While I was growing up on Long Island in the 1950s, even beginners could catch a fluke dinner most days by just drifting a killie in protected bays and rivers. I never caught one over 3 1/2 pounds doing that, but one morning I learned how to chum for fluke on Farm Shoals inside Fire Island Inlet where my fishing biddy and fellow college student, Bill McGuiness, and I combined to catch 93 fluke in a few hours.
Those fluke were all keepers, as there was no minimum length, bag limit or season at that time. Even the smallest fluke were usually kept in those days because most fish were eaten on the bone. However, we decided that 14 inches would be the smallest we’d keep. There were lots of meaty 15-and-16-inchers in our catch, but the biggest fluke was just 18 inches — not even a N.Y. keeper today.
Ironically, when N.Y. instituted the first fluke minimum, it was the same as ours. However, it wasn’t a conservation measure as the intention was to spread the catch over the summer after they found almost all fluke entering Great South Bay arrived about the same time each spring. That 14 inches much later became the commercial minimum after conservation regulations were adopted along the Atlantic coast. Yet, the angling public has been subjected to ever-higher minimums to reduce the catches which were unlimited when I was a kid.
The result has been that just dragging a bait on bottom rarely produces anything but shorts. An effort must be made in order to catch the few bigger fluke that are of legal size. As most party boat skippers will assure you, it’s essential that you constantly jig your rig, whether it’s a jig/ large Gulp Grub combo or just he Gulp Grub, live bait or long natural bait on a sinker rig. It’s a lot of work, but the difference between a successful trip or a boat ride under the new reality.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina, reports that big fluke are biting again in the ocean — while a Shark River boater caught his limit out of seven legal-sized fluke.
Capt. Ron Santee Jr. reported tough fluking conditions today on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands due to a very fast drift in the northwest blow. That wind is dying out and the small craft warning went down at 6 p.m. Monday’s forecast is for only 10 knots from the east before going southeast in the afternoon.