One of Florida’s tastiest fish, but also one of the trickiest to catch.
Flounder—the southern and Gulf varieties— are the ultimate bottom-dwellers, shuffling into sand or mud to lie in ambush. Flatties, or “doormats” when they get big, like their meals low and tight, so you’ll do best to keep a tempting bait in their zone.
Here’s a handful of rigs that’ll put more flounder in the cooler.
›› Sliding Sinker: Place a slip sinker flanked by noise-maker beads above a swivel linking the main line to a fluorocarbon leader. Reel this slowly across likely bottom. The weight disturbs the bottom and gets the flounder looking in the right direction for the bait that’ll follow shortly. Live pilchards, pinfish, mud minnows, finger mullet and shrimp work well, as do artificials like a DOA or Gulp! shrimp.
For shallow water, high visibility or persnickety fish that peck, delete the swivel and slide a light slip sinker—½-ounce should do—right onto your main line and then add a bobber stopper before tying on a hook. Adjusting the bobber stopper up or down lets you lengthen or shorten the bait’s distance from the weight, thereby controlling how high it may rise in the water column.
›› Dropshot: A dropshot rig has the sinker suspended below a hook, ideal for vertical fishing. Modify this for flounder fishing with a Rocky Brook Sinker (www.rockybrooksinkers.com) made of actual limestone that’s cut, sanded smooth and fitted with a swivel. The 2-ounce size is semi-round and flat so it slides smoothly across the bottom, but puffs up enough sand to grab attention. Also, this shape/size resembles baby flounder and attracts attention from cannibalistic adults. The VMC SpinShot and Gamakatsu Swivel Shot hooks simplify rigging with a hook mounted on a wire stem with a swivel for main line connection and a leader holder below.
›› Football heads are jigs so named for their pigskin shape. These are highly effective
for walking, dragging or hopping across uneven bottom that ensnare jigs of more slender profile. From jetty perimeters, to limestone outcroppings, to the underside of piers, football heads allow for more targeted casting and controlled movement in snaggy habitat.
Because football heads are made to angle downward, the hook and bait stand nearly vertical. Slip a soft-plastic stickbait or a light finesse worm on the hook and the rig looks like an eel or small fish rummaging across the bottom.
›› Swimbaits: Around limestone outcroppings, anglers often run leadhead swimbaits over the hard stuff in hopes of tempting grouper and big sea bass. But don’t stop your retrieve at the rocks’ edge; let your swimbait fall to the sandy perimeter and hop it around to imitate a wounded baitfish. Many flatties make their living along the edge of gag grouper territory.
›› The “Right” Angle: The Flounder Fanatic (3⁄4- and 1 ½-ounce, www.bettstackle.net) comprises a lead disc molded with a specialized hook that protrudes nearly perpendicularly from one of the flat sides and then turns backward so the bend and the point lay parallel to the weight, and by extension, the bottom. Made for drifting, trolling or casting, this rig keeps everything tight and compact, but the real sweet point is that paralleling the bottom practically spoon feeds the flounder with just the right angle for its sideways mouth.
The Flounder Fanatic comes with rubber keepers to prevent live baits from slipping off the hook. A monofilament hook guard keeps the rig weedless, while a thin metal pin attached to the eye holds artificial in place.
Betts also makes a Flounder Fanatic Jig that takes a standard leadhead design and gives the head/eye a quarter turn. This leaves the hook lying parallel to the bottom. Sizes go 1⁄8- to ½-ounce, but if more weight is needed, rig a 24-inch leader with the jig on one ring of a 3-way swivel and a 12-inch leader with Betts’ Flexi Draggin Weight (string of small lead weights inside a plastic sleeve) to the other.
With small jigs or natural baits, the bite may be little more than a slight tick–almost like something just ran into your line. Set the hook when you feel the least bit of pressure. With larger baits, give the flounder about a five count before setting up.FS\
First Published Florida Sportsman September 2013