Flounder (Paralychtis spp. / Pseudopleuronectes americanus)
- Size 1 to 5lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats, Backcountry
These odd-looking flatfish patrol the muddy and sandy coastal bottoms, camouflaging to avoid being eaten and keeping a close eye (actually, two) on the action above.
They might seem weak and might not be the largest fish to go after, but, if you are targeting Flounder, get some strong tackle ready, as these fish can pull, hard. With the advantage of both eyes being on the same side of its body, this fish is still not very bright, so a dinner is pretty much guaranteed if you do your job well.
There are actually four relevant types of Atlantic Flounder: the Gulf Flounder (Paralychtis albigutta - smallest, doesn't grow over 15'' and 6lbs), the Southern Flounder (Paralychtis lehtostigma - grows up to 3ft and 20lbs), the Summer Flounder (Paralychtis dentatus - supposedly grows over 3ft and up to 30lbs) and the Winter Flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus - reaches 28'' and 7lbs).
The largest of all is their Pacific relative, the California Halibut (Paralychtis californicus - which is actually a member of the Flounder family), which dwarfs the largest of the Atlantic Flounder by a factor of 3, growing up to 5ft and 70lbs.
When & Where
- Gulf Flounder can be found abundantly off Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico during spring and summer.
- Southern Flounder is caught all over Florida, except in the south, and off Texas, with Galveston and Port Aransas being gigging hotspots; they're best targeted in shallow bays and estuaries, as well as deeper passes during summer, and then again in the migration period between October and December.
- Summer Flounder, also known as "the Fluke", ranges from Maine to South Carolina, with prolific fisheries in Chesapeake Bay, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Best to target during the summer.
- Winter Flounder, known as "Black Back", can be found in the Delaware Bay and northwards. It comes inshore to spawn during the winter, but fishing is mostly prohibited at that time, so as to conserve the population. The rest of the year is productive as well.
- California Halibut is found mostly in shallow and deep SoCal waters (sometimes up to Washington), with a range from the SF Bay Area to Baja California. This is not a migratory fish and can be caught year-round.
All Flounder are coastal fish, but can sometimes be found in deeper waters. Any time of the day is good, with a lot of fishermen prefering to go out for them during nighttime with LED lights.
We know you wanted a close up. We listen to our readers. Courtesy Megabite Fishing Charters out of Georgetown, MA
How to catch
Flounder feed throughout the water column and can often be seen chasing small fish on the surface. However, and as their build indicates, they prefer trawling sandy/muddy bottoms, which is where they're most likely to be picked up from. They can be caught in the surf or from a kayak as well.
If using light tackle, still or drift fishing is the way to go. Bull minnows are widely appraised as irresistable to Flounders. Pinfish, mullet, spots, croakers, killifish, but shrimp too (for the big ones) will also be effective if you can't get your hands on their favorite meal. As mentioned, these fish aren't very clever, so, even if you wind up getting your bait halved by one, odds are that you can drop it back in and get a bite again.
Artificials have not been proven very effective, but it's said that bouncing plastic grubs on jig heads along the bottom can get you a strike.
When the Flounder takes your bait, you should allow for enough time for the fish to start swimming away before setting the hook. This can take anywhere from seconds to a couple of minutes.
The most popular way of catching Flounder by far is gigging, especially in Texas. Fishermen go out with pole-paddled flats-style boats at night, pointing bright LED lights at the bottom (these help dismantle their camouflage efforts) and just picking spotted fish up with trident-looking spears called gigs.
Almost ready to hit the grill/pan/oven. Served up in Galveston, TX
Good to eat?
The meat is delicious - white, firm and succulent.
- Summer Flounder: New Jersey - May 22 to Sep 26; New York and Connecticut - May 17 to Sep 21; Rhode Island - May 1 to Dec 31; other states have year-round seasons or aren't regulated;
- Winter Flounder: New York - Apr 1 to May 30; Connecticut - Apr 1 to Dec 31; Delaware - Feb 11 to Apr 10; see Massachusetts seasonality, size and bag limits and fishery division here; other states have year-round seasons or aren't regulated;
- Gulf/Southern Flounder: open year-round;
- California Halibut: open year-round;
- Summer Flounder: Florida, Georgia - 12''; South Carolina - 14''; North Carolina, New Hampshire - 15''; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware - 16''; New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island - 18'';
- Winter Flounder: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire, Maine - 12''; see Massachusetts at link above; New Jersey has no known size regulations;
- Gulf/Southern Flounder: Alabama, Mississippi - 12''; Texas - 14''; Louisiana has no size regulations;
- California Halibut: California - 22'';
- Summer Flounder: Georgia - 15; South Carolina - 15 (30 per boat); Florida - 10; Rhode Island - 8; North Carolina - 6; New Jersey, New York, Connecticut - 5; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware - 4; New Hampshire has no regulations;
- Winter Flounder: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire - 2; Maine - 8; see Massachusetts at link above; New Jersey has no known bag regulations;
- Gulf/Southern Flounder: Alabama, Louisiana - 10; Mississippi - 15; Texas - 5, except Nov 1 to 30 when it's 2 (and gigging is prohibited) and Dec 1 to 14 when it's 2 (all harvest legal);
- California Halibut: California - 5 in waters south, and 3 in waters north, of Point Sur, Monterey County;
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