Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods that Work

Try these tips to catch more flounder

Freshly caught fish
Richard Drury / Getty Images

Somewhere back in my years I got hooked on flounder fishing. I guess it may have been the way my wife prepares the real butter sauteed fillets with toasted sliced almonds and lemon juice. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it! At any rate, flounder are one of my favorite fish to catch. And it took a while for me to learn to catch them.

Spending most of my younger years in South Florida, I missed out on flounder fishing, because the flounder population there is sparse.

They prefer cooler waters I think.

Flounder Migration

One particular flounder trip I was on put me in some nice fish, fish that were making their fall migration to deeper water. It was out of Mayport, Florida, and we were fishing the intracostal waterway in and around the mouth of the St. Johns River.

Flounder make a regular migration to deeper water and settle on the sandy bottom as far as 25 to 30 miles offshore. They will lay in the sand around any natural structure, or around any of the numerous artificial reefs and wrecks. Spearfishermen take some huge flounder around these wrecks in the winter months.

Targeting the fish

My style is to catch them during their migration. From about September through the end of November, they begin to move out of the creeks and rivers and into the ocean. They have spent the spring and summer months spawning and last year’s crop is now large enough to make the migration with the older brood fish.

This year's hatch is left in the estuaries to grow another year before making any moves. This is why we still catch a large number of very small flounder all the way through the winter. And it is also why longer length restrictions can play a big part in increasing the stocks.

Tackle

My standard tackle is a medium stiff semi-fast taper 7-foot casting rod with a small baitcasting reel – I like the Abu Garcia 5500C on a freshwater bass flippin’ stick.

I use 14-pound test line, small enough to be somewhat invisible, and yet large enough to handle other larger species that may take the bait. The terminal tackle is what I call a standard flounder rig: a 4/0-circle hook on a 15 inch 30 lb. test monofilament leader. The leader is tied to a trolling sinker, and the sinker is tied to the line. These sinkers are the type that looks like they have a small beaded chain on each end. They are long and slender and are ideal for dragging across the bottom.

Bait

The bait I use will vary, but by far I prefer a finger mullet between three and four inches long. Smaller mullet are too small for the hook, and larger ones are too large for some of the flounder to get a hold of easily. As the migration moves from September, these finger mullet get hard to find.

Bait

If I can’t find any finger mullet, I will opt for mud minnows. With mud minnows, I switch from the terminal tackle I described. I remove the sinker and tie a 2/0-jig head to the end of the leader. If mullet and mud minnows are both scarce, I will opt for live shrimp and use them with the jig head. And if there simply is no live bait, I will go with a pink or red plastic grub tail on the jig head.

There have been days that the fish would hit the grub tail better than live bait! Go figure!

Using a Mullet Bait

With the mullet bait, I will work an area where the water is moving on an outgoing tide. I look for the areas around structures that provide a break to the water movement – areas that create an eddy. This is where the flounder will lay and wait for an ambush. They often will strike out at moving baitfish into the current and move back to their relative safety. I work the mullet along the bottom slowly, casting beyond the eddy and dragging the bait across. I will do this from several angles, looking to draw a strike.

Using a Jig Head

If I am using a jig head with a mud minnow or shrimp, or even with a grub tail, I will do the same thing. I slowly move the bait on or just off the bottom.

Feeling the Strike

A flounder’s strike will never take the rod out of your hand. It is subtle, and sometimes it just feels like some extra pressure – like maybe your sinker is hung on something. The trick to catching more flounder is to NOT set the hook right away. When you feel that pressure the flounder usually has the bait in his mouth, holding it in his sharp teeth. He may swim 10 feet or more to his safety zone before trying to swallow the bait. If you set the hook when you first feel the fish, you’ll come back with half a mullet!

The Right Hook

The great thing about circle hooks is that you can let the flounder go ahead and attempt to swallow the bait. The design of the circle hook is such that it will pull right out to the corner of the flounder’s mouth and then set itself! You never really set the hook – and that is a very hard thing to learn about circle hooks. Simply start reeling slowly and increase speed. As you increase reeling speed, the hook does all the work.We catch flounder using this method and these baits all the way up to very cold weather. We look for the current breaks on an outgoing tide, anchor up and begin working an area.

Habitat

In northeast Florida, specifically, we work the docks that line the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to the ocean. Sometimes we seem to find a flounder behind every large piling. At the harbor entrance to the Mayport Naval Station, the river current is relatively swift. The water depth comes up from about 40 feet deep to around 15 feet just off the rocks on the west side.

That shallow area is dotted with rocks and provides an excellent place for flounder to sit and wait. If you aren’t sure where this is specifically, just look for the other boats – they will be right in the thick of it. But be sure to observe the Navy signs, they really get upset if you venture too far into the harbor.

Fish the Rocks and Jetties

If you have a trolling motor, the rocks that line the jetties heading out into the ocean are an excellent place to try this method on a slack tide. Remember that these fish are migrating out. On a slack tide, they will hug the rocks and sit on the bottom.

If you are in the St Augustine area, the rocks that line the inlet provide the same opportunity at slack tide.

Cuts and Inlets

Any cut or inlet up and down the US East Coast that goes to the ocean from a bay or estuary will have similar situations, and these tactics, or slight variations of them, can be used to catch these elusive doormats. Try your luck on one.

What’s your method for catching doormats? Let me know on the Saltwater Fishing Forum.

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Brooks, Ron. "Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods that Work." ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/flounder-fishing-tips-2928489. Brooks, Ron. (2017, August 23). Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods that Work. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/flounder-fishing-tips-2928489 Brooks, Ron. "Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods that Work." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/flounder-fishing-tips-2928489 (accessed December 12, 2017).