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Editor’s note: This column was first published in The Beacon on March 31, 2011.
Spring means flounder fishing along the Brunswick County coast. The warmer water brings flounder into inshore waters, and anglers pursue them in many different ways.
Many traditional flounder fishermen are content to drift or troll the inlets, dragging live bait on the bottom and letting the boat do the work for them. But for those anglers seeking larger flatfish, anchoring up and casting to structures is a better tactic.
Big flounder love to orientate themselves around hard structures inshore. Docks, bridges, piers, jetties and oyster beds near marsh grass are great places to find them. These larger female fish are a bit lazier than their smaller male cousins and prefer to lie in wait around some sort of baitfish-attracting structures (like pilings or rocks) that will bring a steady flow of straggling small fish (mullet, pogies, spot, croaker, pinfish, etc.) when the tide really starts moving either in or out.
Here are some tips for catching these larger flounder:
Anchor up and cast: Stop drifting around and anchor up near likely flounder spots. Work areas completely on moving tides using either live bait or scented soft baits. Cast into structures and let the tide do some of the work for you. Use short hops off the bottom and don’t be hesitant to crawl the bait or lure and use frequent pauses.
If you are using live bait, you’ll need to give the flounder some time to take the bait. If you opt for lures, set the hook immediately upon the strike.
What’s a good live bait rig? A simple fishfinder rig will do best and hang up less. Thread an egg sinker onto your running line. Use as little weight as you can, but you must be on the bottom for flounder, so anything between 1 to 3 ounces is possible depending on the current. One ounce is usually a good starting point.
After you thread on the sinker, tie on a swivel. To the other end, attach your leader. I use 20- or 25-pound mono line and never get bite-offs from flounder. Other anglers and guides prefer different leader material, though. Don’t use a leader too heavy and don’t use wire leader. After about 14 inches of leader tie on the hook, something like a 1/0 or 2/0 Kahle hook.
Hook mud minnows through the lips and finger mullet through the eye sockets. This rig works terrific with any of the other baitfish, plus small crabs or live shrimp.
Can I catch flounder on lures around structure? You absolutely can, and it is one of the best ways. You can work faster and cover more territory by anchoring or using a trolling motor around docks and other structures and throwing lures.
Flounder love to hit today’s scented soft bait. Use a lead head jig of 1/4 or 3/8 ounce, depending on the current (jig head size varies based on how strong the tide is), and make sure you can make contact with the bottom. Then add the scented soft bait of your choice.
Gulp and Fishbites and a few other brands make great scented soft baits for flounder fishing. Remember to fish them slowly and keep the lure going back to the bottom. Most anglers like to hop the lures a little then let them pause as they fall back like a struggling baitfish. You can also use a slow, steady crawl. Flounder will really pounce on these scented baits as they rise up from around structures.
Here are some great recipes to try with those tasty flounder you bring in the boat or up on the pier:
Stuffed Baked Flounder
One whole flounder, dressed, around 4 lbs
½ lb blue crab meat
½ package stuffing mix
4 strips bacon
Lemon juice from ½ lemon
1 tablespoon paprika
Cut a pocket on each side of the flounder. Mix together the stuffing, crab and lemon juice. Stuff the pockets and lay the bacon across them. Sprinkle paprika over flounder. Bake in a well-oiled pan for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Serves five.
Brunswick Baked Flounder
1 pound flounder fillets;
½ onion; chopped
½ cup fresh mushrooms; chopped
½ teaspoon curry powder;
½ teaspoon paprika;
½ teaspoon black pepper;
½ cup white wine;
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange flounder in a greased baking dish. Mix wine, onion, mushrooms and seasonings together and pour over flounder. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until fish is done. Serves four. Great served over wild rice.