Surf Fishing For Fluke

So proud to have another piece appear in the July 2019 New Jersey issue of On The Water magazine.

The fish gods must've picked up a copy because kingfish have shown in good numbers for surf anglers this summer.

I hope my story put readers in "grin and nod mode" and helped them connect to a few more fish.

Date: 7/2/19  

Time: 4:45 - 8:45 am

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead High 7:34 am, Sunny Skies, Air Temperature 70-75, Water Temperature 72, Water Very Clear, Light WSW Wind and Flat Surf, New Moon 1%, Pressure 29.88 and Falling

Catch: This was a really fun morning. The beach was full of life. Schools of rainfish were in the water and both calico and mole crab molts littered the wrack line. July 2nd marked a New Moon.

Calico Crab Molt

It felt like gamefish were on the prowl. And fish hunting crabs along the beach lip were willing to take a popper.

I love trout fishing in running water. I've read that trout holding in shallow water are more likely to rise to a dry fly than fish holding in deep water. Here's why. In shallow water, all a fish has to do is tip its fins slightly to rise to the surface and eat. But any fish in a deep pool may have to move 4 or 5 feet to reach the surface. That's a bigger ask.

I think you can apply the same logic to striped bass in the surf. Any bass feeding along the beach lip or in the nearshore trough is still in relatively shallow water. Even if that fish is looking for crabs in the sand, it doesn't take much to dart up and eat a surface plug.

During this session, I caught a striped bass and a bluefish on a popper. I also had a ton of other swipes that got my heart going.

First Fish Of The Morning
This Fish Hit The Plug Less Than 3 Feet From The Dry Sand
Little Blue

Then I switched over to a slim metal and hooked a fluke. This pushed me to fish a fluke rig with Gulp! and I caught several more.

Finally, while fluking, a kingfish grabbed my jig. I switched up again and attached a kingfish rig to the end of my line. I threaded small pieces of Gulp! Sandworm on each hook. Using this rig I wrapped up the morning with three or four kingfish.

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I've found a new tradition. An annual, 9th inning keeper hunt from the sand and rocks.

Hurricane Florence had come and gone. We had powerful surf and northeast wind for days, but thankfully, the Jersey Shore was largely spared.

The idea came to me while surfing.

I found myself in the lineup checking my watch. I had to get home. Waiting for one last ride wasn't happening. I ended up bodyboarding in and got off on the sandbar. The water on the bar was waist deep. With my hand on my board floating next to me, I waded towards the sand. Eventually, I stepped off the sandbar and into the nearshore trough. That step put me in almost neck-deep water. Keeping my chin up, I slogged west and finally stepped up the soft beach lip and onto the sand.

My fish brain activated. It was clear that a lot of sand had been moved by the recent swell. The ocean had carved out new, deep holes and drops. Holes that would hold fluke.

I knew the upcoming week was the last week of fluke season. I also knew that dead high tide fell in the afternoon or evening all week long.

Think of it, I was looking at a week filled with warm air and water, a deep trough running right next to the beach, and afternoon flood tides. This would be prime time to stick a late-season keeper fluke from the beach. And all I'd have to wear on my bottom half were boardies.

I ended up fishing three different days. On average, each trip was 90 minutes or less. There was swell running every trip which made for a lot of current and whitewater to fish.

On the first day, a small bass ate my Tinman Wobble Jig and Gulp! Mullet in an out-suck. I also caught a few short fluke and they coughed up the summer menu.

The menu consisted of calico and mole crabs. The mole crab pictured had spent some time in a fluke belly.

I did stick that keeper fluke. It came on the second trip. This fish ate the jig and the teaser. This was a first for me. When I landed the fish, I unhooked the teaser and looked for my jig. Then I realized the jig was down his throat. Luckily, he was 18.5 inches long. At the end of my third trip, I found myself at a local inlet. The wind was honking out of the south. I watched as a fisherman, standing on the south jetty, fought and landed a false albacore. They were popping up here and there and a handful of guys were on them.

As I walked back to my car, it was the perfect ending to the summer. It was a clear signal. The fall is here.

Date: 8/14/18

Time: 5:45 - 8 am

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead Low 4:08 am, Partly Cloudy, Air Temperature 69, Water Temperature 75, Light SW Wind, Clear Water, Clean Knee to Waist High Surf, Moon 8% Visible

Catch: I was up and out before 5. My plan was to surf. After pulling up to the beach, I jumped out of the car and went down to the water's edge. In the false dawn light, the surf looked less than knee high. I debated what to do. Restless, I decided to scrap my original plan and fish. I texted my surfing buddy, shot home, and switched up my gear.

I ended up regretting that call. As the sun rose and the tide filled in, the surf looked better and better. Maybe it was the tide push or maybe my eyes were just off, but man, clean knee to waist high surf broke throughout my fishing session.Anyway, since I got a late start, I decided to fluke the beach and jetties. I ended up with 3 fluke. All shorts. The biggest measured 15.5 inches. I fished a simple teaser rig. The main lure is a favorite of mine for surf fluking - a TinMan 3/8 oz. Wobble Jig with a 4" white Gulp! mullet threaded on it. You can see it below the fish above. The fish pictured ate the teaser. The teaser is 15" above the jig and is just a baitholder hook with another Gulp! mullet threaded on it.

The third baitfish on the rock is an actual fish the fluke coughed up. It looks like a common killifish and shows this fluke may have recently spent time in a back bay or tidal creek before getting hooked in the surf. I don't believe fluke are that picky, but when looking at the picture you can't help but notice that 4" Gulp! mullets are a pretty good match.