First off, we hope everyone's boat made it through the storm alright. Personally, I left my 19-footer in the water, tied down with about 8 lines, and took all of the other necessary precautions (removing canvas, cleaning out scuppers, etc.) and fortunately, Hurricane Irene spared us the prolonged hurricane-force winds that had been forecast earlier in the week.
I took a couple of rides out on the boat this week and, unfortunately, the bay is not looking great for fishing. The water is still rather muddy looking, and there's lots of eelgrass, planks of wood and other various forms of flotsam floating out there. Bottom fishing for fluke is going to be rough over the next few days, and the forecast makes it look like we'll only be able to fish the early portion of the holiday weekend.
I've gotten reports that in the ocean, fluking is picking up, and the water is generally clear about five miles from shore. So if you have a boat capable of making the run, I'd suggest hitting a reef that distance or more. Basically, that means the outer edges of the Sea Girt Reef (by the weekend) or the Garden State North reef if you're running out of Barnegat Inlet. The water at the Axel Carlson and Barnegat Light reefs might still be a little too cloudy, but they're worth a shot.
Keep in mind, of course, that fluke season lasts through Sept. 25 this year, so we have nearly the entire month ahead of us to make up for a lost Labor Day weekend if the fishing is poor.
As for fluke alternatives, I'd try to see if the late summer (and, yikes, early fall!) porgy bite is starting to heat up. Porgies are absolutely delicious fish to eat and are usually pretty abundant in our area. The Axel Carlson Reef, off Bay Head and Mantoloking, is my favorite place to fish for them. Fishing near a group of reef balls will usually do the trick.
To answer a couple of other questions we've had posed to us over the course of the past week: while clamming is currently closed due to the effects of Hurricane Irene (specifically, the runoff associated with the storm's rainfall), there are no restrictions on the taking of finfish. Additionally, we have some more specifics on the proposed fluke quota numbers for 2012. The commercial quota was set at 18.95 million pounds and the recreational harvest limit at 12.63 million pounds for the 2012 fishing year, a 7 percent overall increase.