Time To Get Your Flattie On!
Story by Tom P
In what equates to a mere three weekends, the 2017 summer flounder (fluke) season will draw to an angry and aborted close, the upside being that since May 25th the minimum length limit remained at last year’s 18-inches (17-inches on Delaware Bay and 16-inches along the surf of Island Beach State Park) with daily limit being at three for the aforementioned ocean and D-Bay, and a pair for the latter.
With summer on the fade, the fluke are on the move from the bays and tidal rivers and will briefly station in the inlets and then along beaches and shallow reaches before moving farther off to the rubble, wrecks and reefs, then to the Continental Shelf. They have the feed bags on for sure, much like yours truly at the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Jolly Tamale! Various bait combinations such as squid/spearing or squid/mackerel are lethal, as are jig heads and/or bucktails sweetened with a strip of squid, bluefish, or sea robin. The pearl, nuclear chicken, chartreuse or new penny Gulp! Swimming Mullet, Nemesis or Grub attached to bucktails or jig heads will also elicit jaw chomping strikes from flatties bulking for the journey.
No boat? No friend with a float? No worries! Do not overlook the party boats when it comes to cashing in on the flatfish bounty, as the skippers are dialed to the flattie locations and will have the rods bending and the mates scrambling, then filleting. Two of the best include the Miss Barnegat Light (609-709-3725; one trip daily 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) and the Carolyn Ann II (two daily through 8/31 next weekend; 8 a.m.-noon and 2-6 p.m. through Thursday, then it reverts to the 8a.m.-2 p.m. fluke sharpie schedule. Both sail from the marina at West 18th Street in Barnegat Light.
Charter boats offer the best of both worlds: getting to the hotspots and no crowed conditions as most are “six packs” wherein only six or less anglers are allowed. A couple of tried-and-true flatfish producers are Laura Sportfishing (609-341-6562; Capt. Mark) and Miss Liane Sportfishing (908-319-6751; Capt. Cool Ray).
Also available are rental boats. From skiffs to center consoles to pontoon boats, these floating/drifting platforms will put you over bottom-hugging fluke…just be willing to make more than 2-3 drifts per stretch as it can sometimes take a few presentations for the flatties to decide to chow.
Landlubbers are in the game, too, as fluke are assembling positions along the beaches, bay bulkheads and inlet channel edges as they migrate from the lower inlet reaches and stage in a shallow-to-deeper-water gorge-fest before moving to the wrecks then offshore. They are within casting distance, so have at it with a bucktail or jig head armed with a Gulp! Swimming Mullet or Nemesis, or ‘tail trailing a strip of the earlier mentioned meat.
The daily limit is three fluke at 18-inches. The exceptions are the two at 16-inches possession limit along the surf at Island Beach State Park, and three at 17-inches when probing the stained waters of Delaware Bay.
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