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Fishing Tips

TRY STRUCTURE FISHING FOR FLOUNDER

Posted 6/8/2012

Few fish generate more interest from small boat anglers than flounder. They are easily accessible and can be found close to shore, in bays and estuarine rivers. They respond as readily to artificial lures like plastic bodied jigs and bucktails as they do to a variety of baits fished from a drifting boat. To top it off, they are great table fare. Flounder fillets fried or sautéed in a coating of breadcrumbs are one fish dinner the whole family can enjoy.

Summer flounder, also known regionally as fluke, are readily available to boat anglers from North Carolina to southern New England, and their almost identical cousin, the southern flounder, is caught from the Carolinas throughout Florida and into the Gulf States. Both species are aggressive predators that eat other fish, shrimp, squid and small crabs. Both species also share the common trait of being highly accomplished ambush hunters. 


A bucktail with a strip of squid fished on light spinning tackle was all it took to get a bite from this 7-lb. flounder that was hunkered down near an old wreck waitingfor a passing bait!sh.

Flounder, like all members of the flatfish family, have a unique body shape. When they hatch from tiny eggs into larva, they look much like any immature fish with eyes on both sides of their head. But that quickly changes when one eye migrates to the opposite side of the head as the body shape transforms from rounded into a matt-like profile for lying flat on the bottom. The bottom side turns snow white while the top takes on a darker coloration that can change in response to the environment. That’s why big flounder are typically called “doormats.

Not all flatfish are hunters like these two, but their large mouths filled with sharp, pointy teeth for grabbing prey are a dead giveaway that they are predators of the first order. They have the chameleon-like ability to change the shade of markings on their dark side to blend in to their surroundings. These evolutionary advantages allow them to lie in wait on the bottom, totally camouflaged. They will even partially bury themselves in soft sand with only their eyes visible. When an unfortunate baitfish strays too close, they use their powerful tail to mount a swift attack that rarely misses the mark. An important part of setting up an ambush is picking a place where prey will be abundant, and areas of prominent structure present the opportunity a large flounder needs to catch an ample supply of food. 

You can take advantage of the flounder ‘s hunting style by finding structure areas that lend themselves to ambushing prey. Bays and tidal river channels are a good place to start. Flounder will move up onto flats adjacent to channels at high tide, but they are more likely to pick an ambush point along the channel edges where baitfish will pass when moving off the flats with the outgoing tide. If you are fishing with drift rigs, try positioning your boat to drift along the channel edges as the tide falls. If you are fishing with jigs or bucktails, stop within casting distance of these areas and work your lures down the face of the drop off. Bounce them along at a moderate pace, keeping them close to the bottom.


Predatory summer and southern "ounder both have mouths full of pointy teeth for grabbing and holding their unfortunate victims.

Areas where two channels meet can create a funnel effect that washes more baitfish through a tighter area. Deep holes with strong currents are also preferred feeding stations for big flounder. You can drift through these areas with bait rigs or bouncing jigs to get their attention. Areas where feeder creeks or rivers empty into a bay are excellent places to fish with artificial lures during a falling tide. Try anchoring down tide from spots like this, cast small jigs tipped with a strip of squid or a small baitfish, and work them back through the ambush point. You might be surprised just how many big flounder will venture into skinny water, especially in the spring when they first enter bays after wintering offshore. 

The ocean structure is an important component of a successful flounder trip. Big flounder set up their ambush points in the vicinity of wrecks, muscle beds, rock piles or other types of manmade structure on artificial reefs in water as deep as 80 feet. Drifting such spots with bottom rigs can be dicey, so expect to lose some rigs and sinkers. This technique can also be amazingly productive. A large flounder has a big mouth and an even bigger appetite, so use long strip baits to imitate large baitfish. When the drifting conditions are slow, break out the bucktails dressed with strip baits, and use those instead of sinkers and rigs. Use jigs as heavy as needed to get to the bottom and stay there. If you find a structure area that is producing, use your chart plotter to repeat the drift, and watch to see if it is concentrated in a specific area. Then either short-drift the spot or anchor up, and cast bucktails and retrieve them close to the bottom to maximize your catch. 

Summer and southern flounders are favorites with small boat anglers for all these reasons and more. It’s a species that is fun for the whole family to catch. Kids love fishing for them as much as adults, and when the day is done, they enjoy eating them, too. Seasons, size and bag limits vary on these species from state to state, so be sure to check the fish and game laws before you head out on the water.