With New Jersey fluke season opening May 6, you can bet hordes of eager anglers are aching to hammer some flatties. The key is to get inside the mind of the fluke, and then to find where they are.
The 'NJFHA': The Garden State's coastline is loaded with flatfish-friendly structures, everything from tidal back creeks to artificial reef sites, shipwrecks, rocky inlets and large, inviting bays.
New Jersey's a virtual housing authority with a bit of everything to attract and hold fluke all season long.
Finding fluke is fairly easy if you know a bit of their biological mindset. Once waters start to warm up near 55 to 60 degrees, fluke tend to migrate back inshore from late April through June into the backchannels and inlets.
By July, they are still sitting put in their haunts in the backwaters and inside the bays and inlets, but begin to trickle out on the inshore humps and bumps.
Come mid to late summer, they tend to drift back outwards in a 2 to 8-mile range off the beaches and will hold to feed until late September and October when they begin their migratory 90 mile push back out to their wintering grounds outward to the Continental shelf.
Generally, Jersey flukers will find that the summer slabs are sticking tight to ledges and edges and will hold into deeper channels and around offshore structures such as rock beds and wreckage as the summer wears on.
But it's the beginning of the fluke season, so where are the finest spots to poke around and bag some quality fish? Here's our top five:
Broad Creek Thoroughfare
Broad Creek is a major channel within the Absecon Inlet, roughly over a mile long. It branches off the Intra-coastal Waterway at the 178 marker, where it then heads northwest.
Broad Creek's water depth can run from exposed sandbars on the low tides, down to holes reaching 25 feet in depth. But for the most part, the creek averages a controlling depth between 10 and 14 feet, with fluke mainly holding in the deeper holes.
"Last May, fluke held in the deeper holes of Broad Creek," said Dave Showell of the Absecon Bay Sportsman (609-484-0409).
"Some big fluke holed up there, and we had a shot of 3 to 9-pounders in the early season. If you drift through with a bucktail or live snapper or killies, the larger fluke can come up."
Oyster Creek Channel
This prolific channel that connects the Barnegat Inlet to the Barnegat back bay is a prominent superhighway for foraging fluke, which stretches from the BI Buoy in Waretown out to the Barnegat Inlet.
The meandering channel runs an average of 10 to 14 feet in depth and holds some sweet ledges and edges to work. Noted hot spots along the channel are by the BI buoy, and the No. 33 "Rolling Rock" can.
This wide, shallow back bay behind Sea Isle City is a perennial early season hot spot, as fluke up to and over 8 pounds are caught here during the initial push of the season.
Bucktails tipped with mackerel or bluefish strips will do the most damage here. Townsend's and Corson's Inlet are each a short run from the bay, and the tidal inlet waters hold flatties like shingles along the insides of the outer bridges.
Sitting roughly 18 miles south off of Cape May, the Old Grounds lay in a shipping channel from the Atlantic into Delaware Bay.
The bottom structure here is very rocky as stone ballasts from early century ships would be spilled here to lighten loads to safely enter the skinnier waters of Delaware Bay.
Depths range from 63 to 100 feet and the implementation of braided line is paramount to upping the odds in your favor, as the ultra-sensitivity and ability to cut through water will aid you in the deep water conditions.
Sitting east of Romer Shoal in the shipping lanes of Raritan Bay, the Ambrose Channel cuts a deep gully that runs from 21 feet on its ledges down a slope to the 45-foot range and eventually into 70 feet in its belly.
A good mark to know you're in the right area is the No. 8 buoy on the eastern side of the channel.
The deep channel attracts some of the largest fluke of the season to its ledges and trough.
Many charter captains are dialed into the fluke scene on a daily basis, so you don't have to do the groundwork.
Check out Capt. Pete Kwolek of the Hook 'em Up (732-687-0518) out of the Highlands, Capt.
Dave Showell of the Absecon Bay Sportsman (609-484-0409) and Capt. Dave Degennaro of the Hi-Flier (609-330-5674), Waretown, to put some flatties in your fridge!
Fluke season runs through Oct. 10, with a 161�2-inch minimum size and an eight-fish bag limit.
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