Most folks who seek out the wily flounder set out at night in a small boat with a bright light.
The idea is to scour the shoreline for those telltale reflective eyes that shine up from the bottom. In order to have success gigging flounder, you must be able to traverse very shallow water and that usually means a motor won’t work. It is best done with a push pole, paddle or a set of oars.
In the dark of night, the flatfish move in to hide on the bottom and feed along the shoreline. To begin with flounder are almost perfectly camouflaged, but to make matters worse, they are able to adjust their color to the surroundings.
To get them you must have a stout gig that more resembles a farmer’s pitchfork. Those tiny wire gigs you may have seen are better suited for frogs. If you stab a five-pound flounder with that flimsy thing, you will pull back a broken gig. Nope it takes a heavy gig and a good light to fire fish (as the old Floridians called it.)
If you time it right in a good spot, the reward can be great. I have seen commercial fishermen catch over 50 in a night like that. While that is productive, to me it is just meat fishing.
I prefer to wade for flounder and catch them on artificial baits. Now that is a fun and challenging thing to do. Each year, by mid-May when the water has warmed suitably, I am out soaking my flip flop shod feet in the Halifax and its tributaries in search of those tasty flatties.
In the past 10 years I have had periods of fabulous success and times of near nothingness. Such is the plight of a flounder fisherman. Most of the time I cast jigs to them and back that up with the occasional purple bass worm. Despite their reputation as a bottom hugger, flounder are aggressive feeders and will hit most any artificial lure. I know folks who only use spoons for them and, at times, I have had great success fishing for them with top water lures.
You may wonder how a fish that covers itself up with mud to ambush its prey can be coaxed to bite on the top? Well, remember most of the time they are caught in less than two feet of water and it’s not a great leap for them to capture food on the surface. Actually I have watched flounders jump out of the water when feeding in depths of five feet or more. Much more active than many believe.
If you don’t think they are game fish, the next time you catch one, take a few seconds to inspect that large mouth. Not many fish are possessed of such a killing tool. Big canine teeth set in a chasm of a mouth that would make a freshwater bass proud. That big mouth is similar to that of a snook, speckled perch or musky.
Not only is the mouth of a flounder formidable, it is also very hard. As I have reported for years, about half of the flounders I hook wind up coming off. I cannot say that about any other species. Very difficult to get a hook into those lips.
They also are smart creatures. If one bites, it will be a long while before you will have another chance. If a sea trout, red drum or snook hits at your lure, you can usually throw it right back for round two. In order to get a second hit from a flounder, you must wait over a half hour with a full hour even better.
With all those problems, you might think it is not a good fish to target. That is not the case. Wading for flounder is one of my all-time favorite things to do. This season is only just beginning, but stick with me and I’ll let you know if it turns out to be a good one.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.