Southern flounder are a mainstay of inshore anglers from North Carolina to Texas. And while flounder aren't as fickle about taking a bait or lure as seatrout, they can be awful persnickety at times, especially the older, bigger "doormats." That said, the following tips from veteran flounder pros around the country should speed the time between strikes and help you enjoy more flatfish fillets this season. Give 'em a try!
1. Ledge Lessons
Jake Markris of Fairhope, Alabama, is a die-hard flounder fisherman. He uses light tackle and mainly 1/4-ounce jigs, and his specialty is working sandbar drop-offs and small, inshore ledges that many anglers overlook.
"Flounder relate to the slightest drop-off, sometimes only six or eight inches, and a one- or two-foot ledge can be a real fish magnet," he explains. "I use a boat to get to prime fishing locations, but I find that wading is often the best way to approach flounder in shallow water. Wading doesn't spook the fish, and you can use your feet to feel for the little drop-offs that often hold fish."
Jake fan-casts to these drop-off areas, probing the bottom with jigs. Casts made parallel to the ledge are often most productive because the lure is kept in the strike zone throughout the entire retrieve.
Jake also points out that ledges are best fished when the current is flowing from shallow to deep. In this scenario, flounder often gather on the deep side of the ledge, waiting for bait to be swept off the shallow flats.
2. Follow That Flounder!
Guide Greg Fields of Atlantic Beach, Florida, first learned about "flounder tracks" while wading the shallow mud and sand flats at low tide in search of live bait. He noticed that the bays which held the most bait when the tide dropped also had a large number of flounder outlines - or tracks - in the bottom. As the tide receded, flounder that had been lying buried in the bottom pulled out, leaving their body imprints, and that gave Fields a good idea of where to look for them when the tide came back in.
"I've located a number of hot spots while walking mud bars at low tide," he explains. "A flounder track stands out remarkably well, and it's a sure sign that the spot holds fish when the water is high."
3. Flicker Trick
The "flicker rig" (shown above) is simply a modified version of the standard fish-finder rig, which many flounder anglers use for working live baits. It's especially popular with North Carolina flounder fishermen, including Captain Booger Harris of Pantego.
Like the basic fish-finder, this rig begins with the fishing line running through an egg, bullet or flat sinker, which is then tied to a barrel swivel. Next, a two-foot section of mono that's lighter than the main line is tied to the opposite end of the barrel swivel. Roughly one foot from the leader end, a bright-colored foam or cork float is positioned. Some floats have plastic "stoppers" at their ends for sure positioning, and yellow or red floats are preferred. A couple of small, red, plastic beads are threaded onto the leader, followed by a small, chrome or brass spinnerblade. Many anglers prefer Colorado blades because they give off a lot of flounder-attracting vibration, but willow-leaf or Indiana blades can be used as well. A clevis can be used facilitate the spinning action of the blade. Lastly, thread a couple more plastic beads onto the leader and tie on a suitable hook, such as a 1/0 Kahle.
The float keeps the bait off the bottom, where it's more vulnerable and easily seen by fish. Furthermore, the float's bright color serves to attractflounder, as does the spinnerblade. The beads allow the spinnerblade to turn freely on the fishing line without binding against the hook, cork or tangling in the line.
This rig is quick to make, and is outstanding for fishing around oyster shells, pilings and other snaggy struc-ture, since the bait (usually a minnow or live shrimp) is suspended above the bottom, yet remains deep enough to tempt any nearby fish into striking.
4. Bring 'Em to the Boat
"About half the flounder I catch are taken less than a rod length from my boat," states guide Bo Hamilton of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. "Flounder often don't take a bait or lure right away, but follow it during the retrieve. When flounder do this, they usually settle to the bottom, right under the boat. Therefore, it's a good idea to periodically work a jig or bait directly under the skiff. It's amazing how many flounder can be caught this way. Sometimes it takes several tries, but if there's a flounder down there, it can be made to strike by repeatedly dropping a jig or natural bait in front of it."