In the New Bedford episode of New England Boating TV, the crew fishes for fluke (summer flounder) in the waters of Vineyard Sound. The Sound boasts some of the best fluking grounds in New England, thanks to its swift currents, deep water and bottom structure.
Fluke are like any major predator in that they seek out areas of fast-moving water where they can wait in ambush for prey. In Vineyard Sound, this means shoal areas such as Middle Ground and Lucas Shoal, although the Sound also contains plenty of lesser-known spots that hold fluke.
Fluke like to hold along the slope of a shoal, where the current is strongest, so the best approach is to set up a drift upcurrent of the shoal and keep your bait or lure on the bottom. This can be tricky, especially when fishing in 35’-plus of water with a current that’s ripping at 5 knots, so bring lots of jigs and sinkers in the 4- to 6-ounce range when fishing these deeper areas.
Simple Fluke Rig:
When fishing these shoals for fluke, I have found that simple rigs work best and reduce the amount of “down-time” spent untangling long, complicated teaser-rig setups. My standard rig consists of a 3- to 5-ounce white, pink, chartreuse or white/blue bucktail jig (I prefer SPRO jigs) with a 4” strip of fresh squid on the hook. Again, overall jig size depends on the strength of the current, but use the lightest jig you can get away with and still hold bottom.
I often tie a dropper loop in the 4’ leader (40-lb. fluorocarbon) roughly 2’ above the jig. To this I attach a small jig, fly or soft-plastic bait that mimics the natural forage, very often sand eels. I sweeten these “teasers” with a small strip of squid as well.
Jig color can make a difference, so try different colors or patterns until you find the one the fish like best. You might also try sending down a basic diamond jig, as fluke sometimes prefer these flashy lures above bucktails.
Fresh Bait Best:
If I catch a bluefish on the way to the grounds or on-site, I’ll often fillet it and use fresh strips on the hook, as fluke love bluefish. A strip of fluke belly also works very well. Remember: when it comes to fluke fishing, the fresher the bait, the better. If you can find fresh-caught local squid in your tackle store, buy it!
I prefer light conventional reels for fluke fishing. I fill the reel with 30-lb. test braided line and connect it to the leader with a small snap swivel. The leader is typically 4’ long. The rod is a 6 _’ model with a light- to medium-action tip.
When you’re ready to fish, position the boat well upcurrent of the shoal and free-spool your jig to the bottom. Keep the reel in free-spool and thumb the spool as you hop the jig over the bottom with short lifts of the rod. As you drift towards the shoal, let out or reel in line to maintain contact with the bottom. When you feel a sharp rap on the line, set the hook with a short (6”) upward lift of the rod. If you don’t hook up, immediately free-spool the jig back to the bottom. Continue until you drift over the peak of the shoal and down the backside then circle back upcurrent and make another drift.
Fish & Move:
If you don’t find any fish at the first place you drift, work different sections of the shoal, or move to an entirely new area. Be aware that the presence of bait has a major influence on where the fish will hold, so keep an eye out for terns, gulls, loons and cormorants. The presence of these birds is always a good sign.
When you hook a fluke, don’t try to horse it to the boat or you’ll risk pulling the hook. Instead, fight the fish gently to the surface with short, easy lifts of the rod. When the fish is near the surface, use a large landing net to scoop it up. Above all, do not lift the fish’s head above the water, or it will thrash about violently, often dislodging the hook.
For more information on how to catch fluke, click on these New England Boating articles: