Late Season Monster Fluke


I loathe the passing of summer, as I’m sure many of you do. But then, it does offer the year’s best shot at hooking-up with doormat fluke. Right now, the summer flatties are as heavy as they are going to get – and the biggest fish are at their most aggressive. If summer is going to slip away, we might as well make the best of it. Lifting the fluke of a lifetime over the rail is one way to do so and this season’s regulations provide until September 21 to get the job done. That’s time enough for the biggest doormats to get their fall feed on and migrate into a few of their last shot hotspots.


If you want to connect with really big fluke at this time of year, forget the bays, rivers and shallow flats.

The biggest fluke – those monsters weighing 6 to 10 pounds or more – tend to hold in deep water as the summer slips away. You’ll find them in well-defined channels leading out into big water, at the inlets and in the open ocean from half a mile to three miles off the beach. It is in these areas that the fluke post up, waiting for baitfish, small blues, young-of-the-year weakfish and the like to pour out of inlets and harbor mouths and begin their southward migrations. Usually, the action progresses from east to west along the South Shore, although the Ambrose Channel area on Long Island’s extreme western end can sometimes jump the gun and kick into high gear as early as late August.

No matter where you find it, this deep water action with summer flatties isn’t a light tackle affair. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Bring along a light ocean bluefish setup or your favorite conventional outfit for pulling porgies and sea bass off ocean wrecks. Leave your six- and eight-pound test spinning gear in the rack because it’s not sturdy enough to handle the weights and big baits needed to specifically target these brutes. I like to use a 20-pound class outfit but many anglers bump it up another notch to 30-pound test mono or even 50-pound test braid.

Typically, rigging for this action consists of a standard bottom rig featuring a 4/0 wide gap or Sproat style hook. The hook should be tied into the main line via a dropper loop or three-way swivel positioned four to six inches above the sinker. A three-foot leader of 30- to 40-pound test mono connects the hook to the main line. This is nothing more than the standard bay rig for fluke, except that the hook size is larger and your sinker will run heavier. Expect to need four to eight ounces of lead to hold bottom in most areas.



For summer fluking inside the bays, sand eels, spearing and live killies make excellent baits. But for fall doormats, you’ll need to switch to something bigger. Trade in those tiny baits for large smelt, six to eight-inch fish or squid strips, whole small squid or a live bunker or snapper blue. These big baits offer a doormat a meal worth chasing. Better still, they discourage smaller fish from biting which gives the monsters a better chance at getting to your bait. The snappers and bunker will even work if dead if you slice out the backbone for extra action as your bait slides along the bottom.

What it all really boils down to when it comes to presenting bait for big, late-season fluke, is offering a large profile. Therefore, if I can them, it I’ll go with the largest baits I can find. Sometimes, however, finding big baits is half the problem. If the pickin’s are slim in the fresh bait department, I’ll go with something more traditional like a long strip of squid, Peruvian spearing or even local spearing but I’ll add a bright pink, chartreuse or green squid skirt ahead of the hook to bulk up my presentation. Another way to increase your bait profile is to add a bright colored Twister Tail or Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet. I like the four- and five-inch sizes in hot pink, white or chartreuse. Slide the soft-plastic up the hook so the flutters away from the hook point. Then add your bait to create a bulky, sent-laden offering that big fish simply can’t refuse.

Should you choose to go the live bait route, you’ll find a slip-sinker rig works well. Hook the live bait through the nostrils or through the lips. If you desire, a stinger hook can be added and positioned at the tail. A twenty to forty-foot drop-back when a hit is felt should allow the predator to ingest your offering deep enough to make hook-setting better than a 50/50 proposition.

When is the best time to fish for doormats? The late Charlie Nappi, International Game Fish Association All-Tackle World Record holder with a 22-pound 7-ounce whopper and several
smaller line class records to his credit, used to say that it was the last fifteen minutes of any tide. I’ll expand that to the first and last hour, but you get the idea – the slowest portions of the tide clearly offer an edge. At this point the waters are moving fast enough to continue tossing baitfish around, but most of the smaller, more aggressive fluke have had their fill. Thus, those baitfish still in trouble are easy pickings for the biggest, oldest and laziest of summer flatties. Look for the biggest fluke to come from the most turbulent rips.


There are two big fish hotspots that are especially worth the ride if doormats are on your early fall hit list: Ambrose Channel right out in front of New York City, and Montauk. The Ambrose Channel run sees its best catches made along the channel edges while the Montauk action usually centers on the south side between Montauk Village and the Castle area east of Shinnecock Inlet. Another spot of note is the extreme western end of Long Island Sound. Some very large fluke have been culled from the waters around the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges in recent years. As at Ambrose, the Sound fish have come mostly from the channel edges.

Pick your days carefully when planning a September ocean fluke trip. You’ll want to head out when conditions are conducive to good drifting. Avoid new and full moon tides as they result in too much current, and hope for wind speeds of less than 15 knots. The combination of strong winds and moon tides can make for tough fishing so keep an ear to the weather channel and plan accordingly.

Big fluke season is upon us now, so make your plans and get out. Hang a couple of doormats and the summer will stay fresh in your mind. Hang one big enough, and the memory can last a lifetime.