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flounder.jpg (20391 bytes)It's Flounder
Time in New
England!


By Mike Christy


One of the most popular and sought after inshore fish of the early summer season is the winter flounder. Easily accessible by any angler with a row boat, or access to a pier or dock, flounder can provide fishing fun for all ages as well as a fine meal.

Winter flounder spawn from late winter into the month of May. They seek out sandy bottom in relatively shallow waters for spawning. Their general size is 12-15 inches and weigh between 1-2 pounds. The flounder's movement is dictated by water temperature. They prefer cool waters and cannot tolerate very warm or very cold temperatures. In the winter they seek out stable temperatures of deep water, then move back into the shallows in the spring until the water warms to the point that they move back to the depths again. In the fall they once again move back into the shallows after the water temperature stabilizes.

Habitat
Flounder fishing from a boat usually involves anchoring over good flounder bottom, although some anglers prefer to drift for them. Some areas to target for flounder include:

  • Sand or mud flats at high tide
  • Sandy or pebbly bottoms with sparse eel grass
  • River channels and deep holes at low tide
  • Mud bottoms adjacent to shellfish beds
  • Protective coves with moorings usually have soft bottoms

After setting up a good anchor, the second order of business is setting out a chum pot (more on this later), then being patient. It can sometimes take 30 minutes to begin seeing some action. But sometimes the action can be instant!

Gear
Tackle used for flounder fishing can be some of the simplest available; a hand-line with a 3oz bank sinker and a long-shanked flounder hook is all you need to get started. Although a medium 6' boat rod with 20lb. test line on a conventional level wind reel is a find choice too. I prefer non-stretch Dacron line for bottom fishing. At times, pre-rigged flounder hooks with yellow corn beads tipped with small pieces of sandworm can be absolute flounder slayers. These are usually available in packages containing six leaders and hooks.

Terminal tackle usually consists of a flounder spreader rig with two hooks and a bank sinker in the middle. This is fished directly on the bottom with the line kept taught as to feel any delicate nibbles from the fish. The weight of the sinker is determined by the water depth and the amount of current. Constant contact with the bottom is important.

Movement
Raising and lowering your rod tip every so often adds action to your bait and helps keeps your bait on the bottom. Let some line out or reel some in whenever adjustments are needed, but don't let your rig drag across the bottom as there can be many items below which can snag your line.

Crabs can be a real nuisance, and raising you rod tip will let you know when they are attacking your bait. Don't be surprised to hook a lobster either, after all the bottom is their domain too ( lobsters must be released unharmed of course).  And then there is the business of those pesky prehistoric skates, but that's altogether another story.

If you feel scratching on your line when you raise it, then you may be in a thick area of eel grass, it may be time to haul anchor and try a different spot.

The Bite
Sometimes, you will not feel a bite at all, so while raising your rod tip you will suddenly hook a flounder! At other times, you'll probably feel a sharp TAP-TAP...TAP! Lifting the rod sharply will set the hook, then simply reel the fish in. Flounder are good fighters and often dart off in quick spurts. They can be a real blast on medium/light tackle.

I always keep a wet rag handy and use it to hold the fish while removing the hook. Also, an ordinary nylon mesh laundry bag hung over the gunnel makes a good fish keeper, just remember to bring it on board when moving to a new spot.

Baits
Popular baits include sandworms, bloodworms, clam necks (fresh or frozen) and mussels. Its always a good idea to have both worms and clams as offerings as there are times when one will work better over the other. Flounder have small mouths so just small pieces of bait is all that is needed. Sometimes you may wish to alternate between different baits on each hook as to give the fish a choice. Take note of which bait they prefer and switch over to that type if a trend appears. Artificials typically do not produce with flounder.

Chumming
Besides finding the right type of bottom habitat for flounders, the second most important item is the use of chum. Chumming with broken mussels, either thrown overboard or lowered in a weighted mesh bag is good insurance for catching fish. I understand that corn and even cat food works as well. Bouncing the chum bag off the bottom will release some chum and stir up the bottom to attract flounder.

If you haven't had a bite in a while, you can simply let out 10 yards of anchor rope and start over, the fish may just be a few yards away, plus it will give you short reprieve from the bothersome crabs. Moving around from spot to spot until fish are found is common when perusing flounder.

Cleaning
Cleaning flounder takes a little practice, but it is quickly mastered. Follow these few steps below:

  • Sharpen you knife, then sharpen it again.
  • The fish is placed dark side up on a cutting board
  • The head is sliced off behind the fin ( it helps to have a garden hose running nearby)
  • With the tail towards you, take the end of the knife and cut along the outside right edge of the fish, about1/2 inch in from the fin.
  • Turn the fish over (light side showing) and do the same as above, from the farthest point away from you, make a cut along the right side.
  • The key is to cut through the fin bones, but not the skin on the other side
  • Take a rag and grab the edge of the skin and PULL! Do the same of the other side
  • At this point you should have a clean piece of flounder ready to have 4 beautiful fillets taken from.
  • TIP: I own a shark skin fillet glove and highly recommend the use of one.

I wish you good luck if you head out for flounder this season. What else could come close to lazin' in the warm summer sun while eating a Moe's and pulling up a few flounder? Only a summertime cookout of freshly filleted flounder deep fried on the deck afterwards. I'm looking forward to several of them this year!

Please check your state laws pertaining to the recreational length and bag limits for flounder.

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