Flounder fishing: Top tips
13th April 2022 Elena Manighetti
Flounder fishing is very popular in the USA, where the flatfish is known for its delicate texture and mild, sweet flavour.
Anglers target flounders along the Atlantic Coast, the East Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an easy fish to catch for beginners and the populations are plentiful. However, just like with any species, there are tricks and techniques that work especially well and can improve your catch numbers.
Let’s look at the main types of flounder you can find in the US first.Summer flounder
This is often called a “fluke” as it can weigh up to 26 pounds (11.8kg) and grow up to 20 inches long (50cm). It’s easy to recognise as it has a dark side on its body. While flounder typically wait for prey to swim by them to attack, the summer flounder can sometimes chase prey, if they’re really hungry.
Also known as the “blackback”. It weighs up to 8 pounds (3.6kg) and grows up to 27 inches (69cm) in length. Winter flounder are less plentiful and are cooked as a delicacy called “lemon sole.”
This species is found between North Carolina and the Gulf Coast. They have patchy, brown bodies, which can make them look like summer flounder. It grows up to 25 inches (63.5cm) long.
The easiest species to identify. They have three large spots forming a triangle and white specks. This is the smallest and lightest flounder, weighing no more than 5 pounds (2.3kg).
Where do you find flounder?
The best spots in the US include:
From Maine to the Gulf Coast.
Flounder spend spring and summer in the shallows and then move offshore in the fall and winter to spawn. Between September and November, there will be more flounder by the beach, in the shallows, as they make their journey towards deep water.
In developed areas, head for docks, piers, rocks, bridges, and pilings. In wilder spots, check out the shore, estuaries, creeks, and rivers. Sandbar drop offs, reefs, and inshore ledges are prime flounder spots and often overlooked by other anglers. Even short ledges can offer protection to flounder.
At low tide, you may be able to spot flounder tracks on the seabed and follow them to their hidehole. At high tide, they scatter out on a flat, so they’re less easy to find.
Flounder fishing gear
Let’s talk about gear.
Rod and reel
A telescopic rod or a light 7-feet (2.1m) rod will do best, so you can feel the small bites. Couple it with a light to medium 10 to 12 pound (4.5-5.4kg) reel, so the line doesn’t snap if you catch a bigger fish.
Line and tackle
Check how big the flounder in the area typically get. For bigger species, pick a 14 to 20 pound (6.3-9kg) line. For smaller ones, a 10 to 12 pound (4.5-5.4kg) line will do.
Use circle hooks coupled with a sinker to reach the bottom. A flashy reflective spinner rig, such as gold, can help attract the fish.
Baits and lures
Flounder hit a variety of baits - natural and artificial.
Live bait is great for flounder fishing. Smaller baits should be hooked through the eyes, while biggers one through the lips. Below are the best baits for flounder fishing
Finger mullet or minnows
Mummichogs or mud minnows
Look for shiny, two-toned lures in pink, yellow, silver, or white, which allow you to mimic the movement of small fish. A grub-tailed jig with a large curly tail gives you even better results. Sometimes adding live bait to an artificial lure will encourage flounder to bite.How do you fish flounder from shore?
Wade into the water slowly to approach flounder in shallow water. This technique works very well because the fish doesn’t get spooked. Use your feet to feel for drop offs, which are popular spots for flounder to hide.
This technique works well in the warmer season, when the flounder are close to the coast.
What boat should you use to fish for flounder?
A rowing boat, like a kayak, is perfect. It’s cheap to buy and easy to rent. If you have a licence, a skiff and other shallow, flat-bottomed open boats are great. The lower sides let you land it easily. With a boat, you can fish for flounder year-round.
Flounder fishing techniques
When targeting flounder, you need to place your lure on the bottom and keep it moving. That’s the key.
Drift and bounce
Head out on the water during the migration period at slack tide. Find a slow-moving current and switch off the engine. Let the boat drift. Cast your line making sure it has enough weight to reach the bottom. Keep the bait moving up and down to attract hungry flounder. If you feel a small bite, don’t pull. Let the fish take a bigger bite before you reel the line.
Head to a creek or estuary, preferably on a dark night. Use a lamp to spot the reflection of the eyes of the flounder. Lower your gig into the water, aiming behind the eyes. Spike the flounder with a fast thrust. Top tip: aim deep - the water distorts distances.
You can gig from a boat or at the beach. Make sure gigging is allowed in the area and that your equipment meets local sizing limitations.
If you’re in the US, we hope this article helps you catch more flounder. If you’re in Australia or Europe, why not give it a go?
Remember to always check local fishing regulations, so you don’t take too much or too small fish. We need to preserve our oceans.