Okay here we go -- flounder season is back.
If you have been with me for a while, you know that for the past three or four years my flounder take has been nothing short of phenomenal.
I can't imagine I will repeat that success in 2013, but like every fisherman I am forever optimistic.
In 2011, I caught 104 and last year, from spring to fall, I took home 89.
Those numbers are so good, even I am impressed. All came in via artificial lures with most of them taking my trusty shrimp tail jig.
Very few were caught from a boat since I love to do my floundering on foot. Each year as soon as the water warms enough not to numb my toes, I know it is time to flounder. Those delicious flatfish by God's design are some of the strangest critters in our inshore brackish waters. Flat with very small fins and both eyes on one side of their head, they appear to be some sort of weird freak of nature.
They are surprisingly strong pullers once hooked. The initial hit may only feel like a subtle "tick" on the line. After that you may feel nothing for a while, but as you begin to reel, the line may start to slowly move off.
Once the flounder discovers it is hooked, the ensuing fight can be considerable. On occasion the flounder may even jump from the water trying to throw the hook. When you have a flounder on the line, it does not pay to become too complacent.
On average, if you succeed in landing half of the ones you hook, you are doing well. Their hard cross-configured mouth makes them more difficult to catch than just about any other fish. Failure is a part of life for a flounder fisherman.
In order to be a good hook and line flounder angler, you must figure out how they move. It is a well known fact the flatties come to the shoreline to feed during the darkness. Therefore, if you are out early, make your casts just off the bank.
As you know, I am usually out at dawn so instead of casting out into the river, I begin by throwing the bait parallel to the shore. Initially I fish very close in, maybe three or four feet out, but with first light I fish eight or 10 feet from the bank. As the sun begins to climb, I will cast straight out. When it is early there is no need for long casts.
Mr. Flounder will usually stay within 25 feet of land for the better part of the morning. Make no mistake about it, flounder are much more game in nature than most give them credit for. They will take all natural bait and hit practically any lure including top water.
The real trick with flounder is to cover a lot of area very slowly. Since they are primarily ambush feeders, they won't go looking for food. You must bring it to them. Be it shrimp, mullet or jig, you must fish the water thoroughly and slowly. I like to draw a mental grid of a spot that I think may hold flounder and cast it from different angles until I am sure it has been covered. Then l do it again. Often you will get hits without a hookup. When that happens, move along and mark the spot for a later try. After they have hit and missed, the fish will need time to relocate and cover up enough to become comfortable. Only then will they feed. I like to wait 45 minutes to an hour before returning to a spot where I have missed one. On the return trip, it will help to fish a different bait.
Last year, I had a lot of luck on the come back with a purple bass worm, but now the Grandslam Bait Co. has provided so many different colored shrimp tails, I can't wait to try those.
Look for flounder around docks and bridges and on the flats where there is any increase in current. Sometimes even a slight increase in tidal flow is enough to draw them. They will lay off a sand or oyster bar and wait for bait to wash past. I prefer an outgoing tide, but they will eat as long as the water is moving.
On the Internet, there is a good deal of instruction on cleaning a flounder. If you have yet to do it, you will need help. Flounder are almost all meat and very good at the table. Let's all get out and take advantage of the flounder season and if you go, be sure to say hi when we pass.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.