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Getting Acquainted with Summertime Flounder

Getting Acquainted with Summertime Flounder

Anglers who ply the fish-rich coastal waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are blessed with a plethora of sporting (and tasty) species to keep them busy this time of year. But for flounder aficionados, it can be difficult to find time for other worthy contenders, especially as rapidly warming waters bring larger specimens of their favorite bottom fish to inshore waters.

Anglers willing to adapt their game plans to target the larger flounder will reap the rewards of exciting battles and bigger fillets for the table. Even those satisfied with smaller fish will require a change in tactics to keep up with the evolving needs of summertime flounder.

As water temperatures rise in the spring, any inshore waters that offer bait and structure are likely to hold flounder. Smaller inlets and bays will warm faster, making them more appealing. Shallow flats close to a channel or cut will also be productive during that time.

If you're after large flounder during the summer months, you need to look deep.

But as water temperatures continue to rise, flounder — especially the larger ones — will abandon their previously ideal settings and head for deeper and cooler summer homes. While anglers can still enjoy action throughout the summer in bays and inlets, they will need to find the deeper, cooler water with suitable bait-attracting structure that fills the needs of summertime flounder. Clear, moving water with an ample source of food nearby are non-negotiable requirements.

HABITAT & STRUCTURE

Inlets, bays and creeks are excellent flounder fishing spots all summer as long as they offer access to a reliable food supply. Larger and deeper bodies of water will now be more productive than the smaller ones that were favored in the spring.

Best producers will be near a fairly deep sanctuary of cooler water. Dropoffs near bridges, jetties, channels or shoals and any other structure that creates current and offers concealment will be good choices. Channel edges, creek mouths, bridges and rockpiles all offer current that will funnel disoriented bait into striking range of a waiting flounder.

Piers, jetties, bulkheads or pilings in the bays or along beaches can hold flounder seeking refuge from the sun while dining on baitfish that congregate under or around the structure. Any areas where rocks meet sand, grass or oyster beds are also worth checking out.

Flounder of all sizes are energy efficient, unwilling to chase a meal that's not worth the cost in time and calories. Their bodies are perfectly constructed for hiding camouflaged and mostly buried on the bottom, waiting to ambush prey that swim over them.

While flounder of all sizes can be found close to shore throughout the summer, anglers for whom bigger means better would do well to concentrate their efforts a bit farther from home when weather and water conditions permit. Find the best locations for cooler water, relatively deep hard structure, sharp dropoffs and a generous food supply and you will find the biggest flounder.

Some of the largest flounder are taken off or around reefs and wrecks, many of which can be reached a short run from shore. Bridges, tunnels and rockpiles are also excellent choices, providing food as well as strong current that disorients the flounder's victims, presenting an easy, energy-efficient meal.

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Once the first big flounder is located, trophy hunters should work the area thoroughly, as well as other locations that share the same depths, type of structure and other attributes. Big flounder tend to inhabit the same or similar structure and depth from day to day, and the largest specimens will comingle among themselves, allowing no runts into their exclusive club.

Anglers should always be aware of where and how deep they are fishing when they hook a big flounder. Doing so, they can get that same bait or lure back to the same spot, and work similar areas the same way and at the same depth. The time taken keeping a log of catch details, especially depth, bait and tidal conditions, can prove to be well worth the effort. Such patterns can remain in play for days and even weeks.

THE RIGHT STUFF

Preparations for battling summertime flounder begin with choosing the appropriate rod and reel combination for the job at hand. Wise anglers will go armed with a variety of weapons for varying conditions.

A fast-action spinning outfit will do fine for casting and drifting in relatively calm inshore waters, while deeper and more turbulent water will call for a baitcasting or level-wind reel that provides better line control and a better feel for strikes. Strong winds, current or tides, especially when fishing around rig-grabbing hard structure such as rockpiles and wrecks, are best dealt with by a sturdy conventional rod and level-wind reel.

As temps rise during summer, flounder will move from inland bays and inlets to deeper, cooler water.

Thirty- to 50-pound line may be required to keep bait straight down beneath the boat on a tight line, avoiding snags. Braided line will provide the strength needed for wrestling a big flounder out of the depths, as well as the sensitivity required to distinguish a flounder from a snag.

For terminal tackle, a three-way swivel with one or two wide-gap 2/0 to 5/0 hooks and a bank or egg sinker will be a good choice. A generous assortment of sinkers up to at least 8 ounces should be available to provide just enough weight to hold bottom.

The best choice of baits and lures will always match whatever flounder are feeding on at the time in the area being fished. This too will be affected by water temperature, as the smaller baitfish of spring are gradually replaced by larger prey such as mullet and menhaden.

Under ideal conditions, successful flounder fishing is done by drifting along channel edges, rockpiles, reefs and other hard structure with bait or lures bouncing off the bottom and dropping into the lap of a waiting flounder. Unfortunately, ideal conditions can be hard to come by, especially when fishing deeper, more turbulent water.

Anglers with the foresight to include trolling gear in their flounder arsenal will be able to switch to dragging bait and/or lures along the structure. A large conventional rod with a level-wind reel will do best when working deep, hard structure, especially in rough water. Trolling will give the angler better control of the boat, making it easier to stay over prime structure and keep baits in the strike zone. Trolling should always be done from shallow water to deeper water in order to minimize the number of snags.

Regardless of the method being used or location of the fishing, flounder anglers need to be aware of what is going on around them in order to get the most out of their time on the water. They should always be watching for changes in habitat, especially abrupt changes that often aggregate the fish in one area. Water rushing over a shoal will get the attention of flounder that know helpless baitfish and crustaceans are being carried along with that water. Strong current going around a bridge piling will scour pockets in the bottom, creating custom-made ambush points for flounder.

And while the chances of seeing flounder breaking on the surface are slim, anglers should pay attention to working birds nearby that signal a feeding frenzy beneath them. Opportunistic and energy-conscious flounder will let the combatants battle it out above while they leisurely dine on the dead and wounded dropping to the bottom. A bucktail dressed with squid or a bait strip dragged past their lair just might attract their attention.




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