Finally, the long-awaited fluke season gets underway on Friday with anglers allowed to keep four fish each at a minimum size of 19 inches.
While stripers continue to invade local bays and harbors, and scup — which opened Tuesday — are certainly an option at many ports, it’s the summer flatties that should garner the most attention through the weekend.
Early May has long been considered prime time to try for doormats in the waters around Greenport. Consider the depths directly in front of Claudio’s Restaurant, and the Greenlawns area on the west side of Shelter Island, the traditional hot spots. For the first month of the season these two locations generally produce more trophy fluke than any other place.
Adding to the fun here is an excellent opportunity to ice some jumbo porgies. Initial catches of the tasty panfish have ranged from fair to decent but scores should be on the upswing within days since stocks at the moment are quite robust.
To maximize your chances of catching both fluke and scup at the same time, bait a high-low rig with a single 4- to 6-inch strip of squid on each hook. If looking strictly for the doormats, try a whole small squid or a fish strip on the bottom hook and a long strip of squid on the top.
A second option that works well on the biggest fluke is to impale a 6-inch Berkley Gulp! Nuclear Chicken curly-tailed grub on the bottom hook and either a 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet or single 6-inch long squid strip on the top hook.
Another approach to catching a mixed bag of fluke and scup on Peconic Bay is to target them individually. Take your fluke drifts in the traditional hot spots already mentioned, then head over to Jessups Neck and anchor up with the fleet.
You are probably best off to not chum heavily for the scup at this point in the season since there are likely to be a lot of sea robins around. Try setting up with no chum at first, and add a single chum pot loaded with a log of clam chum if the bite doesn’t have enough teeth.
While much of the fluke fishing on the East End is over deep water to start the season, the opposite is often true for waters farther west. On Moriches and Shinnecock bays, for example, back bay prospecting with bucktails and light tackle can be the quickest route to that first keeper since shallow waters deep inside the coves may be as much as six degrees warmer than at the inlet. This spurs the flatties to wander far from the main channels in search of baitfish, squid, mantis shrimp and the like.
The scenario can be similar in western Great South and South Oyster bays, with initial catches often coming from up inside Reynolds Channel, Massapequa Cove and on the flats areas around Captree Island. On the North Shore, Smithtown Bay is a great starting place, although if the water still seems chilly the deeper ledges on the near-shore side of Eatons Neck are always worth a shot.
There are charter and open boats planning to sail for fluke out of most Long Island ports starting Friday. Call ahead to confirm sailing times.