Catching Fluke in New Jersey is not as easy as it use to be. Just ask any old salty dog and they will tell you about how much better fishing was in their day. Well… Without a time machine we’re stuck fishing now!
Here’s my keys to Catching Fluke In New Jersey!
My key is understanding how they feed and where they hide. Fluke are aggressive ambush predators. They like areas where current moves and flows to bring meals to them. They lay and wait for their opportunity to prey instead of actively hunting like many other species.
Fluke migrate east to west through the year. While there is not one large biomass, there’s a common theme. Spring and early summer large fluke are found in the bays. Late Summer and Fall large fluke are in the ocean on the wrecks, reefs and open bottom. For a large portion of the season quality fluke can be targeted at all of the major inlets or areas in close proximity. These access points to and from the back water are always important choke points in the summer flounders migration.
“Finding and staying with a body of fluke is difficult. You don’t mark schools of them on the sounder and you definitely don’t see bird diving alerting to an active school. Since they are on the bottom it’s even difficult to keep track and log water temperatures. Your water temp gauge is reading the surface which is drastically different from the bottom temperature where fluke live.” – Fish Head Greg
Fluke Fishing the Bay
Every spring and summer there are tons of fluke in Barnegat Bay. We also have an advantage locally as our bay will hold fish throughout the summer season. As the water warms they simply move from the shallows and shoals to the deeper areas with cooler water. Since there’s not a ton of structure in our bay this often means the fish are located on drop offs, ledges and edges.
The edge of a channel or sod bank can provide an excellent habitat for many marine species that fluke will feed on. The fluke will lay head into the current and pick off just about anything that swims or drifts by that they can fit in their mouth. The key to increasing your catch in the bay is to make sure your baits are presented to the fluke in the direction they’re looking and feeding. Drifting and dreaming aimlessly across the bay will lead to nothing more than a relaxing day in the sun. That’s not all that bad, but if you want to go catching, you need to focus on those drifts and dial in on your target areas.
Stay on the motor and power drift along those channel edges. Bumping in and out of reverse while maintaining direction. Do not focus on a drift speed, but focus on your fishing lines and make sure your presentation is vertical. Your ideal drift speed will change with the tide. Some guys use their engine while others opt for a tiller motor or trolling motor. In recent years trolling motors have exploded on the saltwater scene. These saltwater units from Rhodan are a total game changer!
How To Rig Up To Catch Fluke In The Bay
My rig of choice for shallow water drifting is typically just a single jig. I like to go with a 1/4 – 1/2oz Magictail Round Head Big Eye Jig paired with a 4” Gulp Swimming Mullet or 4” Gulp Grub. Typically, I do not fish a teaser because it requires a larger jig (due to added drag in the water) to hold bottom. I pretty much stick with just a few key gulp colors and ride it out for better or worse. It all works. Catching fluke in dirty water tends to be easier with chartreuse and orange (Salmon).
When it comes to gulp, make sure your inventory is stocked up early in the season. As the fluke season runs on you’ll find the your favorite colors are often not in stock; or are in limited quantity. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to buy more of your favorites to find out everywhere is sold out.
Catching Fluke at Night
Catching Fluke at night isn’t out of the picture either. Take to some well lit areas like docks and piers, especially those with underwater lights. The lights bring in the bait and give the fluke enough site to become aggressive in the dark. A small (1/2-3/4 oz) glow Magictail Hoochie with a 4” Gulp Glow Swimming Mullet is the ticket. Chartreuse and Pink swimming mullet will also produce in these conditions. Work the jig slowly near the bottom and cast around to cover the entire area.
Ocean Fluking in NJ
Catching fluke out in the ocean is the are of focus in the second half of the season. You will find higher numbers of larger fish more frequently than in the bay; however, be prepared to lose some equipment. The big doormat of your dreams is more than likely tucked up close alongside or even inside of some gnarly bottom on one of our local wrecks. If you haven’t figured it out by now you should be working on your reading comprehension skills a bit. You’ll find the fluke alongside the structure!
Our local wrecks are home to loads of fish and crustaceans. Being ambush predators, fluke are not cruising around the ocean searching for a meal. They’re going to find an area that has a high likelihood of something swimming by they can snack on. Summer flounder will stack up in these areas. So it’s very important that when you catch a good fish you mark that area in your GPS and run that same drift again and again. Oftentimes you’ll find that where there is one good fish there are many good fish. Taking smaller more direct drifts on this structure will lead to more limits of fluke and a better shot at the doormat you’re looking for.
How To Rig Up To Catch Fluke In The Ocean
Again the Magictail Round Head Big Eye Jig is my jig of choice here. I find myself using anywhere from 1-4 ounces depending on the depth and conditions (wind, waves, current). I always opt for the biggest gulp possible and I am excited to really put the new 8″ gulp grubs to the test this year.
Typically in the ocean I am fishing a single jig looking for larger doormats however with this years adjusted regulations adding a teaser might become an option. Using a teaser hook with a 5″ gulp grub will allow you to focus on some of those slot fish. The “Teaser Hook” is added using a dropper loop with a specialty Gulp Hook made for us by Mustad (Model 3400BN in size 7/0) Before these hooks came out I used the classic Mustad Baitholder Hook or the Gamakatsu Baitholder Hook. Both of which are great hooks but the Mustad 3400BN is the perfect hook because it is not offset. This will prevent the bait from spinning and give it a more natural presentation.
If I am hunting specifically for doormats in the late season, there are times I chose to fish very big baits. These fish don’t always inhale these large baits and might short strike and hold the bait first. If you set the hook too early the short strikes can be very frustrating. For this reason I use a sliding snell rig when fishing whole squid, live snapper blues and extra long meat strip baits. Here’s a quick how to tie it…
Where ever you are fishing for fluke the best advice I can offer is to hone in and focus on small areas with the best structure. Always fish with lots of movement on the jig or bucktail. It will trigger a strike! When you feel a bite, take a swing! When the fish hit you must be sure to set the hook. If you miss just drop it back down and keep it moving. 99% of the time the fish will come right back. Once you’ve hooked the fish, slow down! Apply steady pressure with a nice slow steady retrieve. This will ensure the fluke’s viscous head shakes will not toss the hook. Dropping the tip when cranking will lead to a heartbreaker.
Catching limits of keeper sized fluke proves more difficult for anglers every year, but now after reading this, I’m confident you’ll improve your catches! Get out there and enjoy you time fluke fishing on the water!
Catching Doormat Fluke
Check out this video on our YouTube page of Matt’s 2022 Seminar at the Atlantic City Boat show.