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Flounders: The Overlooked Fish

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On: Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 11:28AM | By: Captain Sergio Atanes

Tampa Bay offers a smorgasbord of species to fish for, including Redfish, Snook, Trout, and Cobia, just to mention a few. As a charter captain, I find the most requested inshore species is Snook, with Redfish a close second. One species often overlooked is Paralichthys lethostigma, or in layman’s terms, Southern Flounder.

Southern Flounder are frequently called “doormats”. These fish can easily camouflage themselves and can be found around sandy or muddy bottoms along the edge of grass beds and channels. These doormats average in size from 2-4 pounds with many tipping the scales at eight pounds. A strong fighter on light tackle, and rated as one of the best in food value, most Southern Flounder are caught by accident while drifting the flats or cuts for Redfish and Trout.

Although Southern Flounder can be caught all year long, I find the cooling fall season as prime time for catching doormats. October, November, and December are my favorite months to catch them; when other fish are slow to strike the Flounder are always ready for an easy meal. Flounder are bottom feeders; in order to increase your chances at the big ones I recommend several techniques that have worked for me over the years.

Live Bait Fishing- Drift along the outer edges of grass beds or along side of channels with structure or rubble. A 1/4-ounce jig head works best in 2-6 feet of water. Hook the sardine “greenback” through the nose; if you prefer shrimp, run the hook through the tail. Bounce the jig along the bottom and the drift of the boat will do the rest of the work. In deeper water (6-10 feet), I recommend a 3/8-ounce jig head.

Artificial- A 3/8-ounce jig head with a 3-inch tail works during cold fronts. The last several years, the introduction of artificial baits with fish attractant already built in has made a big difference in the number of fish caught over live bait. Anchor on the outer edges of grass beds or deep water channel casting up-current or up-tide. The secret is to bounce the jig along the bottom with a slow retrieve. Flounder will travel only short distances for food, so the presentation must be close. The more casts the better chances of catching fish.

Dock Fishing- Another good way to catch the big ones, is to use the heat generated around the concrete pilling on cold windy days. This is a natural attractant for the big ones. Seawalls that have a quick drop into sandy bottom are also key spots.

Tackle- My favorite rod is a seven-foot TFO (Temple Fork Outfitters) medium light action rod in the 10- to 17-pound test range, and a medium-size reel, like the Penn SSV 3500. Fall months usually means windy days, so I prefer using Fins Windtamer braided line; it’s one of the best lines I have found to help keep wind knots down to a minimum. Most of my big Flounder fishing is done around docks, and braided line seems to be the most proficient.


Old Tampa Bay
- Double Branch Bay entrance has several oyster beds with sandy shoulders
- Big Island cut west end of Howard Frankland Bridge
- Culbrecth Flats
- St. Pete power plant hot water outflow-fish the drop along the mangroves during cold snaps; be aware of restrictions since 911.

Lower Tampa Bay
- Port Manatee spoil island drop
- Joe Island west end
- Apollo Beach canals
- Terra Ceia Bay
- Bird Key
- Flounder Pass

Southern Flounder will offer a change of pace and taste, so don’t overlook the doormats of Tampa Bay.

Good fishing and tight lines.


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