The flounder’s odd habit of laying sideways on the bottom of the ocean floor disguised as the rest of the sand, rocks, and flotsam is surprisingly misleading.
This fish is not lazy, but highly ingenious. It takes no prisoners as it snatches up any innocent little fish or shrimp… which is what makes Flounder fishing so much fun!
Flounder Fishing: Where to Find and Catch Flounder
You can find these masters of disguise in the coastal waters of the Atlantic from Maine all the way down to Texas and over in the Pacific, as well.
They can be spotted from shallow reefs to the deepest trenches.
These doormats are flat, with both eyes on the same side of their head. That lets them watch above for prey as they lie flat on the ocean floor. They especially like to hang out on the bottom of river coastal areas. They like to stay near drop-offs where they can ambush their prey. Look for them under ledges or other structures in areas where the depth changes.
If you’re fishing over crystal clear water and sandy bottoms, you’ll be able to see flounder tracks in the sand below. As they move to ambush their prey, they leave tracks because of the speed at which they take off. They also like to move to more productive ledges as the tide is shifting so they can ambush the bait fish as they move overhead.
You can also find flounder tracks by wading in the shallow mud and sand flats at low tide. There’ll usually be the most tracks in the bays which hold the most bait when the tide drops. As the tide recedes, flounder laying buried in the bottom pull out, leaving their body imprints. Find those tracks during low tide, and you’ll know right where to look once the tide comes back in.
When it’s running too fast, it can become turbid. Flounder feed more by sight than smell, and they can see better when the water is clear.
You’ll have more luck when they can see your bait, so concentrate on areas where the bottom isn’t super silted.
You can fish for them year round, but your catches will typically be smaller in the winter or spring and may not be large enough to keep. They’re easiest to catch in the fall when they’re moving farther out into the ocean.
Tackle for Flounder Fishing
Medium action, bass-size tackle works great when flounder fishing. Most people prefer spinning tackle, but if you can learn to use a baitcasting reel, you’ll be doing yourself a favor, since you can maximize your precision with just a touch of your thumb so you can hit the points and ledges spot-on.
It’s helpful to use a dropper rig with a rounded weight and a hook tied to the leader above it to avoid break-offs around structure.
A wide variety of lures and set-ups can be used, but many experts agree the soft plastics of Berkley Gulp! is one of the best when used with spinnerbaits. They’ll take most lures, but really home in on live bait. They’ll rarely pass up live croakers, finger mullet, pinfish or menhaden. They’ll take shrimp sometimes, but not as well. Hook larger baits for bigger flounder through the lips, and smaller baits through the eyes.
Landing a Flounder
Bounce your lure or jig head along the bottom to catch their attention. Strikes will usually occur as the lure falls.
Flounder don’t always take bait or lures right away, but they’ll follow it during the retrieve. They’ll settle on the bottom right underneath your boat, so don’t forget to periodically work a jig directly underneath.
Flounder typically travel in groups, so usually once you catch one, you’ll find more. Stay put, making a note of how far into a rising or lowering tide you were.
Flippin’ is a technique that most bass anglers are used to, but you can use it to target flounder in hard-to-reach spots inshore, too. The technique is the same. Ray Thomas, a dedicated flounder fisherman explains:
“I prefer a seven-foot spinning outfit for this work, and use it almost like a fly rod at close range. I pull through the rod guides with my left hand as I’m raising the lure and line from the water with the rod. I’ll flip the lure out, then jig it around the boat, because I anchor near good flounder structure such as pilings, bulkheads, and jetties. These places are full of barnacles, and it’s easy to get cut off. But if you keep your casts short by flippin’ you can work these hot spots quickly without getting hung up.”
Most states have pretty strict guidelines on the number and size of the fish you can keep, so make sure to check with your local fish and game office before heading out, but there’s definitely fun to be had all year long, in a variety of different locations and depths!