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.