Island recreational anglers can now land fluke without breaking the law. The recreational season for fluke opened on Wednesday and the word along the shore is encouraging. Commercial fishermen have been dragging for fluke for weeks with positive results.
This is the first summer recreational fishermen were restricted from catching fluke at the start of the fishing season. They are pretty salty about it, but commercial fishermen have been dealing with openings and closings for decades.
Fluke are one of the few fish in the sea experiencing a comeback, and regulators still have an aggressive management style for bringing the fish back to even greater numbers than the Island has seen in decades.
Now is the time to get the pole, a boat and bait.
Joe Re at Shark’s Landing Bait and Tackle Shop in Oak Bluffs will teach you how to catch a fluke. He sells a fluke rig that when attached to a fishing rod line will result in success.
Fluke are a bottom-dwelling fish. They are a flounder and taste like one. As a flounder, they have eyes on one side of the fish. They are a prized “catch of the day” in local restaurants. Recreational fishermen are limited to a bag limit of five fish of at least 18.5 inches in length.
To catch a fluke, fishermen on a boat or at the end of a dock will use a number of techniques to bring the baited hook to the bottom with a weight. The bait, most often squid, has to be placed close to the bottom.
“I have what is called an ‘old-time bottom tender,’” said Mr. Re. “They were made by Russ Keene from New Bedford. He died three years ago and I got all the rigs from his kid.”
The wire device sits on the bottom, with the help of an attached weight. “It holds the bait about eight inches up with a strong wire. It is like a cherry sitting on a long stem,” Mr. Re said.
Even if you don’t buy one, the sight of the bottom tender at his shop is worth noting. Essentially it puts the bait where the fish are most often feeding. “You can catch black sea bass and scup with it. And if you change the hook around you can catch anything,” Mr. Re said.
He has a picture of Mr. Keene in his office.
The fluke fishing season runs until August 13.
Bluefish are all around the Island, though they are as unpredictable as ever. The fish are here or they are not here depending on who is the angler speaking. One fishing spot can be bustling at one hour and quiet the next. Two fishermen giving a report about a favorite spot can come up with an opposite opinion.
Paul Schultz, who works for the Trustees of Reservations on Chappaquiddick, said there were several bluefish blitzes from the beach at Wasque and East Beach all week. He said it didn’t much matter what tide at Wasque. The fish ranged in size from 8 to 12 pounds. On East Beach there were fish in the four to six pound range.
Charlie Barr of Oak Bluffs said he got a discouraging report from one of his boating anglers. “He went fishing on Monday in the fog and had a tough time. He left out of Edgartown Harbor. He went fishing off the Chimneys at Chappaquiddick and found nothing. He fished off the Rock Pile. He fished off the Norton Point Breach, and he fished off Metcalf’s and could do nothing.”
Lobsterville Beach which was very busy a few weeks ago has slowed down. But don’t dismiss the fishing spot, as that can change.
Capt. Robert Weiss, of Oak Bluffs, is a charter fisherman, and he offered some help. “Fish are sporadic. There are certain places all around the Island where it can be productive or quiet, like East Beach where they seem to do fine at night. You go back there in the daytime and there is nothing. We fish a lot of places. We fish Tom’s Shoal. We fish south of Tom’s Shoal. You just search around until you find some dumb fish. And you make a trip out of that.”
Captain Weiss has a great name for his fishing boat. It is called Summer’s Lease, a 28-foot Harris Cuttyhunk. He keeps his boat right at the promenade in Oak Bluffs harbor.
Capt. Charlie Finnerty of Chilmark was out with a charter on Saturday morning. His guests included Doug Hakey of Virginia, Masie Saunders, and his wife, Joyce, and two sons.
“We left the dock at 6:30 a.m. and were back by 11:30 a.m.,” Mr. Finnerty said.
“As we left the dock, Doug says he always catches the biggest fish. I took them to my favorite fishing spot in the Sound,” Mr. Finnerty said.
At about 9:30 a.m. Mr. Hakey got what was thought to be a minor tug. And just before the fish came up to the boat, Mr. Finnerty said the angler already had expressed an opinion. “He said he thought it was a little bluefish and that it didn’t count.”
Turned out the fish was a 40-pound striped bass.
“For the rest of the day, we gave him a hard time for his little bluefish,” Mr. Finnerty said.
The rest of the trip was fine. Mr. Finnerty said the anglers caught ten bass in the 28-to-33-pound range.
Joe Re usually keeps a watchful eye on the Oak Bluffs harbor. His tackle shop has one of the best vistas in all of the waterfront.
On Sunday, a young 12-year-old boy named Noah was fishing from the dinghy dock.
The boy was attracting quite a bit of attention not only for his enthusiasm but for the use of the wrong equipment.
“He was trying to catch scup at the end of the dinghy dock with a handheld net,” Mr. Re said. The fish were swimming right through the wide mesh net. Still, spectators enjoyed watching.
At times, Mr. Re said the boy’s position was a bit precarious. He thought he was going to fall in.
All of a sudden a 34-inch striped bass appeared in the net.
Mr. Re said the boy was quite surprised to catch the bigger fish. “I think the striped bass followed the scup right into the net with a vengeance.”
Striped bass are still only available to recreational anglers. The commercial season for striped bass doesn’t open until July 12.