11 Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods that Work

Freshly caught fish
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Flounder can be difficult to catch. First of all, you have to be in the right location where flounder tend to live. It also helps to know something about their habits. Learn some great tips for improving your flounder fishing game here.

Flounder Migration

Flounder make a regular migration to deeper water and settle on the sandy bottom as far as 25 to 30 miles offshore. They will lay in the sand around any natural structure, or around any of the numerous artificial reefs and wrecks. Spearfishermen take some huge flounder around these wrecks in the winter months.

Targeting the fish

From about September through the end of November, they begin to move out of the creeks and rivers and into the ocean. They have spent the spring and summer months spawning and last year’s crop is now large enough to make the migration with the older brood fish. This year's hatch is left in the estuaries to grow another year before making any moves. This is why we still catch a large number of very small flounder all the way through the winter. And it is also why longer length restrictions can play a big part in increasing the stocks.


A standard tackle is a medium stiff semi-fast taper 7-foot casting rod with a small baitcasting reel—like the Abu Garcia 5500C on a freshwater bass flippin’ stick. Try this on a 14-pound test line, which is small enough to be somewhat invisible, and yet large enough to handle other larger species that may take the bait. The terminal tackle is what you might call a standard flounder rig: a 4/0-circle hook on a 15 inch 30 lb. test monofilament leader. The leader is tied to a trolling sinker, and the sinker is tied to the line. These sinkers are the type that looks like they have a small beaded chain on each end. They are long and slender and are ideal for dragging across the bottom.


Effective bait can vary, but try a finger mullet between three and four inches long. Smaller mullet are too small for the hook, and larger ones are too large for some of the flounder to get a hold of easily. As the migration moves from September, these finger mullet get hard to find.

Another option is to use mud minnows. With mud minnows, you should switch from the terminal tackle. Remove the sinker and tie a 2/0-jig head to the end of the leader. If mullet and mud minnows are both scarce, you might also try live shrimp and use them with the jig head.

If there simply is no live bait, go with a pink or red plastic grub tail on the jig head. We have all had days that the fish would hit the grub tail better than live bait! Go figure!

Using a Mullet Bait

With the mullet bait, work an area where the water is moving on an outgoing tide. Look for the areas around structures that provide a break to the water movement—areas that create an eddy. This is where the flounder will lay and wait for an ambush. They often will strike out at moving baitfish into the current and move back to their relative safety. Work the mullet along the bottom slowly, casting beyond the eddy and dragging the bait across. Do this from several angles, looking to draw a strike.

Using a Jig Head

When using a jig head with a mud minnow or shrimp, or even with a grub tail, do the same thing and slowly move the bait on or just off the bottom.

Feeling the Strike

A flounder’s strike will never take the rod out of your hand. It is subtle, and sometimes it just feels like some extra pressure—like maybe your sinker is hung on something. The trick to catching more flounder is to not set the hook right away. When you feel that pressure the flounder usually has the bait in his mouth, holding it in his sharp teeth. He may swim 10 feet or more to his safety zone before trying to swallow the bait. If you set the hook when you first feel the fish, you’ll come back with half a mullet!

The Right Hook

The great thing about circle hooks is that you can let the flounder go ahead and attempt to swallow the bait. The design of the circle hook is such that it will pull right out to the corner of the flounder’s mouth and then set itself! You never really set the hook—and that is a very hard thing to learn about circle hooks. Simply start reeling slowly and increase speed. As you increase reeling speed, the hook does all the work. We catch flounder using this method and these baits all the way up to very cold weather. We look for the current breaks on an outgoing tide, anchor up and begin working an area.


In northeast Florida, specifically, we work the docks that line the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to the ocean. Sometimes we seem to find a flounder behind every large piling. At the harbor entrance to the Mayport Naval Station, the river current is relatively swift. The water depth comes up from about 40 feet deep to around 15 feet just off the rocks on the west side. That shallow area is dotted with rocks and provides an excellent place for flounder to sit and wait. If you aren’t sure where this is specifically, just look for the other boats—they will be right in the thick of it. But be sure to observe the Navy signs, they really get upset if you venture too far into the harbor.

Fish the Rocks and Jetties

If you have a trolling motor, the rocks that line the jetties heading out into the ocean are an excellent place to try this method on a slack tide. Remember that these fish are migrating out. On a slack tide, they will hug the rocks and sit on the bottom. If you are in the St Augustine area, the rocks that line the inlet provide the same opportunity at slack tide.

Cuts and Inlets

Any cut or inlet up and down the US East Coast that goes to the ocean from a bay or estuary will have similar situations, and these tactics, or slight variations of them, can be used to catch these elusive doormats. Try your luck on one.