How to Catch FlounderPublished on 05/17/2023 · 7 min readIn this article, Fishing expert Christian Nelson breaks down exactly how he goes about finding and catching flounder so you can get some fish of your own!
Photo by Brian Yurasits
Flounder is one of the most popular fish species for table fare all along the Gulf Coast and a favorite of anglers for good reason. Flounders are fun to catch and have delicious, flaky white meat that makes them very sought after. The problem with most inshore species is locating them, and flounder are no different. Throughout this article, I’m going to break down exactly how I go about finding and catching flounder, and hopefully get you on some fish!
Before You Get Started
Before you hit the water in search of flounder, make sure you have everything you need to legally catch them! All you should need is a saltwater-fishing license, but check your local laws and regulations to answer any questions you may have. Here in Alabama, flounder fishing is illegal in November because that is when they make their migration, so you’ll want to check for similar laws in your area. Once you’ve got your license and made sure everything is in order, you’re ready to chase some fish!
Where to Look
To know where to look for flounder, you need to first understand a little bit about what makes a flounder happy and comfortable. Just like any other fish, flounder have preferences about their environment, and some areas are more attractive to them than others. Flounder feed off the bottom of the water column and they are excellent ambush predators, despite moving very little when they are actively trying to feed. Because their whole strategy is to lay still on the bottom, flounder like high-traffic areas where food is coming to them. Keeping this in mind, there are a few key things I look for when identifying a place to try and catch flounder.
First, you’re going to want to find some sort of choke point. Flounder love lying in wait for their prey in areas that create a natural choke point or funnel. They wait here and feed on menhaden, live shrimp, and other live baitfish. Flounder are ambush predators, so they very rarely feed on dead bait. The funnel pushes baitfish down a narrow channel, which provides the flounder with a higher likelihood of fish passing through their strike zone while they hide, giving them an opportunity to feed.
Creek mouths, jetties, points off the end of islands, and docks on channels with currents are all good choke points for flounder. I fish creek mouths in estuaries the most. With tides creating a continual current one way or another in the marsh, flounder, redfish, and speckled trout love to post up on these creek mouths and points, making for some very exciting fishing!
The best times to target flounder in creek mouths are during high tide and while the high tide flows out to low tide. The tide cycle creates a current that either pushes baitfish in or sucks them out of the creek, and these high-traffic times can make for explosive fishing.
When fishing for flounder, keep this in mind: they most likely will not move far to pursue your bait. They are ambush predators, so make sure to fish your bait to carefully cover all of the water and make sure you don’t miss anything! I normally start by fishing the banks or any visible structures, natural corners, and points I see. Then I begin painstakingly fan-casting, making sure I cover all of the water. This is an important part of targeting flounder simply because you never know exactly where they’ll be sitting.
When it comes to flounder, I like to keep things relatively simple for bait. I like using flukes and small swimbaits, almost always in a pearl-white or chartreuse pattern, and will often use a mixture of both. Flounder really love chartreuse and they’ll usually only grab the chartreuse tail of a soft plastic, so I primarily throw chartreuse baits.
I love using Berkley Gulp! baits for flounder, primarily shrimp in the New Penny color, and the Gulp! Swimming Mullet in chartreuse and white. I also love Zoom flukes, but any brand of fluke lures will work if you can stick to a pearl color. I also occasionally throw Gulp! Mud Minnows that resemble small croakers, since those work as well.
As far as tackle goes, I like to fish these on a jighead, usually a one-eighth ounce. These lighter jigs give a slower, more natural fall and allow you to fish the bait more slowly and naturally. Unlike with most inshore fish, I don’t usually use live bait for flounder. I find that I enjoy fishing for flounder with artificial baits more, and I also feel it’s more effective. It allows you to present a bait in the way flounder are expecting to see it, and in my opinion, it’s the best way to target them.
Getting One in the Boat
So you’ve figured out where you’re going to fish, now let’s break down the how and when! Flounder are most active, like many fish, in the morning and afternoon, but the tide cycle will play heavily on this. For example, if high tide is at 7 a.m., that’s a perfect combination for getting on some fish!
While you can follow the same basic rules for most predatory fish, there are a few extra tricks and tips that will help you dial in on flounder. For one, fish your baits slow and low. Keep in mind that these fish are laying flat on the bottom. If your bait isn’t on the bottom or just above it, chances are you won’t be catching any flounder. This is a small thing that can result in catching no fish, so make sure your bait is in the strike zone!
I like to fish for flounder with a simple two-bounce retrieve: twitch, twitch, pick up the slack in the line. I like to twitch my rod tip down or to the side, and I try to avoid twitching the rod tip upward. I find that bouncing baits vertically like that leaves my presentation out of the strike zone, as these fish just aren’t chasing a bait very far off the bottom.
Another unique factor that comes into play when trying to land a flounder is its mouth. Flounder have very bony, rigid mouths. This can sometimes make it difficult to get a good hookset, resulting in a lost fish. The old fisherman’s secret is to let the fish swallow the hook and get a nice hookset in the softer throat, but this almost always kills the fish, and if the fish is not a legal size, then you’ve killed a fish for no reason.
Instead, I opt to use a stout rod, usually medium-heavy, and strong, sharp hooks. When I feel the strike, I set the hook as hard as I can, pulling mostly upward. Think of the classic guy who’s fishing bass tournaments and ripping a hookset — that’s what you’re aiming for. Set the hook with the intention of snatching that fish back into the boat, and you’ll get much more quality hooksets and catch a lot more fish. When fighting a flounder, take your time and play them. Flounder tend to stick to the bottom and turn sideways in a fight, and they can give a good pull! I recommend using a braided line with a monofilament leader, as their bony mouths can be abrasive and cut braid.
Once you catch a flounder, fish that area very meticulously. Where you find one, more often than not you will find and catch several, so sit back and enjoy the bites! Once you’ve done that, rinse and repeat. Fish all follow a pattern, and once you figure out how and why you’re catching flounder, you’ll be successful fast. Being observant and patient out on the water is half the battle. Take your time finding spots and fishing meticulously, and you’re well on your way to calling yourself a flounder fisherman!