You know where…now comes the how.
Flounder are ambush feeders, so you need to know how to
hunt them down, not vice versa. Live (or recently deceased) flounder foods include peanut
bunker, glass minnows, finger mullet, spot, pinfish, mud minnows, killifish, small bluefish, and of course, live shrimp.
But everything eats shrimp.
There are several common ways to fish natural baits. I use No. 2 to 2/0 Kahle (flounder)
hooks, depending on the size of the bait, and a 30-pound test leader. In deep-running water where you need to hold bottom, a three-way swivel can be used with a sufficient weight (1 to 4 ounces) on one side and an 18-inch leader with your hook and bait on the second. The third side is tied to your fishing line.
Popular alternatives include the standard Carolina Rig with several ounces of barrel sinker or a retied double speck jig rig. This retied speck rig allows hi-lo strip baits to be fished, with a dropper or surgeons loop between the two jigs for a bank sinker. Inlets and deep channels should be fished in the middle from a low and rising tide and working out to the sloping edges as the tide nears high and the bait spreads out. Reverse the order on a falling tide, that is, work from the edges to the middle as the tide retreats.
Personally, in areas of flowing water, I prefer outgoing tides, especially at inlets and the mouths of draining creeks in to channels. It flushes the baits out to the hungry flounder at the mouth of the inlets and creeks.
Whichever method you use, moving bait is important. Remember, you are trying to find ambushing flounder. This is obvious if you are drifting in a boat, but also is important while
anchored, fishing an inlet or beach from the shore or on a pier. Slowly move the baits, either by casting and retrieving slowly, or if there is a current, like fishing from the bank along an inlet, merely walk and go with the flow. Don't let your bait rest. Think coverage!
Another method that gives you coverage is use of a cork or float rig. This is especially effective in water that is shallow or only moderately deep, under 7-8 feet, or if you are fishing
piers and bridge pilings. Floating live bait in shallow sand flats or along a dock or bridge piling gives you great natural presentation and can allow you to reach structures difficult to cast to.
Just remember, you need to adjust your bait to be within a foot or so from the bottom, or just let it drag.
When using baits, especially BIG baits, patience pays. That is, once a flounder attacks a bait, unlike a fish that can suck down the whole bait like a drum or bit off what it can chew like
a bluefish, the flounder needs to kill its prey, turn it around and swallow it head first. All this
takes time, maybe a few seconds to a minute or more. Patience please, or you will only end up with a badly abused and confused minnow and no flounder. Also, since flounder are head biters, I hook my baits in the lips or through the eyes.
We've talked about real bait, but how about artificial bait? To me, flounder fishing
artificially is more fun than bait fishing. You get a better feeling of the strength, speed and
general aggressiveness of the fish.
Bucktails with a strip of something such as a strip of cut bait or the very popular Berkeley Gulp! White or chartreuse bucktails bounced along the bottom are the best and a preferred bait on the nearshore artificial reefs and ledges. My go-to bait is a “tandem rig” sporting a fly on the short side of a dropper loop and a lead head jig with a Gulp! on the long side. Some of my favorites are half-ounce silver Rat-L-Traps, Rapala lipped swimming plugs and MirrOlures.
For soft plastics, Betts Halo shad or shrimp are great, as are many of the Z-Man baits. Finally, two other go-to soft baits around are the Crème Lit'l Fishies or the Storm’s WildEye Live series of baits.
Remember, this year the flounder season is compressed and will end Sept. 30. The limit is four fish with a minimum length of 15 inches. As for next year, we will have to wait.
So how is the floundering holding up? There are still plenty of happy flounderers out there, but the word is the ratio of keepers to shorts has been falling.
I can attest to that. I have had freshly caught flounder for dinner, but I’m releasing a lot of short fish. Of course, I’m strictly using artificials, and live baits are indeed producing bigger fish from the boat, piers or Bogue Banks surf. A hot spot I still like is the Morehead City Port area, both the bridges and port wall and just outside the Coast Guard Station.
There are still nice catches of red and black drum in the port, along with speckled trout. Also, there was a nice surprise for the angler who landed a citation 45-inch old drum while FLOUNDER fishing! There indeed are lots of red drum, slot and above there, some spilling over to the Fort Macon area and down the beach to Oceanana Pier as well.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish actions are pretty spotty with not much at the piers, beach surf or inlets, possibly due to the dirty water.
Instead, they are hanging two miles or more out from the inlets where the silverside and threadfin baits are to be found.
With everyone floundering, it’s hard to get non-flounder info. The Neuse old drum fishery is still hot these days with natural baits out-fishing popping corks. We know of the New Bern striper action, but there are also stripers being caught in the upper reaches of Core Creek, especially at night.
Personally, I have had some success with under-slot rat reds in Bogue Sound from Emerald Isle access points on topwater baits and bouncing, soft plastics around structure. Surf and pier fishing has been tough with rough muddy water.
Now for the fishing piers with flounder fishing slacking off from the early frenzy and more shorts being caught.
Oceanana Pier reports red drum to 9 pounds and some blues and spots.
Bogue Inlet Pier reports a few small blues showing, mostly small flounder, a few spots, rare Spanish, an occasional sea mullet, and watch out for the BIG sharks right in the surf. The king mackerel fishermen are having trouble getting baits.
Seaview Pier reports flounder, black drum, blues and Spanish.
Surf City Pier is slow. I can’t lie.
Jolly Roger Pier reports some keeper flounder, nighttime sea mullet, small blues, and yes, even puffers.
Offshore? Pretty bumpy lately.
Finally, we are still holding our breath waiting for that first mullet blow.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind, do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
The signs are there…surf down to 81 degrees, daylight now under 13 hours and falling, yellow sulfur butterflies, osprey now feeding along the ocean beaches, regular small pods of finger mullet running along the Bogue Inlet banks, and over the weekend, I saw gathering schools of finger mullet in the sound…SIGNS!
We still need the final trigger, a serious northeast blow. My average date over the years for the first mullet blow has been Aug. 29 and a surf temperature of 81 degrees. This is based on my observations since 1999.
Be kind, be safe out there as we keep, catch fish, enjoy and leave the turtle nests and unexploded ordnance alone.
2) "Ask Dr. Bogus" is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.