One of my favorite fish to target is Flounder. Their hard hits, ability to shake hooks and incredible white filets make Flounder a popular species to catch.
Fishing for Flounder is not always easy. They can be challenging to locate and are often hard to keep hooked. This article will discuss the best places to fish for Flounder, what techniques to use, and some of the best baits.
If catching Flounder is on your species list to catch, then you will want to read on!
What are the different types of Flounder?
Before we discuss where the best place is to catch Flounder, it is vital to understand the different flatfish species.
Flatfish are divided into two main categories: Flounder and Fluke. When identifying the species, Fluke will face to the left when its mouth is pointed upward. Flounder, on the other hand, will face to the right when its mouth is pointed upward.
Fluke are also referred to as “Summer Flounder” and are light brown with light tan spots. On the other hand, Flounder are very dark brown and are referred to as “Winter Flounder.”
If this sounds confusing to you, it gets even more complicated. In the southern portion of the United States, from Texas to Florida, another Flounder called the “Southern Flounder” exists. These fish are light in color, similar to Fluke but have dark patches on their body instead of light-colored spots.
The good news is that these different species live in different regions, so identifying them isn’t that important. Here is what you need to know:
- Winter Flounder are only found from Virginia northward to the Canadian border.
- Summer Flounder (Fluke) are present from the Canadian border down to the Florida/Georgia line.
- Southern Flounder are located from the Texas coast eastward to the entire state of Florida.
For an excellent source on identifying different flatfish species, check out Types of Flatfish: the Complete Guide.
Where is the best place to catch Flounder?
As alluded to above, Flounder can be caught across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Eastern Seaboard. Some areas will hold more fish than others, so what is the best place to catch Flounder?
Northern Florida is the best place to target large numbers of Southern Flounder. Fluke and Winter Flounder fishing is best in Montauk, New York.
These two areas hold large numbers of fish and are staple species of both regions. For this article, we will focus predominantly on fishing in Florida.
What is the best time of year to catch Flounder?
Flounder are present year-round in most fisheries. Larger breeder females may spend a portion of their lives offshore, but smaller fish can be caught year-round. As with any species, certain times of year are better than others.
The best time of the year to catch Flounder is in the fall. During these months, large fish seek refuge in shallower water and feed heavily in preparation for the winter months. Fishing these months in conjunction with baitfish migrations will yield the best results.
Typically the largest fish of the year are taken during these months, and it is common to catch fish in the 5-9lb range. Summer months also produce quite a few fish, but they tend to be smaller in size.
Can you catch Flounder year-round in Florida?
If you are looking for opportunities to catch Flounder consistently, then my home state of Florida is a good option.
Flounder can be caught year-round in Florida, with the greatest numbers present in Fall and Summer. The northern parts of the East and West coast provide the best year-round fisheries.
The good news is that Florida is home to an array of saltwater gamefish to target as well. For more information on what you can expect to catch during various months in Florida, check out my article Fishing in St. Augustine: A Complete Overview From A Local Guide.
How to catch Flounder?
The anatomy of a flounder makes them the perfect ambush predator. Their flat bodies allow them to bury into the bottom and wait for unsuspecting prey to swim by. Knowing how a flounder feeds is a critical aspect of knowing where to look for Flounder.
What to look for when fishing for Flounder?
Moving current is your best friend when targeting Flounder. The presence of current allows the Flounder to lay still and wait for a meal to come to them. Their flat profile also enables them to hunt shallower than the majority of other predators.
The best areas to catch Flounder are around dock pilings, rock structures, or shallow creek mouths. These areas provide natural cover for Flounder to ambush prey. Look for moving water, and do not be afraid to fish shallow.
Fishing along oyster beds or on shallow shoals will also produce quite a few fish. Keeping an eye on moving bait is also a good strategy. Where bait is present, predators will also be.
In areas with a lot of tide, fishing shallow outflows on an outgoing tide or fishing docks and rocks on an incoming tide is the best option.
Structures near major inlet systems generally hold larger numbers of fish.
Do Flounder swim in schools?
Flounder are drawn to the areas mentioned above and will stack up within these areas to feed. They are creatures of habit and will typically remain in the same areas for an extended period.
Flounder travel in packs and feed in the same areas. When Flounder are located, there is a good chance there are more nearby as they tend to lay next to each other on the bottom. It is a good idea to work the area thoroughly where a Flounder has been caught.
This concept is especially true when fishing around dock pilings and along rocks. Where there is one Flounder, there is usually more!
What do Flounder eat?
Although Flounder will eat live shrimp, it is challenging for them to turn down a live baitfish. The key to flounder fishing is making sure you have lively bait.
Flounder feed primarily on live baitfish such as mullet, mud minnows, or live shrimp. Bouncing the bait with the tide will allow you to cover more area and elicit strikes.
Despite being relatively small in stature, Flounder will eat rather large baits. It is common for a flounder to eat a baitfish that would appear to be too big for them to swallow. There are very aggressive eaters. Baitfish ranging from 1″ up to 6″ are their primary food source.
The bite: Telltale signs you have a flounder strike
The goal of a feeding flounder is to stun unsuspecting prey. The strike of a flounder is very aggressive and quick.
After the Flounder has grabbed the bait, it will lay back on the bottom to swallow the prey. Since Flounder will take very large baits (relative to their size), it can take them a minute to swallow the bait entirely.
When flounder fishing, the bite will be one hard strike followed by no other movement. This is because the Flounder will sit on the bait after it has been struck. Once you feel this strike, it is best to wait ten full seconds before setting the hook. This allows the fish to swallow the prey and your hook entirely.
By setting the hook too early, you risk pulling the hook out of the fish’s mouth before it has been swallowed. Flounder generally will not hit and run with bait, so the one hard strike is the best indicator you have hooked a flounder.
Flounder are notorious hook shakers!
Once you have set the hook on a flounder and have begun the fight, it is imperative to keep constant pressure on the fish.
Any bit of slack in the line will allow the fish to wiggle the hook loose. Flounder have very hard mouths, which make it difficult to get a good hookset. This is another reason to wait before setting the hook. The further down the throat the hook gets the better chances of landing the fish.
Once you have identified that the fish is a flounder, never lift its head above the water. Flounder will try to shake the hook at the surface, and most fish are lost at the boat. Another common mistake is trying to sling the fish into the boat. This is also another great opportunity for the fish to shake the hook loose. Always use a net when landing a flounder and keep his head underwater until the fish has been netted.
What gear do I need for Flounder fishing?
Fishing for Flounder does not require complicated fishing rigs. The most critical aspect of flounder fishing is ensuring you have the right bait. Using lighter setups allows you to feel the strikes more easily.
My go-to flounder rod is a 7′ medium-light spinning rod. Flounder are not the best fighters, so smaller gear will land the majority of fish. Using a lighter rod allows me to feel my bait along the bottom and identify flounder strikes easier.
A good flounder rod option is the TFO Professional model TFG PSS 703-1. This rod is relatively inexpensive and has a great feel and castability. A quality cork matched with the Fuji guide system makes this an easy rod to cast all day long.
I prefer to use a 2500 series reel when fishing for Flounder as it pairs nicely with the lighter rod. The most important factor in selecting a reel is a smooth drag system. You do not need a powerful drag system, but the drag should be constant and smooth.
I recently started using the Daiwa BG2500 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel 2500, with great results. These reels are buttery smooth and withstand severe abuse from my charter clients. They have excellent line capacity, and large power handles for easy retrieval.
By far, my favorite flounder hook is a simple weighted jig head. Depending on the current, I will vary the size between 1/8 oz to ½ oz. Flounder have giant mouths, so swallowing the large gap jib head is not a problem.
I have found that the color of the jig head is not all that important, but my favorite profile jig head is the Z-MAN Trout Eye Jigs. Z-Man makes a solid hook, and the large eyes on the jig head give the added appearance of a bait.
What is the best lure for Flounder fishing?
By far, the best lure for Flounder is soft plastic. While many different plastics will work, I have one that is my go-to when targeting Flounder.
The best flounder lure is a Berkley Gulp Shrimp in new penny/chartreuse color. Working the Gulp Shrimp on a jig head along the bottom with a bouncing motion will catch a lot of Flounder.
The only downside to these lures is that they are expensive and only last for a couple of fish. Be sure to have quite a few on hand if you want to make a day of flounder fishing. The smell of these plastics resembles a live bait better than any other plastic on the market currently.
Is Flounder a good fish to eat?
There is a reason that the Flounder is one of the most sought-after fish of inshore waterways. They are not the hardest fighters, but you will be hard-pressed to find a better-eating fish in saltwater.
Flounder is a great fish to eat. Low oil content and minimal bloodlines make the meat very white and flakey. Flounder is also a great fish to freeze due to the low oil content. Flounder is one of the best fish to eat in saltwater and is served frequently in seafood restaurants.
Fileting a Flounder can be a head-scratching experience at first. Since the fish is flat, it is difficult to understand how to cut the fish. Many people do not realize that both sides of the fish can be fileted. The Flounder should be fillet in quarters with two filets on each side of the fish. The more predominant filet will be on the brown side, but do not forget the meat from the underbelly white side.
One of my favorite ways to prepare Flounder is to fry them whole. Cut off the head and pull the guts from the fish. From there, you can scrape off the scales using the backside of a spoon.
Frying a flounder is very quick, so be sure not to overcook the meat. Cutting horizontal and vertical lines on the fish will make eating the whole fish easier. Once you have prepared the fish, use an egg wash and panko batter to add a crispy flavor. A promising sign that the fish is cooked will begin to float in the frying oil. The fish should be removed when golden brown.
What is the limit on Flounder in the state of Florida?
Fish regulations are modified frequently, and it is your responsibility to ensure you know the applicable laws in your area. Recently Florida Fish and Wildlife increased the size limit of Flounder and reduced the bag limit.
In the state of Florida, you may harvest five fish per person with a minimum size of 14″. Flounder are closed for harvesting annually from October 15th through November 30th. Legal methods of flounder fishing include spears, gigs, hook and line, seine, and cast net.
Previously the Florida limits were 10 per person with a minimum length of 12″ The reduction on bag limits and increase in size are a welcome change to help bolster fish populations. The closure during the prime breeding season gives large spawning fish a chance to reproduce.
Flounder is a great species to target all along the south and up the eastern seaboard. The quality of the meat makes them a sought-after table fare.
Feeling the bite of a flounder can be difficult. Therefore it is best to use lighter gear to have more feel. When you feel a hard strike followed by no other movement, you likely just experienced a flounder bite. Waiting a few seconds before setting the hook ensures the fish has had time to swallow the hook.
Look for Flounder to hang in groups along rock piles, dock pilings, and in the outflows of small creeks on a falling tide. Using a live baitfish will increase your chances of catching it.
Before heading out on the water, it is essential to know the current size and bag limits of any given area. Regulations are frequently changing, and the fine for illegal harvest is an expensive one.