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Flounder

by: Lenny Waters

Flounder picture

Flounder are a flat, bottom-dwelling fish abundant in the inshore waters of north and central Florida. They aren't usually scavengers, but are sight predators and generally bite better on live bait and lures than on cut bait. The big flounder are called doormats or flat-daddies. They are an attractive fish with brown and tan spot patterns on top and white on the bottom. They are masters of camouflage. Flounder are sought after as a food item and as a gamefish for sport alone. A large boneless fillet of white-opaque meat can be harvested from the flat fish's upside.

Where are the Flounder ?

Flounder will hunt for food in just inches of water. They tend to hang out around oyster beds and use silty bottoms to disappear under the mud and ambush prey. They can also be found on sandy bottoms and in the coastal surf. Flounder also travel up rivers and creeks into brackish and fresh water. The St. Johns River is known to have healthy flounder numbers, even as far south as Palatka. A good way to locate flounder is to wade in flat areas and sandbars where baitfish are present. Sometimes you can see signs such as a flounder-shaped print in the shallows like a footprint. Also, look for clouds of silt out in front of you that will be the flounder moving away from you. The disturbed mud from the flounder's retreat will point to where he went. Once you see two or three flounder scuttle away or find some flounder-prints, you know you are in the right place. Some good general areas to find flounder are Anastasia State park in St. Augustine, the Matanzas Inlet area, or the St. Johns River near Jacksonville.

How to Catch Flounder ?

The most popular way to harvest flounder is probably by gigging at night with flashlights and spears. Flounder can be "shined" in the shallow flats at night. Florida has regulations for harvesting flounder such as each fish must be 12 inches, and no more than 10 fish per day.

The best way to harvest flounder in my opinion is with a rod and reel. The flounder's natural diet includes small mullet, shrimp, mud minnows, baby jackfish, and other inshore baitfish. The best way to catch them with live bait is to use a number 2 or 3 circle hook with about a 10 " leader and a sinker. Use live bait like mullet or mud minnows near places where the flounder are poised for ambush. They can be caught from the beach by surf-fishing the same rig with a heavier sinker. Flounder will readily strike plastic shrimp and grubs when presented along the bottom. I have been told that they will often follow a lure, stalking it over several casts. Flounder, like all fish are individuals that don't always behave identically. Some flounder have definitely been caught on dead shrimp, cut bait, and even bread balls. I once saw a boy catch a large flounder from the St. Johns River on a bread ball, and it made me wonder if the flounder wanted the bread or the minnows that were picking at the bread ball. Either way it was a surprisingly welcome catch for the conditions that day.

Flounder have a distinctly light bite. You will not likely feel a big tug or hard bump from a flounder bite. Many times the flounder bite will be detected by extra weight on the line when reeling. This is why I recommend circle hooks for live bait flounder fishing. The circle hooks set themselves and are difficult for the fish to dislodge. When casting lures for flounder, the bite often feels like a snag of seaweed, and then the line will move in small circles at the surface of the water. The small circles made where the line touches the water are a good indicator that you have a flounder on the line, or possibly a sting ray. The line circles have something to do with how flat fish resist.

When to Catch Flounder ?

I have been told by some flounder anglers that flounder bite best in the time near sunrise when air pressure is low. This is when they take positions along the shore to stalk baitfish at first light. Many anglers, especially giggers, prefer to target them at night when they tend to get shallower. The hour before and after dead low tide is another key time for flounder fishing. Flounder, like most inshore gamefish will take advantage of creek run-offs and drainage traps to ambush prey near the low tide.

How to Clean Flounder ?

Use a clamp board and a steel glove whenever possible for cleaning fish, as it simplifies the task and reduces the chance of a bad cut. For flounder, clamp the tail in a fixed position on a flat stable surface with the eyes of the fish facing up. Use a long and flexible fillet knife to start a slice from the bulk of tail meat nearest the tail. rock the knife back or forth keeping it near the fishes backbone as possible. You should be able feel the backbone, but do not cut into it, as you work the knife towards the head in a slow rocking motion. Grab the fillet of meat once it is long enough to lift it up and see how close you are to the center bones. End the fillet slice near the top of the fishes head and the rib bones you will encounter near the fishes gills. Turn the fillet over and use the knife to separate the skin from the fillet. Tilting the knife blade more into the skin than into the meat will help to avoid waste. A dull knife works better than a sharp knife for skinning like this.

How to Cook Flounder ?

You can't really go wrong with frying flounder. Fried flounder is excellent. It can be broiled also, but does not lend itself well to being grilled or blackened. The meat is really light and flaky. When overcooked, it turns to mush. When frozen, it looses its texture also. I recommend eating flounder within two days of catching. The cleaned meat can be stored in the fridge suspended in cold salt water for about a 2 days. The meat is so delicate that rough cooking methods like blackening with butter in a skillet will break apart the fillets as they are jostled.

I recommend dragging the fillets into a prepared batter or fry mix, and dropping them in grease hot enough to sizzle flour on the surface but not smoking. Frying time depends on size of fillets. Small fillets take about two minutes. Large fillets take 3-4 minutes. They are done if they flake apart with a fork and the meat is solid white. My fry mix is corn flour, crushed saltines, salt, pepper, and bay powder.

Flounder photo Flounder photo

 

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Comments & Reviews


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Rating: 5/5
Title: 2 giants
by: Tim.E 2012-10-22

caught 2 doormats the other day in the panhandle



Rating: 3/5
Title: topwater
by: Skeeter 2012-04-08

Will flounder strike topwater lures like a rapala? Ive never heard of this but I don't see why not



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by: flatdaddy jim 2012-04-03

april 3, 2012: flounder are biting inshore near matanzas inlet and st. augustine. got one over 5 lbs.