After a chilly and overall mediocre first week, the summer flounder (fluke) bite is kicking in.

Big time.

Sure, there were decent counts of limits iced, with some hefty flatties in the mix, but overall, the bay and tidal river fisheries were, well, flat.

That changed last weekend and earlier this week, and by this weekend, figure the skinny water action to be firing on all cylinders.

C. Woznek
C. Woznek

The early season (this year it opened May 2; same as ‘22 and nearly a month earlier than previous years) traditionally is the time for the South Jersey flounder bite to make its mark. When I first emigrated to northern Cape May County in ‘89, used to the fluking in the likes of the Manasquan and Shark rivers, Raritan Bay and the upper Barnegat Bay,I discovered a trio of things regarding the southern tier county flattie scene. The first was that the term was “minnie” not killie referring to the popular baitfish. The second was the term was “flounder,” not fluke, and the third being that some red hot fishing was occurring in the shallower backwaters, at a time on the calendar I previously reserved for chasing crappies, yellow perch, and stocked trout.

A fourth? Mackerel strips were the go-to bait not only for a limit but for the biggest flatties around.

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The appearance of the Berkley Gulp! saltwater baits were definitely a sea chance (pun intended), but there are the die-hard traditionalists who still drift minnies, the minnie/squid strip combo, mackerel strips, and yes, strips of bluefish. They are successful for sure, and it goes to the axiom of having confidence in your offering.

Tom P.
Tom P.

However, there’s no denying the massive transition to the three and four-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullet, four and five-inch Grub, the various Shrimp shapes, and the Mud Minnow and Peeler Crab forms when it comes to catching numbers and sizes of early season bay and river flounder.

Another bait that made inroads on the back and out front bites last year was Fishbites, the company known for its wildly successful Bag o’ Worms that caught white perch, kingfish, spot, and even stripers. It’s the four-inch Butt Kicker Paddle Tail, five-inch Dirty Boxer Curly Tail, and the six-inch Fight Club Grub Tail put their share of fluke in the livewells and coolers and continues doing so.

No matter the bait preference, these next few weeks are prime time for sizzling skinny water flatfish action. Sure, there will be fluke hanging in the back all summer, but you won’t find faster fishing than May in the bay.

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