As the summer gets into full swing, Summer Flounder (Fluke) find their way into the harbors. The most distinguishing attribute is, their very large mouth extends below and beyond its eyes.
Presented here is general information of Summer Flounder, its reproduction, habitat, food, fishing season, angling tips, handling and cooking.
- General information:
The summer flounder, or "fluke," a flatfish is found in coastal waters from the southern Gulf of Maine to Florida. Like other species of flatfish, the fluke has both eyes on one side of its head and rests on the ocean floor on its side. The fluke is called a left handed flatfish because its eyes are on the upper surface of the head when the fish is facing left. Summer flounder are called the chameleons of the sea because of their ability to change color to match the bottom on which they are found. Generally they are white below and darker above, but they can turn various shades of gray, blue, green/orange and almost black. The fluke may weigh up to 26 pounds with a length over 37 inches. Females may live up to 20 years and weigh more than 20 pounds, while males rarely exceed 7 years of age and 3 to 5 pounds in weight.
Summer flounder inhabit inshore areas during the warmer periods of the year. Fluke prefer eel grass beds and wharf pilings because of the protection they offer. In the summer, small and medium sized adults are found on the sandy and muddy bottoms of bays, harbors and along the open coastline. Most of the larger fish tend to stay in somewhat deeper water (50 to 60 feet). With the approach of fall, summer flounder migrate to more offshore waters in depths from 150 to more than 500 feet.
The summer flounder, which depends upon sight to capture its food, feeds most actively during daylight hours. Juveniles feed upon small shrimp and other crustaceans, while adults eat a variety of fish, including small winter flounder, menhaden, sand lance, red hake, silversides, bluefish, weakfish and mummichogs, as well as invertebrates such as blue crabs, squid, sand shrimp, opossum shrimp and mollusks. Adults are very active predators, often chasing schools of small fish to the surface and leaping out of the water in pursuit of them. This behavior clearly distinguishes the summer flounder from other more sluggish species of inshore flatfish.
- Fishing Season:
- Angling Tips:
Fluke are well known for the aggressive way they grab bait and battle when hooked. They offer a particular challenge to the angler bold enough to use light tackle. Average sized fluke, sometimes called "flatties", weigh about 2 to 4 pounds, while the aptly named "doormats" (so called due to their similarity in size to a welcome mat) weigh 8 or more pounds and provide memorable battles for the angler lucky enough to hook them.
Summer flounder can be found on sandy or muddy bottoms in many inshore habitats and are particularly abundant in fast moving rips that gather debris and bait fish. Anglers troll, chum, still-fish and cast for fluke, but the most popular method is drifting bait along the bottom. When drifting, the bail of the reel should be open and the line held by the finger. Once the line stops drifting and it tugged, it should run free for a moment to let the fish get the bait in its mouth before the hook is set. Casting baited red and white bucktail jigs juiced up with strips of fresh or frozen squid, sand lance, 4 to 5 inch strips of meat cut from the tails of fish such as sea robins or the belly area of a fluke or bluefish from boat or shore can also produce fish. The jig should be retrieved with a slow pumping action. When a fluke grabs the rig the rod tip should be lowered to slacken the line; when the line tightens again, the hook can be set.
Shoreline anglers use medium weight spinning gear spooled with 12 pound test monofilament line, while boat anglers fishing deeper water with strong currents need 15 to 20 pound test line on light to medium conventional gear to match the larger fish found there.
The white flaky meat of the summer flounder is highly rated due to its delicate flavor and texture. This versatile fish provides delightful dining when steamed, poached, baked, broiled, sauteed, fried or microwaved. Large "door mats" can be quarter filleted for most recipes or cut into steaks and grilled over charcoal or gas.