Dick Kissel flashed a big grin as his 9-pound doormat fluke hit the deck with a solid thud and began pounding its tail aboard the open boat Miss Montauk.
“What a beautiful fish!” he said as a round of cheers from nearby railmates went up in the stern. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
We were drifting off Montauk Point on Tuesday and Kissel, 70, of Amityville, wasn’t the only one racking up a great score. Most on board were in the process of taking their five fluke limit and the typical summer flattie measured more than 20 inches in length — two full inches above the legal 18-inch limit.
On this trip, at least two dozen fluke fell in the 3- to 6-pound class, complemented by several humpbacked sea bass and plenty of the more typical “keepers.” By day’s end, most anglers were simply playing catch and release and many agreed they had just experienced the best fluke fishing of their lives. There was no complaining as the boat turned for home early and cruised at a leisurely pace to allow the crew time to fillet the day’s catch.
Kissel, who at the end of day would take home a handsome pile of pool money while edging out Paul Fosse’s 7-pound runner-up, credited his success to a special tangle-free, hi-low fluke rig tied by Bill Witchy of Comb’s Bait and Tackle in Amityville and adorned with long strips of squid also purchased at the shop.
“I used a 6-ounce fluke ball on the bottom of that rig instead of a sinker,” he said. “That kept my baits just barely touching the sea floor as we drifted along. If I felt a hit or a little extra weight, I’d lower the ball down and then slowly lift up again to set the hook. That light touch seemed to help a lot today.”
Up in the bow, 62-year-old Bernie Reynolds of Babylon was keeping pace with several sharpies “This is the best action I’ve ever seen with big fluke,” he said. “It’s my sixth trip out here this year and each has been better than the last.”
Reynolds attributed his success to a six-inch “Nuclear Chicken” colored Berkley Gulp! grub tipped with spearing. “Every day is different, so try different colors,” he advised. “See what other successful anglers around you are using and don’t be afraid to make a switch if the bites aren’t coming fast enough.”
So solid has been the fluking aboard the Miss Montauk that even novice anglers have been successful. Sheila Scanlan O’Brien of East Hampton was enjoying time with her daughter Kieran, age 11, and son, Rowan, age 8.
“My kids have been begging to go fishing,” she said. “I did a lot of research and found great reviews calling this a good family boat — and I couldn’t be happier. The mates and anglers nearby took time to teach us and help us out — and it was inspiring to see the crew, especially Sharon (Capt. Jamie Quaresimo’s wife) working so hard.
“In the end, we came away with several tasty fluke and Kieran caught a big triggerfish. Most importantly, we felt like we were part of a fishing community. That, more than anything else, made our trip special.”