All flatfishes, including the southern flounder, are compressed laterally and spend most of their life lying and swimming along the bottom on their side. In the case of southern flounder, the left side is always the "up" side; in other species, the opposite is true.
The flounder is wonderfully adapted for its way of life. Both eyes in adults are on the "up" side of the head and the pigmentation of the upper side of the body can be varied to match the surrounding environment. A small body cavity and the absence of air bladder aid the flounder in maintaining its position on the bottom.
Adult southern flounder leave the inland waters during the fall for spawning in the ocean. They spawn for the first time when two years old at depths of 50 to 100 feet. The eggs are buoyant.
After hatching, the larval fish swim in an upright position and the eyes are located on opposite sides of the head. As the young fish grows, the right eye begins to "migrate" to the left side of the head. When body length of about one-half inch has been attained, the eye migration is complete and the fish assumes its left-side-up position for life.
The young fish enter the inland waters during late winter and early spring. At this time they are about one-half inch in length and seek shallow grassy areas near large bays or creeks. As growth continues, some will move farther inland. Some will enter coastal rivers and back waters.
Small flounder grow rapidly and may reach 12 inches in length by the end of their first year. Males seldom exceed 12 inches, but females grow larger than males and often reach a length of 25 inches. Most flounder caught by anglers are females between 12 and 16 inches long, weighing from one to 1 1/2 pounds. The minimum length for harvest is 12 inches. These fish are in their second year of life.
Juvenile flounder feed mainly on crustaceans, but as they grow fish become more important in their diet. Adult flounder enter shallow water at night where they lie, often partially buried, and wait for prey. Empty depressions where flounder have lain are called "beds."
Although most of the adults leave the bays and enter the ocean for spawning during the winter, some remain behind and spend winter in the inshore waters. Those in the ocean will return to the inshore waters in the spring. The spring influx is gradual and does not occur with large concentrations that characterize the fall emigration.
Would You Like to Catch Some FLOUNDER.
The first, of what I hope to be big numbers of Flounder, are starting to show up and I for one, would like to catch my share of these delicious flat fish. There are several ways to Flounder fish. Here are a couple of styles that have worked for me in past years and will certainly work for me this year. As we all know, flounder like structure, therefore we need to fish that structure to catch them. This also means that we are going to give up some tackle in search of him. This is okay, that is one of the reasons that we all work. Work all week, get paid, buy tackle, go fishing, lose tackle, go back to work to make more money to buy more tackle.
Now that you have worked all week to buy tackle, I hope that I will be able to help you catch something to bring home, so you at least feel that you have some return on your money
Fishing Shallow water in the backwater creeks with the fly rod. This is fairly easy, you do not need sinking line, long leaders or long accurate cast. I start by heading for the backwater creeks on the very first of the outgoing tide. I then anchor the boat close enough to a small creek mouth, that I can work, for about ten to fifteen cast. The fly patterns that I am most likely to use can be found by going to orvis.com, then to fly fishing, then to flies. From their go to Bonefish/Permit. In this selection, I like the following flies for flounder. Bearded Charlie, Belize Bomber, Deepwater Gotcha and the Spawning Gotcha.
In the category of Snook/Redfish, I like the following; AC's Redfish Hor's Douvre, Kirks Rattle Rouser and the Mud Minnow Slider. Now that you have purchased or tied some flies that resemble some of the previously mentioned flies, you are ready to get catching. Make your cast up into the mouth as far as you can without throwing on something that will hang you up. Give the fly a chance to settle, before making your strips (very slow, about one to two inches per strip) back to the boat.
The bite or strike from a flounder is not usually felt as you would feel a red or trout strike. It is almost like your fly is hung on the bottom, or you might feel a slight tap as the fish sucks in the fly. Now is the time to set the hook.
If you have very sharp hooks, a good hook set is about like a six inch brisk strip. After you have hooked Mr. Flounder, the fight is not something to write home about, but they sure do eat good. I like to work a creek mouth for about 15 cast, covering every inch of it, before moving to another mouth. Do not be surprised to catch other fish, such as reds, trout, jacks or ladyfish while your fly is being worked in the mouths of these small feeder creeks, as most fish like to use these as ambush points.
Rod and Reel in shallow water. Do exactly the same as above except substitute a Jaw Jacker Jig in 1/8 or 1/4 ounce with a mud minnow, shrimp, mullet or your favorite rubber bait (I like an Exude Shrimp). Toss it in the mouth and work it back to you very slowly. After you have worked that mouth find another one and do the same. After a few hours of this, you should have enough flat ones for a nice fish fry.
Rod and Reel on deep or fast moving water. I like two styles of presentation for this type of water:
Fish finder rig: The line on the spool needs to be 20 pound test PowerPro., From there, slide on an egg sinker from 1/2 ounce to about 4 ounces. Then I slide a bead on the line, this prevents the lead from beating up the knot. Then tie on a barrel swivel and to that a piece of 20 pound test monofilament leader, about 1 to 2 feet long. To the leader tie on a Daiichii D-16 Octopus Wide hook, from a # 1 to 2/0 in size.
Now for the bait: Without a doubt, the best flounder bait is a small mullet or mullet strip, but shrimp, mud minnows or squid will all work fine. If you are using mullet or minnows, hook them from under the jaw and come up through their lips with the hook. For cut bait, I like to run the hook through twice and leave a one to two inch piece hanging out, to flap in the current, like it is swimming. Do the same for the squid. Now that we are rigged up, it is time to throw our rig in the structure. Look for almost all bridges within several miles of the ocean. Look for rocks, docks, pilings and piers that might provide a current break (eddy), These are where the flounder hang out. Toss you baited rig along this structure, let it hit bottom and slowly work it along the bottom. This is a style of fishing that is better when the bait is worked SLOWWW. Remember, these fish are laying down waiting for something to swim close enough for them to open their big mouth and suck down. These fish are really not designed to chase something down, but rather wait for something to get close, so they can suck it in, that is why we try to fish slow.
Try to work every inch of bottom in the areas that you might think a fish is holding. After you feel that you have worked an area pretty good, then move a little way down and start over. If you are in an area that holds fish, by the end of the day, you should have a few nice fish for dinner.
The float rig: This is the same rig, that I have so many times, employed for trout fishing.
I like to fish bridges and docks with this rig. I will anchor my boat so I can drift out of the back and work the Float Rig in and around the pilings. The bait as with all of the other styles needs to be on the bottom. I like to use a leader about two to three feet long and the lead weight above the leader needs to be about one foot off of the bottom. This allows the bait to drag the bottom. When a flounder grabs your bait, the float will lay away from you and slowly go under, as if it were hung on the bottom. The bite on this style of fishing is going to look as if the rig is hung on the bottom, as it will on occasion. Because the flounder bite and being hung on the bottom look the same, you have to treat each as if there was a fish on. I like to slowly take up the slack and gently set the hook. If you have hooked a flounder, he will be thumping as you wind him to the boat. The bait can be the same as above.
The limit on Flounder in Florida is ten per person and they have to be 12 inches long.
Now for some local action:
There are good numbers of spanish mackerel in the river, the creeks and back at the jetties. Try a Clark Spoon in conjunction with a planner at the jetties and in the river and creeks, they are eating almost anything. I have taken some in the creeks up to 28 inches on the MirrOlure 52M.
The reds are still doing their thing in the creeks and a few places in the river. I have been catching them on THE Top Dawg Pup, the Provoker and a Jaw Jacker Jig with a mud minnow. I had a few last week, in the early morning on the fly. I was throwing a mud minnow and a gold spoon pattern, both of these are available at Orvis.com. Most of the trout that I am catching are in the creeks on the flood tide and the first of the outgoing. I am catching them on jigs and minnows, jig and shrimp, Provokers, silver and chartreuse flies and gold and silver spoons. I have been tossing the bait up on the edges and working it back to the boat. The flounder are starting up pretty good in a few areas, but slow in areas where they should be. I think it will be about another week before the big numbers show up.
For charter information please call me at 904 757 7550 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capt. Jim Hammond