/squid combo, strip bait, live killie, or similar is best.


The Fisherman has received several inquiries as to what anglers can do, especially in Moriches Bay regarding slip gut and grass on the line, but also throughout the island where weed and the notoriously bad slip gut is concerned. For most of us, the problem could be the end of your fishing day, but if you don’t want to go that route or you can’t just quit, here are some tactics from a few sharpies that may ease your pain.

Rich Stavdal is one of the most active anglers on Moriches Bay I know. He is out there chasing fluke throughout the year and has encountered more than his share of annoying slip gut. Rich said, “My advice would be no teaser, single bucktails as light as possible to avoid dragging along the bottom. Keep all your hardware to the minimum, and tie directly to the leader.

Capt. Joe Tangel of the party boat King Cod in Center Moriches, who plies one of the biggest problem areas, Moriches Bay, said, “We tell people over and over throughout the day, ‘Keep it clean, keep it bouncing.’ Checking your bait and rig frequently should be part of your routine. We also keep hardware to a bare minimum which really helps. A small low-profile barrel swivel is about all the hardware needed to tie a proper bucktail rig. Sometimes we drop the swivel completely and tie 30-pound fluorocarbon leader direct to the braid. Tie in your bucktail with an Improved Clinch Knot, making sure to keep the tag end really short. On the Dropper, if you want one, a plain 4/0 octopus hook dressed with a single spearing is best.”

From Bob Rose at Bob’s Bait and Tackle in Amity Harbor, Bob said, “Go Home.” All kidding aside, Bob felt changing tides you fish or looking for areas with less weed is your best bet. Not all stages of the tide will be filled with weed, and some will actually see no weed whatsoever.


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