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One of the most popular inshore saltwater fish of our Brunswick County summers is the flounder. Local tradition says that drifting or trolling inlets and cuts for flounder with live bait is the best way to fill the cooler on hot days. But as size limits have gone up and fishing pressure has increased in the heavily drifted areas, more and more anglers are turning to techniques that target big ‘doormat’ flounder.
Drifting for flounder has never been my favorite way of catching them anyway. It is just too passive for me. I have always preferred to use the trolling motor or anchor up and fish hard structure and other likely big flounder spots by casting. You can use live bait, strip bait or today’s fine scented soft lures this way, and while you may not catch as many, you’ll find more doormats.
Big flounder love to sit in inshore ledges and dropoffs. Even the slightest ledge, say 2-3 feet, can be a place where flounder sit and wait to strike at roaming finger mullet and peanut pogies. You can identify inshore ledges on low tide and with a depth finder, and you can even detect them when fishing a fishfinder or flounder rig.
Instead of making one drift over them, when you find a productive ledge, fish it well by fan-casting. Work the baits over the ledge and parallel to it. Remember that ledges and dropoffs will be most productive when the current is really flowing.
The largest inshore flounder will be found around bridges, docks, riprap and other hard structure. Large flounder love to lie among pilings and rocks, where small fish and shrimp congregate constantly, and ambush them.
Fish under bridges and docks, when you can. You should even try flippin’ your bait or lure under structure, as bass and redfish anglers often do. Work your bait slowly with frequent pauses.
Many of the biggest Carolina flounder are pulled from under docks and bridges. When a flounder hits under a structure, just reel line slowly and the flounder will usually work itself away from the pilings with some subtle guidance.
You can use scented baits like Gulp and Fishbites or DOA lures to fish bridges and docks slowly and methodically. Flounder don’t always hit the first time a lure passes and will sometimes hit a second time if you miss the first strike. Just make sure your lure is on the bottom and hop or crawl your lure into and away from structure, slowly.
The types of baitfish you can use for flounder fishing in the Carolina summer are varied: mud minnows, peanut pogies, pinfish, croaker and small spot. Large baitfish from 3-4 inches long are the best baits for big flounder. Corncob mullet and 4-inch pinfish are my favorite doormat flounder baits.
Hook big baits through the lips and cast to pilings, riprap, bulkheads and whatever hard structures you can find. Retrieve it ever so slowly. You might catch fewer flounder, but you’ll have a much better shot at bringing that trophy doormat home.