Beach Fishing for Flounder
One of the more consistent catches from our beaches this time of year can be flounder. These strange looking but tasty bottom feeders will readily attack anything that passes by their nose. Buried in the sand and perfectly camouflaged, they are masters of the ambush. To be successful, anglers must factor this behavior into their approach. There are two types of flounder in Southwest Florida. The most common is the gulf flounder that has three “eye spots”. These seldom exceed 14” in length. The southern flounder has no eye spots and gets larger but prefers mud bottom bays.
Folks that put a bait, be it a shrimp or finger sized fish, on the bottom with a heavy weight will seldom hook a flounder unless they cast directly to it by accident. The best presentation involves moving bait or lures past a flounder. Use a lighter weight that will keep your bait on the bottom but allows it to swing while being slowly retrieved to cover more ground. Standing on the beach, cast radially like the hands on a clock, then walk twice as far as your last cast and repeat. This method lets you saturate the area and have a good chance of finding a flounder. When a flounder bites, they grab the bait or lure and drop back to the bottom. Your lure just stops. Wait a count of 2 or so then set the hook. This lets the flounder get a better grip on its prize. Striking too quickly won’t work.
Bait is very effective but slows an angler down as they fish along the beach. Still, shrimp are readily available and can be “wet packed” to keep them alive without a bucket and an air pump. Soak a small towel in salt water from your bait bucket, wring it out and fold the live shrimp into it. Keep them cold in a baggie with an ice pack and you will be surprised at how long they will stay alive and fresh. These days, 3” baitfish can be gathered with a small cast net along the beach. Be sure and release baitfish back into the gulf when you net more than you need. It’s easier to net more than to keep a bunch of them alive in a bucket.
We generally use jigs with shad tails to target flounder. White or chartreuse is our color of choice and a 3/8 ounce or ½ ounce jig will cast far enough for this job. A slow retrieve with tiny little hops gets the most attention. Sometimes just dragging a jig across the bottom will work as it hangs up and releases during the retrieve. Other anglers swear by silly jigs or bait. Try them all.
Flounder are a favorite with almost everyone. The flesh is mild, white and flaky. The flat ribs allow it to be cut to yield 4 boneless filets. Cut the filet free from the head, then cut both filets outward from your second cut along the backbone, flip the flounder over and repeat. Flounder, when fileted with a flexible sharp knife are easy to do.
These thin mild filets often end up as stuffed flounder at our house. Some folks make their own crabmeat stuffing for this dish but, being lazy, we usually wrap them around a crab cake or two. Here’s a picture or two of how this goes together. It can be great, depending on the quality of the crab cake so don’t get cheap ones with no crab in them. We usually top the flounder with a little hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise to keep them from drying out. Coat the filets with panko crumbs if you want them a little crispy. About 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven works but allow more time if you start with frozen crab cakes.