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Great flounder fishing continues to be the big story in Brunswick County inshore fishing, as anglers are taking nice-sized fish on both live bait and artificial lures. With flounder you can choose either natural offerings or today’s scented soft baits and fish them with confidence as flounder will eagerly hit either one.
Summer and southern flounder both populate the waters of Brunswick County and are one of the most fished-for species because of their great taste on the table and the specialized ways anglers fish for them. Flounder are flatfish that lie on the bottom on their white side, and are exclusively a bottom fish. Their colored side blends into the sandy or rocky bottoms allowing them to ambush their favorite food: small, live fish.
Many folks who fish for flounder drift or troll in boats dragging bottom rigs baited with live minnows, while those who target larger flounder prefer to anchor up and cast to them. Flounder eagerly hit mud minnows, finger mullet, pogies, pinfish and small croakers and spot. They also are taken with live shrimp or cut bait that is in motion.
There are actually quite a few species that fall under the mud minnow category. They are all killifish with the undeniable advantage (compared to other flounder live bait) that they can survive in bait tanks and can therefore be bought in tackle shops and bait stores. If you don’t know how to throw a cast net, then these are the baits for you because you can purchase them cheaply.
Mud minnows are hardy and frisky baits that immediately head for the bottom and seek anything they can hide under when you cast them out. Therefore it is best to cast them out and then keep your hands on the rod to keep the fish active and in the sight of flounder. You don't need to add much movement to the bait, as just a nudge of the rod tip every once in a while will keep them scuttling around the bottom.
If you haven't fished for flounder much, keep in mind that they will usually hit a baitfish and then keep it in their mouths (often to scale the minnow with their sharp little teeth) for a while before actually taking the bait, so you have to wait a little bit before you set the hook. How long you wait is a matter of personal choice and patience, but if you are seeing your baitfish return to you scaled, then you might be jerking the rod too fast.
Small pinfish that you catch in your cast net are terrific live bait for flounder. They stay active on the hook if you get them back out without too much downtime. I hook them through the eye-sockets and not the lips, although if you are casting to structures, sometimes a pinfish hooked through the back near the tail will draw out a willing flounder.
A neat trick is to use a pair of scissors (I always have one handy) and snip off the top of the pinfish’s pins. This makes them more attractive to a flounder while also releasing some of the baitfish’s juices to arouse a flounder’s sense of smell.
Finger mullet are not as common right now as they are in the fall, but plenty are still around and jumping about in the water in scattered schools. They do not live on the hook as long as mud minnows, but they are a flashier bait and will seek the surface as opposed to trying to hide. Therefore, finger mullet are often hit quicker by flounder than mud minnows.
I hook mullet through the eye-sockets and not the lips. Mullet are a fast and frisky bait on the hook used this way. You want to slowly retrieve them to you with frequent pauses when fishing for flounder.
These days, with flounder size limits at an all-time high, targeting big flounder is becoming essential if you want to take any home for dinner. One solution is to use today’s advanced synthetic scented soft baits to cast to flounder holding structure. Any of these soft baits can be fished attached to a jighead or rigged up just like live bait on a Carolina rig. The key to using them for flounder fishing is to make sure you fish slowly and your lure stays on or near the bottom.
Some of the best flounder lures are the Gulp jerk baits, strip baits, imitation pogies and saltwater shrimp. Other companies now make scented lures good for flounder fishing, too. Because you want the scent to be part of the attraction, you should fish these lure slowly.
Cast them right against structures like pilings or rocks, or in the current outside of a creek mouth, and let the lure settle to the bottom for 10 to 20 seconds. Then retrieve it with two or three quick snaps of your wrist. For flounder, the bait then looks and smells like a darting baitfish struggling against the current.
Also don’t forget the piers, as they are seeing their share of the flounder as well. Flounder anglers fishing mud minnows around the pilings in shallow water are doing well. This is the best time of the year to get in on good flounder fishing, so get some live bait or scented lures and go get them.