As August rolls in the fluke begin to roll out. Towards the second half of the month fluke begin to leave the South Shore bays as they migrate to deeper waters. This is a great time for those of us that love to fish the ocean in search of some big doormats. There are two things that I focus on when I’m out ocean fluking. I will start my search around structure. Structure being anything from reefs to contour changes on the ocean floor. Fluke will congregate where food is abundant and easy to catch. Check out last month’s column to find out where the nearest reef is located. The other thing that I focus on is locating squid. Not the easiest thing to do but when you find them there is a very good chance that you will find the fluke. In order to find squid it’s important to drive slow and be prepared to cover some ground. As you look at your fishfinder be prepared to stop once you see what you believe to be a bait ball hovering just above the ocean floor. During the day squid stay just about as deep as the water is. Fluke are the same as other predatory fish; find the bait and you will find the fluke. Besides a multitude of dead baits that you can use for fluke, this time of the year snapper blues are plentiful and easy to catch before you push off the dock. Handle them with care and keep them alive. I like to “dead-stick” my live snappers while targeting fluke. As far as rigs go, I have a hard time using anything but the old tried and true, hi-lo rig. My largest fluke which weighed in at 11.25 lbs. was caught on a hi-lo rig tipped with spearing and squid. IF you fish a hi-lo rig you can substitute your sinker for a bucktail or even a fluke ball. When it comes to live-lining your snapper, I use what most fishermen would use for stripe bass, a fishfinder rig with a single hook. I like to hook the snappers in the nose. this allows the snapper to swim naturally and will prevent it from spinning.
Common fishfinder rig with a single hook.
If you have no desire to leave the comforts of the bay I suggest you anchor up around your local bridges. This is a great way to introduce kids to fishing. Most bridges along the South Shore of Long Island will hold a variety of fish. With black seabass regulations being 15” for a keeper, it may be a little hard to come by. However you should have no problem finding plenty of keeper porgies (10”). The warm waters of August will bring in another fish that will add to the excitement. Over the last few years the waters around the Island have seen an abundance of triggerfish. You are going to love how they fight and there is a good chance you will love the way they taste. Despite their appearance, once you cut through their tuff skin you will be awarded with some nice table fare. My go to bait while fishing under a bridge in August would be hands down clam. No need to buy anything but a hi-lo porgy rig with a small piece of clam on each hook and either a 3 or 4 ounce weight. Keep in mind if you happen to land a blackfish they must be released. Blackfish season doesn’t open until October.
If you are determined to catch a striped bass in the month of August your best bet would be to head east. I mean all the way east, to the “end.” Using live eels will give you a good shot at landing some striped bass at night. During the day using a live legal sized porgy will also give you a shot at some bass. If you can’t find any bass, hop aboard one of the many party or charter boats that will be more than happy to put you on some cod, seabass, porgies and many other tasty species.
Shark fishing should remain as hot as the weather in August. Blue sharks will give way to some cool looking sharks. Though not edible, it’s pretty cool to land a hammerhead or a tiger shark. Along with these “exotics” our waters will be teaming with threshers, makos and brown sharks. No need to run far, plenty of action will take place within eye sight of a land. Bunker pods will continue to produce for those that can locate them. Make sure you have some heavy gear on board to handle these sharks.
If you plan on doing some deep water fluking I suggest you keep a spinning set-up close by. With water temperatures peaking in August, you may come across some mahi mahi while drifting for fluke. Just about anywhere off the coast of Long Island water temperatures will be warm enough to hold mahi. Make sure to check anything you may see floating. You may be pleasantly surprised on what you will find. If you leave the dock and you plan on targeting mahi the number one bait that you should have on board would be live bait. Killies, peanut bunker, snapper blues or mullet will work better than any cut bait you may bring with you. So spend a little time looking for these baits before you head out. If you want to better your chances and you are willing to head deeper I would troll a spread with lures on the smaller size. Make sure you have some naked and skirted ballyhoo in your trolling spread as well.
August also gives smaller boats a good chance at some yellowfin, bluefin and longfin albacore tuna. I spend most of my fishable days in the summer looking for all pelagic species from 20-50 miles out. Along with multiple types of tuna you may also find yourself battling a wahoo, white or blue marlin. I can’t stress enough just how important a good pair of binoculars are whether you are boating inshore or offshore. Use your binoculars to search for dolphins and whales. Quite often tuna are found feeding alongside them. Your binoculars will also help you find floating debris which may be your key to icing down some nice mahi.
During the month of August the Northeast canyons off the coast of Long Island should be in full swing. Everything from bigeye tunas to swordfish will be aggressively pursued. Most boats will spend the day trolling. However if you can’t seem to find a bite you may want to try some daytime chunking. Most boats will spend the night chunking and trying to net live squid. However some boats will actually keep trolling into the night looking for a bigeye bite. If you choose to go that route please beware of all the other boats and be careful. There will also be plenty of boats deep dropping for tilefish. Many times a few tilefish will help save a trip that may have disappointed. If all else fails make sure you hit up some lobster pots before you leave. If the pots have been soaking for some time you can expect to fill the fish boxes with some nice sized mahi.