South Jersey Fishing: Last Shots at Fluke Back to the Front
You read that correctly.
Back to front.
With the September 27 final day of the ‘22 summer flounder season rapidly approaching, these last days are sure to be a scramble to get in on the building flattie bite.
Plenty and more, keeper-size flukes remain in the bays, the lower sections of tidal rivers (such as the Manasquan and Shark), and inlets. Sure, many of them have already migrated out front, but mother lodes of bait, namely peanut bunker, glass minnows, the smaller snapper blues, spearing, small spot, and finger mullet are still backside, giving the deep water-bound flatfish last-minute opportunities to pack in the calories.
“Last minute” is a bit of a stretch, as over the years we’ve caught fluke in excess of 20 inches through October while tossing bucktails for stripers along the channel edges and sedge banks. Not many, mind you, but enough for the “Hmmm, how late do they stay back here?” question to enter the mind.
At this stage in the game, the fluke will be keyed on the aforementioned forage, with peanuts, spearing, spot, and mullet getting whole lots of attention. A live peanut bunker, mullet, or spot will most likely get crushed quickly. Bucktail/Gulp!, jighead/Gulp! (with or without a teaser) and the tried ‘n true squid/killie (minnie) combo will also put flatties in the cooler.
“Out front” also includes the surf. Working the suds and also the sides of jetties, with bucktail/Gulp! will catch fluke. Ditto a single hook rig baited with a finger mullet, peanut bunker, or squid/spearing and slowly dragged along the bottom. Flatties will shoot up from the sand and make the grab. We’ve observed this tactic working wonders along the beaches of Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, and Ocean City, to name a few.
New Jersey’s extensive artificial reef system lends itself well to the late-season big fish fluke hunt. North to south, these areas are packed with structures and materials that attract and hold flukes, especially when they move to offshore depths. Wrecks, rock piles, and shell beds are also hot areas for contact with late-season flatties.
This is big bait time, particularly when targeting doormat-size flatfish in the deeper reaches over such nasty cover.
Six-ounce and sometimes heavier jig heads and bucktails armed with a six-inch or eight-inch Gulp! Grub, six-inch Gulp! Paddleshad or six-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullet is deadly. Ditto a (preferably) live snapper blue, spot, or finger mullet.
It’s still summer. It’s still warm out and can be downright hot when it comes to the fluke!