September 07, 2021
I love flukin' because it takes me back to my fishing roots. There's something very appealing about just drifting along on a giant conveyor belt of seawater on a calm August day as you wait for a big flattie to bite.
The ultimate reward, of course, is great table fare in the skillet that night.
Fluke inhabit different bottom types, but their prime holding areas include river mouths, estuaries, channels, sand and gravel shoals and drop-offs, usually in depths from 15 to 25 feet. But later in the season, stretches of water 30 to over 100 feet deep become common staging areas as flatties prepare to move out for the winter.
From north to south, here are some likely places to look for late-season summer flounder in your area.
"On the east branch of the Westport River, from Gunning Island southward, the tidal flow and deeper channels funnel baitfish through the river," says Capt. Ned Kittredge, a pro with over 45 years’ experience. "Summer flounder are in these deep cuts where they wait for prey."
The largest concentration of baitfish occurs south of the intersection of the east and west branches.
"A strong ebb tide, combined with river current, creates ideal conditions for drifting," says Kittredge. "Fishing is often good on the flood tide, but more often it’s better on the ebb as the water flushes out and into Buzzards Bay."
Seaworthy boats can venture to deeper water outside the river mouth. However, when a dropping tide opposes a brisk southwest wind, use extreme caution heading in or out of the river due to large, cresting waves. On calm days, try drifting parallel to Horseneck Beach along the deeper 20- to 30-foot slope. Set up a drift over the uneven sandy bottom and free-spool down a squid strip on a jig or a ThomCat-type fluke rig. Like anywhere else, be prepared to weed through lots of shorts before you land a keeper.
- IF YOU GO: There's a public boat ramp at the end of Route 88 in Westport. For information and supplies, visit Westport Bait & Tackle (westportbait.com). To book a bottom-fishing charter, contact Page Fore Charters (pageforecharters.tripod.com).
Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island, about 12 miles south of Pt. Judith, R.I., boasts some of the top fluke fishing anywhere in the East. This 9-by-3 1/2-mile teardrop-shaped outpost is surrounded by miles of tide-swept, sandy bottom broken with patches of stones, gravel and vegetation—a fluke haven. The island sits in the middle of the migratory path of fluke making their way to and from other grounds.
Start your hunt on the sandy bottom in depths of 25 to 40 feet running from Sandy Point at the north end all along the west side and around to the southern end. Excellent areas include from Grace Point to the entrance of New Harbor. Southwest Point and the south side of the island are also productive. If you’re targeting doormats, avoid the fleet and search deeper waters for changes in depth. At times you’ll get into the sand sharks around Block, and that requires a move.
- IF YOU GO: The run to Block Island requires a seaworthy vessel; if you don't have one, book a trip with Block Island Fishworks (sandypointco.com). For on-island bait and tackle, visit Twin Maples (401-466-5547). Mainland bait, tackle and charters can be found at Captain’s Tackle (francesfleet.com).
Fishers Island, New York
Isabella Beach is a half-mile-long, banana-shaped stretch of sand on the south side of Fishers Island, N.Y. It's only a short run from the eastern entrance of the Long Island Sound and many area launches.
"When we report good fluke fishing 'off Isabella,'" says Capt. Q Kresser, manager at River's End Tackle in Old Saybrook, Conn., "what we mean is anywhere along the 2 1/2-mile stretch of sandy bottom from Wilderness Point to the west and South Reef to the east—not just off Isabella Beach itself. This whole area holds keeper fluke through the season."
Most success comes from 40-foot depths, though later in the season, keeper fluke are taken in up to 100 feet of water here. The tendency is for the fish to move deeper as the waters warm. One time-tested tactic is to simply follow the drift of the fleet. Or just make progressively deeper drifts on your own, starting in 40 feet and working your way out. Record your drifts on your GPS, which will allow you to repeat productive tracks once you locate fish.
- IF YOU GO: You can book a fluke trip out of nearby Niantic, Conn., on the Tartan II (tartaniifishing.com). For information and supplies, visit Hillyer's Tackle (hillyerstackle.com) at the Niantic River Launch in Waterford, Conn.
Black Point, Connecticut
Black Point reef is located off the southwestern tip of Niantic Bay in East Lyme, Conn., and runs almost a mile south into Long Island Sound. The water depth drops sharply from 60 to more than 100 feet where the reef ends abruptly off the southernmost tip. A perennial hotspot for late-season keeper fluke is this 100-foot swath beyond the structure, which runs east-west for at least a half mile.
- IF YOU GO: Book a trip on the Tartan II and visit Hillyer's Tackle for information and supplies. Launch at the Niantic River by Hillyer's.
Long Sand Shoal, Connecticut
Stretching 6 miles from its east-end bell buoy to its west-end gong, Long Sand Shoal spans the towns of Old Saybrook and Westbrook, Conn., and its midpoint rests 1 1/2 miles south of Cornfield Point. The shoal is composed of a narrow band of sandy bottom deposits from the Connecticut River outflow.
The shoal's eastern half averages about 14 feet, while the central portion and western half average only 4 to 9 feet. Waters to the north side of the shoal average about 40 feet; however, waters to the south side plummet to more than 100 feet.
You can catch fluke along the entire shoal, but the action is usually best on the western end when drifting along the slope with the diagonal current.
- IF YOU GO: Launch at the Baldwin Bridge State Ramp in Old Saybrook. For info, bait and fluke rigs, stop by River’s End Tackle (riversendtackle.com). Charter a trip aboard the Sea Sprite with Capt. Pete Wheeler (captainpete.com).
Port Jefferson, New York
Three large land points off Point Jefferson Harbor add structure to Long Island’s otherwise nondescript northern shoreline. The channels, points and slopes provide holding spots for fluke to stage and ambush food as it's swept past. Port Jeff offers a very sudden and steep drop-off that runs from its shore toward the central Sound.
Just a short distance from Mt. Misery Point, the water depth plummets from 10 to 90 feet. And off Old Field Point, the depth falls from 30 feet to well over 100 feet deep. This happens within about half a mile and is a go-to fluke spot.
- IF YOU GO: For charter fishing, contact Osprey Fishing (ospreyfishing.com). For information and supplies, visit Caraftis Fishing Station (631-473-2288).
Ambrose Channel, New Jersey
Located in the shipping lanes of Raritan Bay, N.J., just east of Romer Shoal, the Ambrose Channel paves a deep gully running from 21 feet on its edges, sloping to 45 feet and finally down to 70 feet at its centerline. An indicator that you're in the best area is the No. 8 buoy on the channel's east side.
This deep channel draws some of the biggest fluke of late summer to its ledges and trough. Stay aware of supertankers traversing the channel and be ready to give way. There aren't a lot of average-size fish here, but the ones you catch are likely to be doormats.
- IF YOU GO: Launch at the Raritan Bay Marina in Keansburg. For information and supplies, hit up the Tackle Box (732-264-7711), also in Keansburg. Hop on the Misty Morn (mistymornfishing.com) out of South Amboy for a charter trip.
Choptank River, Maryland
The mouth of the Choptank River is located on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore just south of the Bay Bridges at Sandy Point, and is accessible to anglers from Virginia and Maryland. One good spot is a few yards south of the green can buoy 9, located about a quarter mile south of Black Walnut Point on the river's northern channel. The bottom drops rapidly from about 8 feet deep to 26 feet deep, and eventually to 40 feet deep.
Through the summer, fluke commonly gather along 20- to 50-foot shoals, but the Choptank's ebb current is very strong in those areas. Flatties that staged in the shallows in early summer are now migrating to this deeper water before exiting the bay for the fall. Come rigged with thin 15- to 20-pound braid to reduce line drag and increase sensitivity. Bring a range of larger sinkers up to 8 ounces to fish vertically with a standard fluke rig sweetened with a squid strip and minnow.
Trophy fluke sometimes hold on the drop-off situated beyond the north end of The Diamonds, located at flashing green buoy 7. Depths here change from 11 to 36 feet, making it an ideal drifting location. South-southwest of the nearby Airplane Wreck is red buoy 10, where abrupt depth changes make this a fishy spot for fluke and other species, including bluefish and rockfish. For details, see Captain Seagull's Sportfishing chart CHP393.