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March 17 is a great day for the Irish and for the fisherman. The arrival of St. Patrickís Day marks the official start of the fishing season in New York waters with the awakening of the flounders from their winterís sleep.

At this time in mid-March, the waters have usually warmed just enough to get the flounders moving in the deep muddy holes in which they have spent the winter months. To catch flounder at this early time in the season requires some knowledge of the bay bottom and the cooperation of mother nature. It is a necessity to be fishing in one of the deep over-wintering areas as the flounder will not move out into the shallows until the water has warmed significantly. This will usually not occur until about mid April. The last two weeks in March can be very windy and cold. If a two or three day blast of frigid air hits, it usually will send the flounder back to bed. In this case it is best to wait for better conditions to plan your trip. However, a day or two of mild weather will probably return them to their feeding activities. Because they tend to concentrate in these deep and confined areas, the fishing can be quite good under these conditions.

I have experienced the most success at this time of the year working the deep holes along the State Boat Channel. The thirty foot hole just east of Gilgo has always produced well as does the channel around Black Bank and Squaw Island. Occasionally the Sore Thumb pocket near Fire Island Inlet and the deep ferry boat channels off Heckscher State Park can also be productive. Because the water is cold, the fish are slow to move. They must be enticed to begin to feed and therefore chumming and/or stirring the bottom is absolutely a must. I use a combination of ground clam chum in a weighted chum pot with a few fresh mussels cracked and spread around the area under the boat. I also employ a "flounder- pounder" or weighted device to churn up the bottom and free tiny morsels from the sediment. For hook bait I like to have both clam and worms available. I begin with some of both on my two hook rig and then switch to all of the type that receives the most attention of the flounder. It seems that from one day to the next, or in a different area, only one of these baits will be the preferred food for Mr. Flounder.

Presentation of the bait is all-important. A bait that is constantly moving due to a shifting boat will not catch fish. Many March days are breezy. One should be prepared to use a two anchor system. This will reduce the wind shear and lessen the shifting of the boat. Color seems to attract flounder and I prefer yellow. I use a tandem-tied two hook rig with yellow plastic beads. A variety of these rigs can be purchased in any tackle shop. To keep it a sporting affair and enjoy the scrappy fight a flounder can give, I suggest the use of very light tackle. I have recently come to enjoy ultra light spinning gear. It is a real thrill to catch even a one pound flounder using 4 lb. test line and Ĺ oz. of lead weight. With only a small amount of water resistance, the flounder can swim laterally and really put up quite a battle. Keeping it a sport is really what it is all about! I know flounders arenít really Irish but St. Patrickís Day has passed and the flounder season is off to a good start. Grab a rod and some bait and get out there and have some fun!


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