August 12, 2021
By Brenton Roberts
Flounder fishing gets good in the fall, as they gear up to spawn. Recently I caught up with Capt. Roger Bump, Florida Sportsman’s Northeast Weekend Forecaster, for some tips. Bump is a flounder expert. (jacksonvillefishingtrips.com)
Like most inshore species, flounder move with the tide and favor structure and ambush points. Bump made it short and sweet: “Start deep when the tide is low, areas like jetties and deep docks. As the tide comes in, work your way to the grass lines, oyster bars and sandbars found around the creeks. No matter what, make sure you have moving water.”
BAIT AND WAIT
Livebait fishing for flounder is the most popular way to target these tasty fish, with the two most effective baits being finger mullet and mud minnows. Bump stressed to make sure, no matter the bait, that they are alive and frisky. “I always make sure I have plenty of bait on board,” he said, “so I can always put on a fresh one when need be. You can fish an area with a dead bait forever to no avail, then put on a new one and get bit immediately in the same spot you were fishing.”
There are two rigs Bump likes to use for flounder. One is a “swingstyle” jig with a 2/0 kahle hook. This is a football style jig, but instead of a hook it has a ring molded on to connect a livebait hook. This gives your bait maximum movement, while still being able to keep a tight line to feel bites. It also moves around a bit easier in the mouth of the fish when they eat it, allowing for a better hookup.
“Circle hooks don’t work well with this due to the fact that they don’t run and hook themselves when they eat the bait,” said Bump. When rigging your bait, come into the mouth with the hook point and out the roof. Don’t go through both lips, as it makes it harder for the bait to breathe.
The second favorite flounder rig is a Carolina rig (sliding sinker) with a bead and a foot of 20-pound leader to a kahle hook. This allows the bait to move around but doesn’t allow them to wander away from the desired area.
If you miss the bite, take note of where the bite was. Chances are you can get another shot.
“Once you find them, there’s usually more. It’s no surprise to catch five or six fish off the same piling, because they’re all fighting to lay up in that perfect ambush point,” said Bump.
Flounder aren’t like other species when it comes to the bite. Let them eat it, is sage advice. “You’ll either feel a bite and it sits there or you’ll lift your rod and it’ll feel like you’re snagged on the bottom. Always assume it’s a flounder,” urged Bump. When you feel a bite, instead of a swinging hard hook set, reel down to the fish and get your line tight enough to where you can feel the fish there. Often you can feel them chewing on the bait. Don’t rush it, it usually takes them a little bit to get the bait completely in their mouth and headfirst to swallow. “I’ll often wait over a minute to set the hook,” said Bump. When you do decide it’s time, a steady lift with the rod will be enough to get a good hookset. “If you do miss the bite, they’re not going anywhere, and they will hit again. It might be 10 minutes but take note of where the bite was, and chances are you can get another shot.”
There was a common theme when it comes to artificials for Bump: It needs vibration and flash. A slow-rolled spinnerbait is at the top of his list. When up shallow, an inline spinner is favored since it’s a little less apt to hang on snags. Around deeper areas, the standard spinnerbait is preferred. As for color, Bump fishes chartreuse and white skirts with a gold blade for darker water and silver blade for clear water. If it’s not a spinnerbait rigged on his rod, it’s usually a Chatterbait in similar colorways or a white Gulp! Bottom line is, if it gives off flash and vibration and you fish it close to bottom, these ambush feeders are more than happy to take a swipe at it.
At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting last December, new flounder regulations were approved and went into effect in March. A stock status updated suggested that the flounder fishery statewide has been in a general declining trend in recent years and is likely overfished and undergoing overfishing on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Three major changes were made affecting the recreational fisherman. The minimum size limit increased from 12 to 14 inches total length. The recreational daily bag limit was reduced from 10 to 5 fish per person and a closed season has been implemented from October 15 to November 30. All flounder regulations, including these, now also extend into federal waters. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine August/September 2021