Photo credit: (Left) Jared Esley, (Right) James Ready
Flounder are one of the most peculiar looking of all the inshore fish. Florida has three types of flounder, Gulf, southern, and summer. They all bear different markings. The summer flounder inhabits northeastern Florida. The Gulf and southern flounder can be found throughout the state.
When young, these masters of camouflage have eyes on either side of their head. As they mature, one eye migrates so that they have two eyes on the same side. They also have the ability to match the color of their environment. These are flat fish with very long dorsal and anal fins. Summer flounder have 5-14 “eye like” spots, southern flounder have three spots forming a triangle, and Gulf flounder have random spots. They all have sharp teeth and are opportunistic eaters.
Flounder inhabit bays, estuaries, canals, and structural areas with sandy bottoms. They can be found by inshore drop offs. Fishing, spearing, and gigging are all accepted methods of harvesting these fish. Covering themselves with sand with only their eyes exposed, they can surprise any prey. Their favorite bait of choice are small fish and shrimp.
Flounder yields a white, tasty meat. They can be caught using artificial, live, and dead bait. No matter what bait you are using, a slow retrieve is a must. These fish have a small mouth full of sharp teeth. They are known to take a while before a hard bite, positioning the bait for easy eating. Patience, practice and the right equipment are all necessary to target flounder. If jigging, a scented, bright colored grub can be very effective. Mullet, menhaden, croakers, and mud minnows are great live bait. One of the best methods of catching flounder is by slowly bumping the bottom.
Since Flounder can be found throughout Florida, it has been included in the FWC Slam category. Flounder can put up a nice fight on light gear and are considered great table fare. Catching Flounder as a by-catch can be a very easy task, but targeting them can be a different story.