Opportunity knocks for big fluke

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The start of any new fishing season is filled with promise and hope. Promise that the fish eventually will arrive and be hungry in their traditional hot spots, hope that anglers will cash in on fast action or deck the trophy of a lifetime.

Both counts will be on the minds of fluke fans hitting the waters of Peconic Bay off Greenport and Shelter Island Tuesday, as fluke season officially arrives. While there are likely to be plenty of fluke along the South Shore, North Shore and South Forks, it is the potential to limit out with a solid chance of catching a doormat weighing 8 pounds or more that draws fluke fans to these cool, deep waters.

"Our first fish on the boat last year was a whopping 10.25-pounder,'' said Dave Brennan, skipper of the Greenport-based Peconic Star Fleet, about last year's Opening Day. "Donna Rudolph of Mattituck was the angler and it took only a few minutes before that fish hit the deck."

The real beauty of the doormat run at Greenport is that anyone can give it a try. Open and charter boats run from both Greenport and Orient Point, and private boaters can launch from Norman E. Klipp Park on Manhasset Avenue, Greenport, to reach the hallowed fluke grounds in a matter of minutes (Town of Southold permit required; 631-765-5182).

What draws the doormats to this area? Most fluke experts believe it is the pods of squid that invade these waters in late April and May, but there is plenty of bunker, spearing and other baitfish around even if the squid fail to show in significant numbers. The strong currents and deep channels here also act as fluke highways, ushering the fish in and out of Peconic Bay.

"It's the deep water and strong currents that anglers should consider if they want to catch a big fish here,'' Brennan said. "Some fishermen swear by large strip baits, others present whole squid, Peruvian spearing or tinker mackerel on double-hook rigs. None of that matters if you can't keep the bait near the bottom. Leave the light tackle home. You need 8 or 10 ounces of lead to do the job right.''

There are competing theories about the best time to try your luck in this area. Some anglers schedule vacation days for the start of the season hoping to connect with the biggest doormats before they get culled out. Others insist the huge flatfish grow more aggressive in the second week of May. If you've got time to spare, spread your trips a few days apart to hedge your bets.

As for the best fluke bait, Brennan finds a 5-inch strip of belly fillet cut from a legal-size fluke tough to beat. "I've run my boats here for 38 years,'' he said, "and that's the one offering which consistently catches fluke of all sizes.''

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Youth turkey hunt results

Last weekend's Suffolk County youth turkey hunt had only a few big birds taken, but that was to be expected given how turkey hunting is new to Long Island in the modern era. Among the lucky, however, was Dominic Villafranca, noted in last week's column for having taken a 28-pound gobbler in last year's hunt. On Saturday morning, the 14-year-old dropped a beautiful 24-pounder called by his dad.

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