While the official start is still “questionably” two months away, it’s never too early to begin plotting an opening day strategy.
If you berth your boat at one of the hundreds of marinas along our coast, there is undoubtedly a channel that links the marina to the main channel in your tidal river or bay. Some of these marina channels are natural, others man-made, and most have a range of perhaps 5 to 10 feet in depth depending on tidal phase.
The obvious purpose of these various channels is to help incoming and outgoing boats avoid scraping their boat’s skeg or propeller on the bottom and getting hung up while entering or exiting the marina.
Who is fishing these marina channels for fluke? Often nobody! In most cases, these marina channels are used to exclusively get back and forth from the marina to other favorite bay and ocean hot spots, and remain mostly unfished. Yet throughout the season, baitfish of various species and sizes can be found in the deeper portions of these channels, and often some of the best quality fluke in the area.
Clearly, any “under fished” territory is worth a look. As you leave your marina, why not dunk a few baits in the channel and down along the edges for a shot at good fish, close to home.
Find the Markers
Off the main areas of the river or bay you’ll find a series of markers leading up to any of the local marinas. These markers may take several forms including cedar stakes, nun buoys and even some inflatable buoys, which are pulled when the waterway freezes.
Being able to effectively fish a marina channel has some challenges. For instance, the direction of the channel may not be the same as the tidal current or the wind direction. Ideally, you want to fish the marina channel along its edges. Naturally, you can anchor your boat along the channel edge and flip bucktails, but if you do this maneuver, you won’t make too many friends from those looking to enter or exit the marina.
The best option you have here is to counteract the effects of the tide direction and wind by power drifting your boat along both edges of the marina’s channel. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that the marina’s channel is 300 feet long, 50 feet wide, and is 10 feet deep. If I were power drifting the channel at my marina, I would start where the channel meets the collection of slips and work outward. Just remember to keep an eye out for others who are using the channel to enter and exit the marina.
Slowly trolling the edges is easy in that the channel should be marked by the previously mentioned set of buoys. After you troll one of the channel edges, pause your boat as you make a slow turn to troll the opposite edge. Often, this pause will cause a fluke to speed up and dart from the channel’s edge to your pair of trolled baits. This tactic has been truly maximized by those using trolling motors.
Once you’ve worked both edges of the marina’s channel, it’s time to troll a series of “S” turns down the middle of the channel making sure that your baits hit the edges of the channel. After trolling both edges and the middle of the marina channel, it’s time to move onto the next marina in the area and work their channel. Hopefully by now, you would have covered the bottom of your cooler with some fat fluke, and no one in your marina has any idea as to the origin of these fluke. I won’t tell them.
Simple Fluke Gear
The number of rigs to power drift a marina’s channel is almost infinite in type. For instance, one of my fishing buddies (Tom O.) prefers using a pair of 6-inch Gulp grubs in the pink shine and nuclear chicken colors. Notice the difference depending on water clarity. To the end of his leader, Tom attaches a 5/8-ounce plain lead jig without hair. The jig is then sweetened with a pink shine Gulp grub.
Eighteen inches above the jig, Tom ties a dropper to which is looped a 4/0 snelled hook with a nuclear chicken grub threaded up the hook. When power drifting, this pair of different colored grubs looks like a brace of sea worms swimming along the channel’s edge, prime forage for any resident fluke.
In my case after many years of trying different rigs, I still prefer using a high-low/twin hook rig, which is sweetened with a pair of lip hooked killies. Tying this rig is simple. To a length of 30-pound, 36-inch leader, tie a small 1-ounce sinker; remember that the marina channels are mostly shallow. A foot up from the sinker loop, tie the first of two dropper loops. A second loop is tied 12 inches above the first loop.
Snell two 4/0 gold English style hooks to separate lengths of leader. Tie the first hook to an 8-inch length of leader, while the second hook is tied to an 18-inch length of leader. To the lower loop of the main leader, attach the hook with the longer leader using a loop-to-loop connection. To the upper loop of the main leader, attach the hook with the shorter leader again using a loop-to-loop connection. When completed, this high-low rig should consist of two trailing hooks with killies on each. It looks like a small school of baitfish.
I’ve described this rig in past issues of The Fisherman, and again here because it really works when power drifting along the length of a marina channel.
Deepwater slips may pose a few additional challenges to this type of fishing, but certainly back bay locations from New Jersey down through Delaware are ripe for early season pickings when employing this strategy. I would suggest that you consider marina channels for fluke as it is likely the deepest water in the area, nobody fishes these channels, and the resident fluke in here are getting fatter each day feeding on the large amount of baitfish in these depressed ribbons.