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Fluke Fishing in the Cape Cod Canal – Part #1 Bait & Tackle

This is part #1 of a two part series on fluke fishing in the Canal. Check out part #2 about the best locations by clicking here.

For the shore bound angler on the Cape Cod Canal, one alternative to summer’s annual dog-day fishing doldrums is fluke fishing.

Given the right set of conditions, fluke fishing from shore can be an enjoyable and productive fair-weather summertime activity.

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Gear & Tackle

When fluke fishing from the shoreline of the canal, most pre-tied fluke rigs you can purchase in any tackle shop will suffice. 

But even if you tie your own, the key to many successful landings is using off-set fluke hooks, which provide a proper hook-set on those soft flatfish mouths.

Landing Fluke at the Cape Cod Canal

The author as he lands a nice Cape Cod Canal fluke

If you’re fishing with a fluke rig and find that you’re consistently missing on short takes, try using smaller flounder hooks.

Using the proper size weight is vital to fluke fishing success in the canal.

Depending on the stage of the tide and the current, 2, 3, 4 and even 5-ounce sinkers, used in conjunction with a sliding “fishfinder” rig, allow the bait to get down deep along the bottom.

The author's recommended Canal fluking rig

Hitting bottom in the strong currents of the canal is essential.

I’ve always been a loyal proponent of using braided line when fishing in the Big Ditch, and fluke fishing is no exception.

Braided line allows you to use thinner diameters, which cause less drag in the current, thus helping to get your bait straight to the bottom.

The sensitivity of braid is unmatched. When used in conjunction with a light to medium saltwater bait-casting or spinning outfit, you can feel any subtle takes that fluke are known for.

By adding a mono leader, you’ll have the added stealth and stretch needed to keep from ripping the hook from the fluke's soft mouth tissue during battle.

Best Baits

As with most other fishing applications, fresh bait is always better than frozen. A variety of natural baits such as clams, squid, sand eels, and live chubs will work in most places.

White colored pork rind or thinly cut strips of herring, pogy, or even fluke bellies themselves (thin strips cut from the white underside of a fluke) will also work. For the best chance at success try to match the natural forage of the area you are fishing.

The unmatched, universal bait of choice during the height of summer in the Cape Cod Canal is fresh sand eels.

This opinion is shared by many experienced, salt-encrusted canal veterans and has proven effective year in and year out. When filleting canal fluke I often find them loaded with sand eels.

To learn more about sand eels and how to acquire them, check out the post below by Ryan and longtime MFCC member "Frank Zappa."

The bait-fishing technique for fluke in the canal involves casting and drift/bouncing the bait along the bottom with the current, swinging it into holes, over sand bars and around soft structure.

For every solid bump you feel, set the hook. As the rig approaches the end of the drift, be sure to begin a fast retrieve to keep it from hanging up in the rocks at the channel’s edge.

Tides

The most active time for catching fluke in the canal is usually 1 to 2 hours on either side of slack tide

This is mainly dependent on your ability to hold bottom and adjust your location adjacent to where groups of fish may hold position as the tide and current change.

Sometimes you'll even land a few schoolie stripers in the process!

Canal Schoolie John Silva

The author with a schoolie striper caught while fluking

If the tide is at or near slack, no more than 2-ounces of weight is really necessary. As the current picks up, increase the size of the weight accordingly. If you are not bouncing along the bottom you are not catching fish.

Once you get that first hit, take note of the exact position where the bite occurred relative to the drift. I cannot overstate how important this is. 

Once the fish are located, chances are that will be the exact spot where you’ll receive multiple takes, providing you can drift your bait over it consistently.

If you put in your time to sufficiently learn how a given location reacts with the changing tide and current, you can catch fluke during all hours of the day.

Check out part #2 about the best Canal locations for catching fluke by clicking here.

What do you think? Let me know by commenting below.

  1. Are you able to catch fluke tipped with gulp at the canal?

    Reply
    1. Hey Nick,

      I’ve never tried Gulp for fluke, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

      Have you caught fluke on gulp in other spots?

      Reply
  2. Good stuff,
    How would I rig the sand eels on the hook for best results during casting/drifting without losing my bait?

    Reply
    1. Hey Bruce – I personally don’t fish sand eels often, but when I do fish sandeels, I hook 3 sand eels at a time, through the eyes.

      Reply
  3. Good stuff John.

    Thanks for contributing!

    Reply
  4. Good info. I have a friend who for years has touted the fluke fishing in the canal. I hope to get his location this year maybe even accompany him. He does very well. I think he told me recently that about now is when he starts fishing for them. Look forward to the next segment. P.

    Reply
    1. Thanks FZ. It’s a great dog-days alternative and change of pace to night-shift striper fishing.

      I actually have a sand eel rake, but never used it. Not too many places to rake sand eels out my way. So I was always dependent on the bait shop having fresh sand eels. Makes a difference…

      -JD-

      Reply
      1. Great article John,
        I have a question do you think sand worm will work or are sand eel cheaper and better bait?

        Reply
        1. Excellent question PP…

          Although they’d probably work fine, the problem with worms is that they would be hard to keep on the hook while doing long, heavy casting into the strong currents of the canal.

          That said, I imagine they could be used at the mouth of Sandwich Marina and the east end jetties, (locations are discussed in part 2) if you were doing a soft toss at high tide… as long as the currents were not too strong. But given the effort involved with any type of fishing on the canal, if I did try worms, I’d at least bring a backup supply of sand eels just in case.

          For that reason, I used to put 2 or even 3 sand eels on the hook at a time in case one fell off during the cast… I’d still have bait on the hook and it wouldn’t be a wasted drift.

          JD.

          Reply

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