Yeah. Sea robins. Northern and sometimes the striped variety. Those annoying prehistoric looking bait grabbers that interfere with the quest for fluke, oftentimes stripping the tails off Gulp! Grubs and Swimming Mullets.

Increasing numbers of “birds” are showing as waters warm, and they’re not shy about making play for baits meant for the summer flounder, even if these are on the larger side.

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They bite hard, fight respectably, and are a delight on the dinner table for those of us willing to slice in between the spikes, spines and sharp nubbins to get at, admittedly, the short fillets.

Not to be mistaken for any other fish, this marine winger uses its the bottom rays of its pectoral fins to actually walk along the bottom where they probe for prey such as crabs, clams and just about anything the robin can fit in its over-sized maw. The upper section of fins, the wings, are the identifier. The sea robin can also emit grunting sounds, adding audio to its visual oddness.

Although it does make for some sweet eats (best fried after an egg wash and roll in seasoned breadcrumbs), where the bird really soars is as a strip bait for fluke. Capt. Paul Thompson, former owner of the Porgy IV out of Cape May would often remark during his weekly report that while the Gulp! Grub on a bucktail was catching flatties, the bucktail/sea robin strip combo was catching just as many, if not bigger, fluke.

Several charter skippers whose services we use make it a point to fillet a sea robin as soon as it is swung aboard and get the strip on a bucktail. Most of the time, a flattie whack soon follows. Want a shot at a doormat? Catch a small sea robin, say six or seven-inches, and drift it live over deeper structure out front.

Even fluke agree: sea robins taste great!

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