The recreational fluke fishing season here in Massachusetts closes on October 9th. So if you want one last fluke dinner, then right now is the time to go!
This past Friday and Saturday I went fishing for fluke in some of the protected harbors and bays of Cape Cod. I knew it was late in the fluke fishing season, but I figured why not give it one last shot.
I'm happy to report that the fluke are still here. On both days I was able to catch and film fluke underwater. Today, I would like to share with you some information about the trips, as well as some underwater fluke footage that I think you will enjoy.
Catching Live Bait For Fluke
During the fall of 2019 I went fluke fishing with lures. Kastmasters and buck tail jigs worked well last year for me. This fall I decided to try fluke fishing with live bait. Specifically, I decided to try live mummichogs, and I have to thank my friend and MFCC member Todd Baranowski for giving me the idea.
So on Thursday October 1st I headed out to the backwaters of a saltwater marsh in search of mummichogs. These small fish inhabit the reeds and tidal pools of marshes all along the New England coast.
They are incredibly hardy fish, capable of withstanding low oxygen levels, high salinity, and big changes in water temperature. Mummichogs are preyed upon by birds and many predatory fish, including fluke, striped bass, bluefish and scup.
To catch mummichogs, I first scanned the marsh edge in order to locate the schools. It did not take long for me to find mummichogs darting around in less than one foot of water.
I used a minnow trap baited with bread, as well as a small cast net to catch the fish. Both methods worked great, but cast netting worked better for targeting the largest mummichogs in the school.
Fluke Fishing With Mummichogs
On Friday October 2nd I woke my wife Lauren up before sunrise, so she could join me for a morning of fluke fishing. Coaxing Lauren out of bed when it's still dark out is always a challenge, but a fresh piece of avocado toast and a hot cup of coffee did the trick.
Our destination was the Cape-side of Buzzard's Bay, where there are many protected coves and harbors suitable for fishing from our small 12 foot aluminum boat. In addition to Buzzard's Bay, I would imagine the bays and harbors of Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Cape Cod Bay might also be worth a try for late-season fluke.
We baited up using a small size 1 circle hook. We used 20lb leader with a quarter ounce rubber core sinker twisted onto the leader about two feet up from the hook. We dropped the live mummichog to the bottom and then reeled the bait up a little to keep it just off the bottom. Then we just drifted along waiting for a bite. It was a relaxing way to fish.
The key to locating the fluke seems to be finding a bay or harbor that is chock full of peanut bunker. If you can find a channel or inlet (where there is good water flow/current with peanut bunker) then you've really hit a home run, as that type of area will more than likely hold fluke.
Underwater Fluke Action
In a couple of hours on Friday we caught a half dozen fluke, with one of them being keeper-size (minimum size of 17 inches in Massachusetts). The action was a little better on Saturday. Regardless I feel we could've caught a lot more fish, if I was not so preoccupied with playing around with my underwater video cameras, and trying to film fluke underwater.
However, I'm happy I devoted more time to filming than fishing, because the footage I captured provided me with a new understanding of how fluke hunt their prey. In particular, I've realized that fluke will grab the bait, hold the bait in their mouth, and then swim forward.
For an angler who's not paying attention, it's possible to have a fluke on the line for many seconds (perhaps a minute or more) without noticing that anything is out of the ordinary. After a little practice, I could feel when a fluke engulfed my bait, and I could feel the fluke holding onto the bait as the fluke swam along the bottom.
By using the small circle hook, Lauren and I were able to avoid hooking the fluke deep in its stomach. When we knew a fluke had taken our bait, we would begin to slowly reel the fluke in, and the circle hook would slip out of the fluke's throat and hook the fluke in the corner of the mouth. This made releasing the fluke much easier.
This season I have really enjoyed the challenge of catching my own bait, and to be honest, my mummichog bait-catching trip was just as much fun as my fluke fishing trips. Oftentimes the pursuit of bait brings me to some of Cape Cod's most tranquil and peaceful places, where I find plenty of nature and lots of solitude.
There are heaps of great fishing opportunities right now throughout the region, and according to the members inside our forum there are plenty of false albacore, stripers, and bluefin tuna kicking around. Freshwater fishing for trout and other species is also heating up as water temperatures cool down.
Best of luck if you head out fishing this week and Tight Lines!