April Flounders on the Flamingo
By Charlie Sciara
sun shimmered on Brooklyns Gerritsen Creek as sleepy-eyed anglers, one by one,
boarded Captain Bob Wiegands Flamingo III party boat. There was a relaxed eagerness in the air, spurred
by a long, cold icy winter and an early spring of unrelenting wind and rain. On this late April morning, flounder were awaiting
tone of the diesel engines signaled our imminent departure promptly at 6:30 A.M. Everyone aboard said or thought nice day
as the Flamingo III quickly sliced through the placid waters of Sheepshead Bay on her way
toward the NY Bights Romer Shoals. New York Citys skyline offered a majestic,
scenic backdrop, while intense activity in the stern grabbed even the casual fishermans
attention as anglers busily shucked mussels into cardboard coffee containers that would
tempt even the most fastidious flounder.
slowed, then stopped. Quickly, the anchor
line and chum pots were dropped, the horn sounded and wordlessly sinkers and hooks hit
bottom. Ground bits of mussel and clamshells
were deftly cast by mates Bernie and Captain Bobs son, John. Moments later, an angler in the stern nailed the
first fish, a keeper. Twenty minutes later,
the engines revved; only six fish caught by the 30 passengers prompted Captain Bob to
change course for the beaches off Sandy Hook.
For the next
three hours, a steady pick of flounder, some weighing nearly 2.5 pounds,
were swung over the gunwales, unhooked and deposited into waiting plastic pails. One
fisherman caught everyones attention with a double header. These fish had shoulders; hardly any
throwbacks. The frenetic piscatorial pace combined with a warming sun caused nearly
everyone to shed sweatshirts and jackets. We
intuitively knew this was going to be a great fishing day and it was until 11 a.m.
that beautiful azure sky became gray; the invigorating salty air became a howling wind creating swift currents and whitecaps around
us. Sweatshirts, jackets, hats and gloves
materialized and fishermen quickly sought refuge in the spacious cabin to eat a sandwich,
drink coffee or simply to blow ones nose. Bernie
and John, experienced pros that they are, used the opportunity to begin expertly filleting
fish for many prospective dinners, careful to keep any possible pool winners intact.
En route to
the dock, Captain Bob, 49, a third generation captain at Gerritsen Creek, shared his passions and frustrations as a party boat
skipper. His calm demeanor belies his love
for the water, fishing and the camaraderie that is evident among the captain, the crew and
his party boat regulars. His frustrations
focus on wrong-headed governmental regulations that have decimated the party boat
industry. He points out that only one other
party boat will be bluefishing from Sheepshead Bay; a far cry from twenty years ago. He attributes this thinning of the herd
to governmental catch limits of 10 choppers per angler.
fluke regulations limiting catches to three fish 17 inches or larger cause him to seethe.
The government says we over fished our fluke quota in 2003 by late May. Do you remember last May? Rain, rain and more rain. All but the diehards got out, so how did we over
fish our quota? He shakes his head. Im all for conservation, but the fish
stocks are in fabulous shape; the recreational fish counts the government conducts are
troubling. Exaggerated catches by individual
fishermen must be multiplied by some formula to create Alice in Wonderland numbers.
everybody in the recreational fishing industry: bait and tackle dealers, party and charter
boat captains and Joe Public, who simply wants to take home a fish dinner. The
government, he adds ruefully, doesnt even acknowledge the distinction between the
generally larger fish sizes on the east end of Long Island with smaller fish caught to the
west. How are the Sheepshead Bay fluke
boats going to attract customers with these restrictions? he wonders. His question is begging for an answer.
We ended the
day with over 110 flounder caught for the 30 or so anglers this day in what is an overlooked flounder
fishery. Each season as bass and blues start to move into Raritan Bay and water temps
rise, flounder move out of Raritan in search of cooler water temps to their liking and to
escape the voracious predators on the prowl. These flounder work their way down the Jersey
Shore in 15 to 20-foot of water and are fixed on hard bottom which is why baits like
mussels and clams strips work much better
on average, then worms.
You can also
encounter swifter currents and the tackle you need needs to be upgraded a little from the
super light outfits we enjoy for winter flatties in the back bay calm waters. Try using the
new Penn International
series of baitcasters like the 965 or 975 or
spinning tackle such as the Penn Slammer series spinning reels the 260 or 360 series Slammer. You also have stray bass, some are
keepers, to contend with and the extra beefiness allows you to control your fish so as not
to take fellow anglers lines with you and get the fish in the boat as there are some
keepers here as well.
you vet out and try this fishery before it ends and make sure you visit the fantastic crew
of the Flamingo before they switch over to the bass ands blues that cause the fishery to
end rather abruptly sometime in late spring each season. You can reach the Flamingo
III at 718-763-8745