The flounder is one of the most highly prized catches in our local estuaries.
Armed with an impressive set of teeth and blinding speed, it can often be found lurking in the mouths of feeder creeks and along oyster banks, lying in wait for an unsuspecting mud minnow or shrimp to float by with the tide. An ambush predator, the flounder strikes fast, snatching up its prey and then quickly returning to sit flat on the bottom. But it’s not resting, and it can still see everything.
This is because although the flounder starts out in the larval stage with one eye on each side of its head, its metamorphosis into the juvenile stage sees one eye migrate to the other side (which side depends on the species). As an adult, the flounder will lay flat on the bottom, totally camouflaged, two eyes watching both predator and prey!
Here in the Southern corner of the state, flounder is more of an incidental catch, though some seasoned anglers have managed to find productive spots.
Because of the flounder’s feeding behavior, anglers fishing corks or floats often mistake the signs when the cork goes under briefly, but then returns to the surface where it sits as if snagged. Those fishing the bottom or working jigs will experience the same — it just feels like you’ve hooked bottom, until enough pressure is applied to induce a fight. These battles can make for good sport, though the angler must take care to get a net underneath before the flounder’s head is above water. Otherwise, a fierce bout of headshaking ensues, and the flounder may spit the hook.
More often than not, anglers will use a technique called “gigging” to produce good catches of flounder.
Gigging is a nighttime sport and usually done from small, flat-bottomed skiffs or bateaux –when the outline of the flounder is spotted, the gig strikes (preferably to the head). Years ago, we would glide along the bank with a long bamboo pole outfitted with a spearhead or “gig,” only a painter’s lamp to light up the bottom. Nowadays, high-powered LED lamps are mounted on the bow of the skiffs (some designed just for this purpose), making it much easier to spot these expertly camouflaged fish. Fishing technology has really evolved since I first baited a hook, but whether you’re going old-school or high-tech, you’ll need your wits to keep up with the flounder. Best of luck!
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has nearly 50 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. The Finatic boat features a special, three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.
By Captain Miles Altman, Bay Runner Fishing Charters