Fishing For Fluke: How To Tie A Fluke Rig
Tying Your Own Fluke Rigs Is Easy -- And They Catch Fish!
Drifting a Lightweight Fluke Rig to Catch Fluke & Summer Flounder: Fluke, also known as summer flounder, is a bottom dwelling flatfish that is relatively easy to catch throughout most of its range. Small fluke resemble flounder in appearance but an adult can grow considerably larger with "doormat" sized fluke exceeding 10 pounds. More typically, fluke caught in shallow coastal waters average closer to a couple of pounds and around 18" in length.
As the coastal water begins to warm in the late spring to early summer, fluke follow the baitfish into the shallow water along the coastline and into the adjoining bays. The big fluke typically stay offshore in the cooler and deeper water, but large numbers of smaller fish move in towards the coastline to forage with the tides.
Fluke are ambush predators, lying in wait along the bottom for the tides and currents to bring their prey within striking distance. The standard technique to catching fluke involves using a baited hook attached to a heavy sinker to haul the bait down and drag it along the sea bottom. While this approach is often necessary to catch fluke in strong currents or in deep water, drifting a fluke rig in shallow water on light tackle is fun and a very effective method for catching fluke.
The drift conditions will determine the type of rig to use for catching fluke: tide, depth, current and wind conditions. When fishing in shallow water (30 feet or less) and drifting with the wind in light current, try tying a fluke rig with a lightweight jig and a trailer hook for a fun experience and proven method for catching fluke and flounder.
How To Tie A Fluke Rig
Reducing Line Twist
Drift fishing puts a lot of twists into the fishing line, especially when bottom fishing in currents and along rips with a weighted fluke rig.
To reduce the effect of line twist, tie a stainless steel barrel swivel to the end of your fishing line. Use a split ring to attach a snap swivel to the barrel swivel.
Then, tie the fluke rig and leaders separately, starting with a short piece of mono tied to a snap swivel on one end and the three-way swivel on the other. The snap swivel-to-snap swivel connection significantly reduces line twist while making it easy to change rigs.
This combo is especially useful in changing conditions. The snap-swivel arrangement makes it quick and easy to switch between a lighter and a heavier fluke rig, or to experiment with different fluke rigs tied with varying lengths of leader to the trailer hook.
Tying the Fluke Rig
For inshore fishing, a traditional spin casting rod and combo is easy to use and works well. If fishing deeper water, a shorter boat rod with a conventional reel allows better control of the drop and a little better feel on the line for the bite. My personal preference for shallow water fishing is a 7' medium-weight spin casting combo rigged with 20 lb. braided line, which works well for hooking up with fluke, and is stout enough to handle the occasional striped bass or bluefish that takes the bait.
Things You Need:
- Three-way swivel
- saltwater bucktail jig head with hook (2 oz and larger)
- #4 Circle hook (or long shank bait hook)
- Extra fishing line for leader material
To tie this lightweight fluke rig, start by tying a three-way swivel the end of your fishing line. Then, tie a short length of monofilament line to one end of the swivel to form a leader. Typically, I'll use 10 lb Berkley Trilene line to tie the leaders for the fluke rig. The line resists breaking should I hook up with a striper or small blue, yet will break off easier than the braided line in cases where the rig gets snagged on the bottom.
To the other end of the leader line, tie a saltwater bucktail jig head to form a leader approximately 3" or 4" long. Depending on the conditions for drift fishing, the bucktail jig head provides enough weight to hold the bait near the bottom in waters up to 30 feet deep. In deeper water or when drifting along a rip with strong currents, a heavier jig head may be needed to hold the bait closer to the bottom. In fast drifts due to current and wind, use a heavier jig and shorten the leaders to help keep the hooks and leader from tangling.
Use approximately 18" of line to tie a second leader to the three-way swivel. Tie a #4 circle hook to this second leader. While the baited jig head will hold the fluke rig near the bottom, the second longer and lighter leader will float just above the sea bottom. Using a circle hook typically catches in the corner of the fish's mouth, making it easier and safer to release smaller fish.
Fishing the Fluke Rig
Bait both hooks, using a combination of a squid strip together with a shiner. Frozen squid and shiners are available at most bait and tackle stores.
Cut the squid into thin strips, and slice the last couple of inches of the squid strip to create a tail that adds movement to the bait as it drifts along the bottom. Fluke are attracted to the fluttering motion of the squid, and will strike at the bait as it drifts by.
Buy the largest shiners you can find. Fresh shiners or other baitfish are even better. "Gulp" shrimp and sandworms are also effective fluke baits.
Gently toss the baited fluke rig over the side of the boat at the start of the drift, taking care to ensure that the rig does not tangle as it sinks. Spool out the line until you feel the jig head hit the bottom. The bucktail jig should bounce lightly along the bottom as the boat drifts along in the current. As you drift along, gently lifting the rod tip slightly and then letting it fall increases the action of the rig.
If the drift is too slow or the jig is too heavy, crabs and skates will attack and devour the bait as it drags slowly along the sea bed. If the drift is too fast for the lightweight jig head, you will not feel the bounce of the jig against the bottom and will need to add a heavier jig head.
When the drift speed is right, the light weight jig will bounce enticingly along the bottom and attract the attention of hungry fluke and flounder. Most of the fluke and flounder caught with this drift rig are hooked on the trailer hook. The fish tend to miss their initial attack at the jig but chase and strike again as the baited trailer hook drifts by.
When a fluke hits the bait, lift the rod tip to set the hook, and keep the line taunt as you reel the fish up to boat. Any slack in the line will allow the fluke to shake loose and escape. As the fluke nears the boat, use a net to lift the fish from the water.
Tips For Tying Fluke Rigs
Tie your fluke rigs in advance, and bring plenty of extra fluke rigs on every fishing trip. Losing bucktails jigs, hook and terminal tackle is a common hazard while bottom fishing for fluke as the drifting rig can get caught up in the rocks, lobster pots and other debris strewn along the bottom of the sea floor. I store extra rigs in zip-lock plastic bags to prevent the rigs from tangling together in the tackle box.
Tie the fluke rigs using mono fishing line. If the rig gets hung up on the bottom, the mono is more likely to break than the braided line.
Bring along lots of bait, either frozen or fresh, along with a jar of Gulp bait. No one wants to run out of bait when the bite is strong.
If you keep a fluke for the dinner table, save the top skin from the fillet. Strips of fluke skin is excellent bait for catching fluke.
Have You Ever Fished for Fluke?
Incredible Underwater Video of Fish Chasing the Fluke Rig! - Fishing a Bucktail Gig for Fluke in Long Island Sound
Ever wonder was going under under your boat as our bait bounced along the bottom? This amazing video captures fluke as they follow and strike at a light-weight jig.
The Ultimate Fluke Fishing Book
If you only read one book on fishing for fluke, this is the book to read.
Fluke Rigs and Tackle
Catching Baitfish for Fluke Fishing
Live baitfish offer lots of natural scent and movement when presented on a hook, attracting the attention of hungry fluke and other game fish in the area. Catching fresh baitfish for a fishing trip requires a little advance planning and specialized equipment, but it is a good investment of time and energy. There are several methods and techniques for catching live minnows, silversides and mummichogs, and here are a few tips for catching a fresh supply of local baitfish for your next fishing trip.
Bait a trap: The simple design of the traditional minnow pot funnels the baitfish into the trap in search of an easy meal, but narrow opening makes it very difficult for the fish to escape. Bait the minnow trap with corn chips instead of bread or fish heads; the oil from the chips attracts baitfish and the chips hold up longer in the water than bread and are not as messy as fish heads. Tie the minnow trap to a dock or pier, and wait a few hours for the bait to arrive.
Cast a net: When the opportunity arises, throw a casting net over a school of baitfish. A dipping net is not as effective at catching baitfish but is still useful for scooping out a few minnows or shiners. Try coaxing baitfish within reach by baiting the water with chips, bread or canned cat food.
Use a bigger net: One or two passes with a seine net can catch enough baitfish for a full day of fishing. A seine net has small weights attached to the bottom edge of the net with floats attached at the top to hold the net up vertically in the water. Long poles at either end are used to guide the net through the water, encircling and trapping the baitfish. Use a seine net along sandy shorelines, avoiding rock areas that can rip the net. Along with a supply of baitfish, a few tasty blue claw crabs might get caught up in the net.
Keep baitfish in an aerated live well. If using a bucket or cooler, replace the water frequently. Some of the baitfish will inevitably die off, but the dead minnows are still very effective bait, giving off a scent that carries through the water to attract game fish. At the end of the day, freeze the extra baitfish for another day.
If you can't catch baitfish, buy some!
Catch & Release Fishing
Help Maintain A Healthy Fishery
Successful catch and release fishing begins with your fishing tackle. Circle hooks are very effective, and setting the hook properly usually results in catching the corners of the fluke's mouth. Circle hooks are swallowed much less frequently than traditional hooks, saving unnecessary internal injury to the fish.
Landing the fish quickly will help to keep the fluke strong for a safe release. Use a net to scoop the fish from the water, and to help control the fish while trying to remove the hook.
Use a hook extractor or pliers to remove imbedded hooks. Grab the hook as close to the point as possible, while gently yet firmly twisting and backing out the hook. Pliers or an extractor provides extra leverage without putting additional pressure against the fish.
Do not hold a fish by its gills. Gently pin the fish to the bottom of the boat or wrap a wet rag around the fish to hold it securely.
Return the fish to the water as quickly as possible, but releasing an exhausted and disoriented fish before it has time to recover is lethal. Hold the fish in the water by its tail while supporting the midsection, and within a few minutes, a healthy and uninjured fish will begin to regain its strength. Taking the time to allow a tired fish to recover fully before swimming off on its own will significantly increase its chances to survive and to fight again on another day.