Flounder is one of the most sought after fish in coastal North Carolina, hands down. Abundance and desirable table fare are two prime reasons for that popularity. In other words, there are plenty of ’em out there to hook, and they taste right good, too.
Anglers who share their catch with neighbors and friends only have to ask once when doling out flounder. Seafood restaurants prominently display flounder dishes on their menus and daily specials. So it is safe to say, flounder is a highly-rated fish of choice by fisherman, restaurants and consumers.
Our coastal waters provide fishing action from two types of flounder, southern flounder and summer flounder, sometimes called fluke.
Here comes that “S” word again. Structure! Find structure in inland waters, and you will find Mr. Flatfish. Piers, docks, pilings, bridges and seawalls are good hideouts for flounder. Structure also includes natural things underwater, like reefs. The intercostal waterway and connected channels provides numerous opportunities for flounder pounders.
I have enjoyed some flounder success drifting and dragging baits around those port walls and bridges in the Morehead City/Atlantic Beach area. Simply put, small live baits fished on the bottom around structure will usually produce good flounder activity.
Baits for flounder are many, and of course each fisherman has their own favorite, but you probably can’t go wrong with live mud minnows, mullet or menhaden on a Carolina rig. Gulp! minnows and shrimp, or soft plastic baits on jig heads also fool the flatties on a regular basis. I was surprised to catch a few on MirrOlure twitch baits while out targeting speckled trout.
It is interesting to note that flounder tend to suck more than bite a bait aggressively. They mouth it softly at first trying to decide if it’s worth swallowing. It takes a little patience, but waiting an extra few seconds to set the hook will insure more solid hook-ups and catches. Easier said than done, I know from experience. At the first sign of a bite I instinctively want to set the hook hard, and rip its lips off. My bad.
Flounder are ambush predators that will try to camouflage themselves on the bottom, then strike their prey as they swim by. Flatfish are not big on chasing prey, so anglers that drift and drag baits along the bottom usually meet more success. Bottom rigs, that allow live bait to swim freely, also attract a lot of flounder attention.
Like pursuing any bottom fish, you are likely to encounter a variety of bottom feeders. Red drum and speckled trout are two of the more acceptable options you might crank in. You have to take the good with the bad, so you will also pull up a variety of so-called trash fish, and even an occasional crab. Such is the life of a bottom fisherman.
I Hear Ya – I hear from a lot of anglers, and few I know catch more fish than Wayne Harrell. Wayne-O fishes frequently, and stays hard at it on the water. He likes to keep the action hopping, whether that means putting a lot of lines in the water, or throwing a ton of casts. Not hung up on a particular species, Wayne shares my love of those shad when they traverse up our freshwater rivers to spawn. Lately he has been chasing flounder and catching his limits more times than not in the Swan Quarter area.
Gatsy and Mike Eason motored back across that Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel again in search of more of those croakers around Oyster, Va. Day one, they found some fish, a little bigger than their last trip, in the 12-inch to 13-inch range. The wind blew hard the second day, out of the northeast, so they had to adjust plans. They fished the always productive pilings of the bridge-tunnel and caught some pretty spade fish.
Greg Bottoms, my speckled trout fishing buddy, sent me a picture of a 50-inch, 50-pound Red Drum he caught in the Neuse River under a popping cork. Greg is another one of those guys that is a fish magnet. Staying hard at it must be an important key to catching fish because he wears me out just watching him go at it some days. Greg catches fish!
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See you on the water, my friend.