Spring Flatties: When the going gets tough

By Capt. Joey Leggio

Tough fishing calls for maximum effort if you want to be successful at the flounder game.

Putting together decent catch of flatties these days takes some extra effort. There is no such thing as a casual ap­proach to flounder fishing in our region, and if you hope to be rewarded with a tasty dinner of flounder fillets, there are no shortcuts. Some anglers have given up the flounder chase in recent years, but it is still possible to make it worth your time if you stick to the program.

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DOUBLE ANCHORING

Double anchoring is a critical component of flounder fishing these days. Once you are on your spot, drop your bow anchor and let out lots of scope. I like to have the tide run under my boat from port to starboard or starboard to port. Once the first anchor is set, drop the second anchor off the stern of your boat. The reason I do this is because when the tide changes, I will still be in the same spot and on my same chum line. Pull up all that extra scope from your bow anchor and set your second anchor. Make sure both are set in the bottom, and pull in any extra slack. Also, be careful not to get the anchor line wrapped in your prop.

Once you begin chumming, you do not want to shift po­sition. It's always a good idea to hit your "man overboard" button on your GPS to see if you are swinging at all. Now you need to know which way the current is flowing. This will play a big part in where you drop your chum and can significant­ly impact your catch. l have seen it many times where other anglers drop their chum over on the wrong side of the boat (say the west side and then they fish the from the east side of the boat). With the current running from east to west, you would end up fishing the backside of the chum slick. You might get a few stray flounder to swim beyond the chum bucket, but most will stop at the food source. Speaking of chum, that brings us to lesson two.

CHUMMING 

Another huge mistake I see people make all the time is scrimping on chum. Chum costs pennies compared to gas and oil prices. Some anglers will drop $100 on gas and then try to save by getting away with one or two chum logs. Friends, here is what you have to do. Go back into the tackle store you got the chum log and buy a second. Now take them both and give them to some poor kid wanting to go fishing, but has no extra money. Buy him or her a few worms as well. You will make their day and save yourself a frustrating, and probably fruitless trip. You are wasting your time and money by buying the logs only. You need to chum heavy for flounder these days.We take along two 4-gallon pails of clam chum. You can always refreeze it if the trip is cut short, or if you should limit. Once on the fishing grounds, I place the 4 gallon chum block in a chum bucket/cage made just for these biq­ger loads. I then add two cans of the frozen corn to the mix, but remember to open them on both sides so that the corn will flow out. Now add in some crushed fresh mussels to the recipe. Drop this over the side and make sure you have plenty of weight in it. If you will be fishing Romer Shoal you will know what I am talking about. Strong currents will lift the chum bucket so make sure it stays down. Dumbbell weights are great for this. And, as I said before, if the current is running from the west, the chum goes on the west side of the boat. You want the chum to be flowing under your boat. Once it hits bottom give it a few good shakes to get the chum flowing.

DanFlounderOnce on the fishing grounds, I place the 4-gallon chum block in a chum bucket/cage made just for these biq­ger loads. I then add two cans of the frozen corn to the mix, but remember to open them on both sides so that the corn will flow out. Now add in some crushed fresh mussels to the recipe. Drop this over the side and make sure you have plenty of weight in it. If you will be fishing Romer Shoal you will know what I am talking about. Strong currents will lift the chum bucket so make sure it stays down. Dumbbell weights are great for this. And, as I said before, if the current is running from the west, the chum goes on the west side of the boat. You want the chum to be flowing under your boat. Once it hits bottom give it a few good shakes to get the chum flowing.

Once the chum bucket is set, I like to smash fresh skimmers all around the boat. You'll need a bat or billy club. You should crush about a dozen clams to get started, and then continue breaking them around your boat over the course of the day. Fresh skimmers are key to drawing flounder to your boat.

Remember, you want to be on the downtide side of your chum so that the fish will have to go through you to get to the chum source. Another little trick is the chum bomb, for which you will need to bring along some brown, paper lunch bags. Crush up some the bag. You will need to have a 12-ounce sinker or better in the bag as well, but make sure it is tied to the same line you are going to tie the bag to. Wrap the line around the bag a few times to seal the top, and then send the bag over the side and let it go to the bottom. Wait a few minutes and give the string a hard pull. This will break the bag open and you now have a mess of chum right under your boat. Chum bombs are especially effective if the tide is running too hard for you to get the batted skimmers to the bottom under your boat.

TACKLE

I prefer light gear for flounder fishing. My spinning outfit is rated for 2 to 6-pound test line and I the rod tip down to the fish or if to 6-pound test line and I keep it spooled with 10 pound Power Pro braid. My conventional outfit consists of a Shimano Calcutta 250 filled with 15 pound Power Pro mounted on a custom rod rated for 10 to 15 pound test. Keep your rigs simple and avoid all the pretty little gadgets. The rig I use is so simple to tie that my yellow Lab ties them for me. Take the first hook and make a dropper loop in the snell. Now take the second hook and slip the  dropper loop from the first hook through the pre-tied knot on the snell of the second hook. Run the hook end through the dropper loop and pull it snug. I like to add one small, yellow curly tail to the upper hook and leave the bottom hook free, and I use black Fin-Strike Chestertown hooks in size 8, which are available plain, or with a plastic corn kernel on the snell. When you tie the hooks to your main line remember to keep the hook very close to the weight. I like just a few inches between the sinker and the hooks. I also use the smallest sinker I can that will hold bottom near the chum pot, or just light enough to walk it back in the chum if the f1atties are hanging back in the chum slick. Using braided line will allow you to get away with considerably lighter sinkers due to its much finer diameter.

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BOUNCE THAT SINKER

One reason I like to use lighter sinkers is that I don't want to go home with one forearm looking like Popeye's. Flounder love active bait. I have seen it time and time again. On most days, dead stickers will be out fished by sinker bouncers five to one. I never stop bouncing my sinker once it hits bottom. The only time I do is when I feel a fish pick up the bait. Once you feel the fish picking at your offering, drop the rod tip down to the fish or if you prefer, "bow to the fish.”Give him a second or two and gently lift the rod. Once you feel he is still there, set the hook. Have a net ready in case you latch onto a snowshoe size flounder. If you try to haul one of these big f1atties over the side, you may regret it.

THE GOLDEN RULE OF BAIT

Use only fresh bait. The bait of choice for me this time of the year are mussels and sandworms. Sandworms seem to work much better than bloods in the areas I fish, primarily on the west end of the Island. Don't be cheap with bait. I find it best to put a muscle on the top hook with a yellow curly tail on it. The more yellow the muscle, the better. Put a nice fat worm on the bottom hook and leave a decent piece of the worm hanging off the hook so it flutters in the current. Your bait will get washed out pretty fast so be ready to change it if the action is slow. We pre-shuck our mussels on the way to the fishing grounds so that we don't waste precious fishing time. If one bait seems to be out-producing the other, then go with the hot bait.

Follow these golden rules and you will be surprised with your results – even during these tough times. Flounder fishing is fun for the whole family so take your kids and get them hooked on this great sport. And be selective about the fish you keep. If a fish is so close to being a keeper that you have to measure it, put it back. We all need to do our part in helping to restore this once great fishery.

 

 

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2011 Chasin Tail TV - Spring Flatties: When the going gets tough.
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