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Ocean fluke finally hit stride

Mate Zach Hindin, brings aboard a fluke during

Mate Zach Hindin, brings aboard a fluke during an afternoon fishing trip in the Great South Bay on Captain Tony Greco's boat, the Dolphin, based out of Freeport on Aug. 10, 2013. Credit: Steve Pfost

Just when you get to wondering if the ocean fluking along Long Island’s South Shore will ever kick into high gear, a couple of cool nights greet the end of August and the action lights up. With calm seas and no rain in the forecast this weekend, the budding flatfish bite couldn’t come at a better time. Better still, solid catches are spread from Montauk all the way west to Breezy Point.

To be sure, a run of big fluke has been going on at Montauk for several weeks. In recent days, however, the summer flatties have really picked up the pace out of Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island and Jones inlets as well, much to the delight of private boaters and party boat fans who are within easy reach of productive bottom.

While action with smaller fluke and a fair number of keepers inside the South Shore bays has also improved significantly, the best catches of fish that are easily filleted have clearly come from ocean waters in the 70- to 100-foot range. Big baits have been a key component for the deep water success, with long strips cut from sea robins and 6-inch Berkley Gulp! grubs in white, chartreuse or nuclear orange accounting for most of the fluke weighing in excess of 6 pounds. Inside the bays, Spro bucktails tipped with spearing or Gulp! Swimming Mullets have scored best.

“Fluke fishing has been very good of late,” said Capt. Anthony Gillespie of the Capt. Lou Fleet in Freeport. “On Wednesday we had doormats up to 9.2 pounds with a lot of fluke in the 5- to 7-pound class while fishing in 90 feet of water, SSE of Jones Inlet.”

Capt. Neil Delanoy of the Captree open boat Laura Lee agreed. “We caught a 9.02-pound doormat this week. That’s our biggest fluke of the year. We’ve been catching sea bass and porgies, too. The fishing is really good right now. I can’t wait to get out on the ocean in calm seas this weekend.”

On the Montauk open boat Lazy Bones, Capt. Mike Vegessi said his customers on Thursday morning’s local half-day trip iced 20 keeper fluke to 7 pounds.”

Most ocean trips for the summer flatties are seeing anglers head home with two or three keeper fluke apiece. These have been supplemented by numerous jumbo sea bass, porgies and triggerfish. With plenty of fillets to go around, a few conservation-minded individuals have taken to tossing back their biggest fluke in favor of keeping 3- to 5-pounders for the table. That’s a commendable choice considering most of the larger fluke are females. The practice isn’t widespread but it should be considering the quantity of doormats caught in recent days, and the number of tasty by-catch fillets anglers have been able to put on ice.

Of course, not every day on the offshore fluke grounds has produced banner results. There have been some windy sessions, plus an occasional day when the bite simply failed to develop. Still, if you have yet to catch a doormat this year, the next couple of weeks may offer your best chance. In terms of hot spots, consider The Frisbees or Cartwright Grounds at Montauk, any of the South Shore ocean reefs, or Ambrose Channel on the West End as logical solid starting points.

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