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Bottom Fishing(Drift from Boat)

Finding your Spot

Drifting for Fluke and Weaks is a very popular method in catching these species in New Jersey waters during the summer months. The first step in a successful day of bottom fishing is to locate the channels, drop-offs and mussel beds in the ocean, bays and rivers on your fishing charts.

Once your area is identified and you arrive at your general location, take the time to survey the bottom with your fish-finder. Fluke will generally set themselves up on the edges of channels to ambush schools of bait as they swim by. Another good trick before you stop the boat to fish, is to drift for a short while noticing the direction of the drift on your GPS. The optimum drift will be one that brings you up or down the edge of the channel, deeper to shallower or shallower to deeper. This way your bait will move across an area where the fish are laying on the bottom.

Now that you have analyzed your drift, be sure to use the heaviest sinker that you can tolerate on your fishing pole, to ensure that you are holding bottom. It is also important that you let out a fair amount of line, since the depth of the water will be changing as you drift. Your fish finder will mark fish on areas where schools of Weaks abound, however marking actual fluke is next to impossible since they are flat on the bottom. Look for smaller marks of fish that indicate schools of bait instead.

Drifting for Fluke

Fishing for Fluke is done with a 3 to 5 foot leader with a long shafted hook. This hook is designed to hold long pieces of bait. Since flatfish are sight feeders, many rigs have small spinners, feathers, bucktails and beads to help attract attention. This combined with either a live killifish or dead spearing or sandeel, and a nice long piece of strip-cut squid, makes the perfect presentation for fluke. When fishing live bait try not to move the sinker too much on the bottom. Allow the live bait to swim and attract any fish in the vicinity. On the other hand, when fishing with dead bait, gently keep bouncing the rig off of the bottom so it does not just lie on the bottom.(This is a great way to attract crabs instead of fluke).

Fluke hit bait very hard, and immediately try to swallow it whole, so allow a second or two for the fish to get the bait in it's mouth, then set the hook with all your rod can deliver. They are also very strong flatfish, and they use muscle to keep themselves on the bottom. After you lift the fish off the bottom, reel it in very consistently, but not too quickly, since they will shake vigorously on their way up. Always use a net when landing fluke, because they have a tendency to try to spit out the hook at the surface.

If you can see that the fluke is not a legal size, do not net the fish, this can damage their fins. Lift the fish on the boat and grab the shank of the hook. Use a hook-removing tool to dislodge the rig from deep inside the fluke's mouth. When you release the fish, do your best to place the fish on the surface as gently as possible. By following these steps the mortality rate of short sized fluke will be zero, and they will grow up to be caught and kept the next time.

Drifting for Weakfish

When rigging for weakfish, use a rig with a 3 to 4 foot leader with a small piece of cork or wood designed to keep the bait off the bottom and bait it with a sandworm or bloodworm. When fishing the worm, be careful not to pull the rod up to hard between hits, thus causing the worm to fall off. Worms die pretty quickly once hooked on a rig, so it is important to gently bring the rod tip up and down. This stretches the entire worm and keeps it moving (and noticeable). Weakfish have an excellent sense of smell, and they use this to locate your worm in the murkiest of water. They also spook very easily, so try to position yourself away from other boats if possible.

When they hit, the entire worm is swallowed (and hopefully the hook too!) so allow for the fish to pull the line a little before gently setting the hook. This fish is named "Weak" fish because their mouths do not have a bony edge where the jaws meet, only a thin layer of skin that can tear during the fight. Always use a net when landing a weakfish, because the surface is the most likely place that they will pull the hook.

Captain Bob Elsey

Route 35 Belmar - (732) 681-5005 - Tom & Chip

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