In this context, “fish” is summer flounder, aka fluke, and not to be excluded are the tidal rivers.

While it’s common knowledge that the during the spring, primarily April into mid-June, the back waters play host to some big flatties, with the occasional doormat (10-plus pounds) finding its way into the net, it’s the reefs and structures that hold the bigger fish as the season progresses into the summer months.

Big baits, big fish as the saying goes. However, the primary back bay and tidal river forage is generally on the smaller side and includes the likes of killies (minnies), grass shrimp and spearing. Not exactly mouthful classification, as the killies and spearing generally top at four inches. Grassies? The fluke merely inhale the 1/2-1 inch tidbits.

Which is why we’ve always downsized our baits when seeking flatties in the back waters. Match the hatch, so to speak. The loads of short fish was just something to be dealt with and, since light, and sometimes ultra-light tackle was employed, the tussles were appreciated. Still, there were a lot of tails from the three-inch and four-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullets that were wrecked, and it added up at the tackle shop register when it came to replacements.

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“Use big baits in the back,” advised Capt. Scott Newhall from Time Out Charters in Absecon, adding “You won’t be bothered by the smaller flounder. I think maybe they’re intimidated at the size of a 5-inch or 6-inch Gulp! Grub or 6-1/2 inch Gulp! Nemesis when it’s going by, and they’ll generally leave it alone. Only the bigger flounder are going to take a shot at it. Not as many hits, but the ones you do get are from quality fluke.”

His words proved prophetic during an afternoon sortie at the top of the tide a few days later. While I stuck with my “Elephants eat peanuts, too” theorem, the skipper and guest went with the longer, more robust baits. Sure, I swung my share of flatties, all shorts,
while keepers from 18-1/2 to 23-inches went into the live well, all victims of the 6-inch Grub on a bucktail and/or the equally meaty 5-inch Gulp! Grub as a teaser 12 or so inches above.

The baits certainly looked over-gunned, akin to going squirrel hunting with a bazooka, but they sure caught the bigger fish, one which regurgitated an earlier back bay victim that looked anything but small.

Lesson learned.

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