Flounder are flat fish that are divided into a few species (the most common of which on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is the summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus) which lie on the bottom, camouflaged, waiting for prey. They have a migratory eye, which moves to the other side of the head when they are juveniles, placing both eyes on the same side of each fish, and they lie on the bottom with that side up. Often the eyes are the only parts of the fish that break through the sand or mud when they sit in it, and when they spot food, they dart up and grab it. Flounder average about a pound in weight, though they grow to over twenty pounds.
Flounder mostly feed on baitfish, such as mullet, menhaden, sardines, anchovies, glass minnows, and baby spot, but they will readily grab shrimp, crabs, and squid that venture too close. They generally feed close to the bottom of the water column, swimming up off the bottom to grab food. They may chase bait near the surface, but when flounder do this, they have followed the bait up from the bottom, as they never cruise in the middle or top of the water column.
Catching Flounder in the Surf
Fishing for flounder in the surf is sometimes easiest when using bait. Flounder inshore will take cut bait (squid, shrimp, mullet, and menhaden) but it may be more productive to use live bait or artificial lures when the water is calm. Live finger (2-4 inches long) mullet are the best type of live bait because they are hardy baitfish that stay alive for some time after being rigged as bait. In the surf, they may be used on the same bottom rig that is used for cut bait. This is a rig with a weight on the bottom, usually a one or two ounce lead weight, and two hooks off of the sides. The mullet, hooked through the nose or back can be fished on this rig, and flounder will find them suspended about a foot off the bottom. This type of fishing works best when the water is not too rough.
Catching Flounder in Shallow Water
When fishing in the sound, river, inlet, or off of jetties or rock walls where the waves are not as substantial and the water is shallower, mullet may be rigged about two or three feet below a float (any simple bobber or cork will do) so that they hang down and swim around at about a foot or two off of the bottom. The tide or wind should carry the float one way or another, causing the mullet to slowly cruise through the water not far off of the bottom. This method of fishing covers a lot of area, increasing the chance that the bait will drift over a hungry flounder. The water should be less than six feet deep for this type of fishing.
Soft Plastic Lures
When fishing with lures or artificial baits, soft plastic flukes are very productive. Zoom Super Flukes and Saltwater Assassin flukes are perfect. When the water is shallow, they may be fished weightless, with an offset worm hook, but if the water is choppy or deep, a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce bullet weight, slid on the line before the hook is tied on (causing the weight to ride just in front of the hook) keeps the lure looking like a minnow darting around on the bottom, which is just what a flounder wants to see. These lures should be reeled slow, and twitched every once in a while to get them to dart around.
These fish may be caught in a variety of ways, but every successful technique places an enticing lure or bait right down near them on the bottom.