W ill the fluke chew? That's the question summer flounder fans had been wondering about for weeks leading up to New York's season that opened Wednesday. With water temperatures running five to 10 degrees cooler in some waters than last year, serious anglers had their doubts. For the most part, they need not have worried. The bite is off to an encouraging start.
"I was pleased with the Opening Day action," said Captain Mike Boccio on the Orient Point charter boat, Prime Time II. "Catches were adequate given the conditions. We had 50 shorts, plus enough keepers that everyone went home with dinner. With a forecast for warmer weather ahead, the action should improve over the next few days."
Captain Dave Brennan of the Greenport open boat Peconic Star II agreed with Boccio. He tallied 38 keepers plus a mess of toss backs for 32 fares. Scott Micciche of Smithtown took the pool with a fish just shy of 6 pounds. "It was better than I expected," Brennan said. "It bodes well for our next few trips."
Long Island's South Shore ports also saw decent catches with the Captree open boats Capt. Gillen and Capt. Rod, along with the rest of the Captree fleet, seeing bent rods around the Robert Moses Bridge. While keepers were at a premium, the action proved steady. "A good start," Capt. Patrick Gillen said.
"It was better on the North Shore than we expected," said an upbeat Jimmy Schneider on the Huntington-based James Joseph II. "At 51 degrees, the water here is still quite cold but we had seven keeper fluke and 40 shorts for 10 people. That tells me the fluke are here, the stocks are healthy and we just need some warm days to light a fire."
Some tips for hooking up with your first fluke of the season:
Expect spearing and squid combos to work best when the current runs strong and bucktails to have the edge as the tide softens. And try to time your trips to match outgoing water. Ebbing tides draw warm water out of the back bays and that can be a real turn-on for summer flatties. The new minimum size for fluke is 19 inches, a half-inch reduction from last year.
"That little drop in the size limit is going to put more fish in the buckets this fluke season," a happy Boccio said. "It's already made a difference for us on day one."
The inaugural Port Jefferson Boaters Maritime Festival also is Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.