Fall brings a host of fishing opportunities with one of the many favorites being flounder fishing and flounder gigging. No matter which method you chose you will be for a tasty treat for dinner.
My favorite method for cooking flounder is baked.
- Catch some flounder
- Scale and remove head
- Score the top of the flounder down to the back bone in both directions, don’t cut through the backbone Make the score marks where you cut the meat into 1in squares
- Place flounder on a cookie sheet with a lip on it
- In a pot add 1 cup lemon juice and 1 stick butter and bring to a boil
- Poor boiling mixture over the flounder and watch the skin pull back exposing the meat
- Season with salt pepper and Ole Bay seasoning
- Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes
Eat the top pieces, carefully life the back bone off the remaining meat, sprinkle a tad more salt and Ole Bay and enjoy the rest of the flounder.
While flounder can be caught year round, they are more concentrated and easier to catch or gig in fall and early winter. The best rod and reel fishing starts mid-September and goes on through December, and sometimes well into January depending on weather and how cold it gets. The flounder we catch by rod and reel fishing generally start biting good in early October. They first start to show up in the harbor, around the docks to the north side of the Destin Bridge, around the Coast Guard Station and the old Leeside Docks about ¾ of the way from Destin to Fort Walton Beach along the south side of the bay.
The flounder stage along these areas before heading into the Gulf of Mexico for the winter. Normally the flounder start their mass movement into the Gulf on the third cold front. Once the flounder begin to migrate out of the bay they initially hang out on the sand bar just outside of the bar and along the sand bottom out to the sea buoy. They stay in this area for several weeks before heading farther out to the near shore reefs and wrecks in 40ft to 90ft range.
Once they have headed to the near shore reefs and wrecks the flounder tend to hang out and feed there through December and sometimes well into January. When fishing the reefs and wrecks you want to fish the sand bottom near the reef or wreck and not directly over the wreck. The flounder lay on the sand bottom not the rock bottom and wait there to ambush bait fish. Fish the leeside (down wind side) of the wreck for the best results.
Nothing fancy here, What I like is a 6'6"to 7' medium action spinning reel with 12lb mono or 30lb Power Pro braided Line.
When fishing in the bay there are several lures that will work well for flounder. Savage shrimp, Berkley Gulp, Sea Striker Grubs, Gold 1/2 oz spoons or DOA Shrimp. As for bait there is nothing better than bull minnows fished on a Carolina rig. Depending on water depth use a ½oz, 1oz, or 2oz lead. Cast along docks, bridges and jetties and fish slow along the bottom. When I say slow I mean very slow. Flounder can be very lazy and I would cast and fish the same spot several times before moving on.
Move your bait or lure very slow and when you feel something that might feel like a snag drop your rod tip and count to 3 before setting the hook. Flounder will often grab the tail of the bait or lure and hold it for just a second before swallowing the bait or lure. If you set the hook too soon you will miss many fish.
When fishing near the pass or on the near shore reefs and wrecks you are primarily going to fish a Carolina rig with a 1oz to 4oz lead. Bull minnows are again the best baits but a few fish can be caught on soft plastic lures. When fishing in deeper water using soft plastic lures, you’ll need to be fishing on a Carolina rig just as you would a live bait. The water depth, wind and current on the outside of the pass will be too much for a soft plastic fish by itself.
Gigging normally starts in mid to late August and goes through to mid-November. The flounders we gig are mostly in the bay along the shallows in 1-4ft of water that has access to deep water. Having the right lights, gigs, and poles are essential.
You can start looking for flounder shortly after dark when they move onto the flats and shallows looking to ambush small bait fish. Learning to spot the flounder takes a little patience but once you find the first one they become much easier to spot. The only thing you have to look out for are star gazers and electric rays. They look similar to flounder on the bottom and if you are using the newer gigs and poles that are all metal they can give you a small shock when you gig one unlike if you are using the old bamboo gig poles. The shock is not great enough to hurt you but you will definitely know it was not a flounder.
Flounder can be gigged wading, from a skiff, bay boat, kayak or paddle board.
Flounder freeze well in vacuum sealer bags. I have had flounder that kept well for a very long time buried deep in the freezer.
This article was written by Half Hitch fishing expert Tim Broom. Get the PDF here: GCSSS-flounder.pdf