Summer flounder (fluke) fishing got off to a great start this year.
On Saturday, May 21, 2022 Peter Johnson of Connecticut said, “I limited out on fluke in eighty feet of water in the Block Island Wind Farm area.” Peter is a firm believer in going light. He uses 15 pound braid, jigs and stingers tipped with gulp and sometimes squid strips.
Two years ago Peter caught one of his personal best, a 28” fluke right in front of Warwick Light in Narraganset Bay fishing the banks and deep water in the channel. Peter said, “This is the largest fluke I ever caught. I have been waiting for this a long time. I caught this, 28” fluke using 15 pound braid line… a white four once buck tail jig with white feathers did the trick. The idea is to keep it light.”
Angler Rich Hittinger of Warwick did manage a personal best in 2020 just outside of the wind farm area when he caught an 11.16 pound, 30” fluke. Hittinger said, “We moved to 50 feet of water to avoid some of the dogfish. He fish hit a trailer hook with a green squid skirt. I had a 10 once sinker holding bottom. She fought from the bottom to the top, taking drag several time.”
And who can forget the scream heard off Newport last year when RISAA Executive Director Greg Vespe of Tiverton caught a 15 pound, 8 once, 31.5 inch fluke while fishing off Newport with his friend Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters.
Greg said, “My rod just got heavy, no nibble or classic kind of tap tap, the whole thing loaded up. For a second I thought I had a lobster pot line, then you could tell it was definitely something alive and it came up relatively easily the first 40 feet. When it realized it was hooked it decided to fight, and what a fight. Even though my drag was tight she went all the way back down to the bottom and bulldozed for a bit. Finally she started to come back up. When we saw it I let out a holler that is probably still vibrating around Newport.”
Greg caught the fluke with a fairly rare/hard to find deep purple squid body Capt. BJ fluke rig tipped with a six inch gulp and a teaser up above the rig tipped with a squid strip.
Summer flounder (fluke) fishing in Rhode Island runs from May 3 to December 31. The minimum size is 18” this year which is liberalized from last year’s 19” fish. The bag limit this year is four fish/person/day. In Massachusetts the season is May 21 to September 29, a 16.5” minimum size with a five fish/person/day limit.
- In May, fluke move in shore from deep Continental Shelf waters where they spend the winter. They stay inland until October and then move back to the deep water.
- Fluke return to the same areas, bays, etc. year after year.
- The local abundance of summer flounder or fluke, has increased over the years due to warming water. Visit https://apps-st.fisheries.noaa.gov/dismap/ to see an animation of summer flounder (and hundreds of other species) moving up the coast over the years as the water warms.
- Fluke are a flat fish with two eyes on the same side of the fish. They are bottom fish that do not look aggressive, but they will chase bait aggressively and eat the same bait that bluefish and striped bass eat. The difference is that they feed off the bottom.
- They can be caught from a boat (usually while drifting) or from shore (more difficult) with little knowledge, so they are an ideal catch for beginners and children.
- Fluke are chameleons; they change color to blend with the bottom.
- According to the International Game Fish Associaton the all tackle world record for summer flounder (fluke) is 22 pound, 7 ounces caught at Montauk, NY in 1975
- Fluke face into the current to feed, so you want to drag your bait over the front of them, drifting with the tide and wind in the same direction when in a boat or slowing pulling your bait over the bottom when on land
- Fish edges of channels, banks, underwater valleys and humps as big fish ambush bait there
- When fishing slack or flood tide with no water movement, try to fish in locations that have a lot of current (like under bridges or around jetties) or try power drifting (putting the vessel in and out of gear to create movement)… or troll perpendicular if in a boat so no matter what way the fish are facing you are passing them at least on a right angle
- When it comes to fluking, squid is the bait of choice. Some anglers cut it in very fine strips yet others like to use the whole squid with others using what they catch that day… strips of bluefish, sea robin, etc.
- Both jigs and jigs with a second stinger hook trailing 30 to 36” behind work. Traditional squid rigs work as well.
- Find the fish and repeat pattern… drifting over the same location or depth that is yielding fish.
- One of my favorite fluke baits is a fluorescent green or white plastic squid rig, baited with a squid strip. And, depending on what the fish want a minnow or silverside and/or a strip of fluke belly. I sometimes use a stinger hook with some type of attractant above this rig.
- Try to match the bait in the water that fluke may be feeding on. For example, early in the season the squid are in, so emphasize squid on your fluke rigs. Some anglers use an entire squid when the squid are in, however, later in the season they may emphasize other baits… silversides, mummies, menhaden, bluefish or some other attractant.
- Another tactic that will enhance your fluke bite is teaser bait placed above the main bait. The idea is to create action above and behind the main bait that gives fluke a second chance to see your bait. A buck tail skirted hook is often used as a teaser with a piece of squid stip.
Favorite Places to catch fluke
Look for drop offs, structure, the banks of channels, and deep water particularly in the warm weather, in spring time they tend to be in lower depths. Favorite places:
- channel breaks in and around Warwick Neck light
- channel breaks on the northeast side of the Jamestown bridge
- areas off the north west corner of Dutch Island
- underwater valley off the southeast side of Dutch Island
- areas off URI’s Bay Campus in the West Passage
- Austin’s Hollow (an underwater valley) off the west side of Jamestown
- Beavertail in deep water off the west side
- off southern Rhode Island coastal beaches… Watch Hill, Charlestown, in front of the five cottages, etc.
- off the center wall of the Harbor of Refuge
- off Newport over humps and bumps
- at the mouth of Hull and Mackerel Coves off Jamestown at the drop-offs
- structure in two to three areas visible on the chart one to three miles off the Sakonnet River
- Elbow Ledge near the mouth of the Sakonnet
- off Block Island… the East Fishing Grounds, the North Rip, Cow Cove on the north end, along the State beach on the east side and the south and southwest sides of the Island including in and around the Block Island Wind Farm.
Videos on fluke fishing
Visit Tips on Where to Fluke Fish Around Block Island: Capt Charlie Donilon – YouTube for and interview with Capt. Charlie Donilon of Snappa Charters, Pt. Judith, RI on how and where to catch fluke off Block Island and coastal shores.
Visit (178) Incredible Underwater Flounder/Fluke Fishing Behavior! – YouTube for a John Skinner video on fluke behavior underwater as they approach your bait.
Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D1p71n8p4g&t=185s for a video with Capt. Dave Monti, Kelly Parker and Tom Richardson, co-hosts of New England Boating TV, they fish for fluke off Jamestown.