What's Biting: Gulf Coast Flounder
Flounder are what I consider a bonus fish. It’s a bonus when you’re inshore fishing and you catch one of the finest-tasting fish species found on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Usually, if we’re lucky, there will be a few flounder in the ice chest after a day of speckled trout fishing, because flounder are usually hanging, errr, lying around where the bait congregates, which also attracts the trout.
Of course, there is a dedicated group of anglers on the Gulf Coast who target flounder. They usually end up with a few speckled trout and redfish in their ice chest to go with their flounder.
Flounder are ambush predators and aren’t going to chase prey like trout and redfish. Both the southern flounder (larger and more common) and Gulf flounder, the two most likely species encountered in Alabama waters, prefer structure like jetties, piers, bulkheads or pilings.
In the summertime, flounder are going to be in the bays and along the beaches. You’ll find more Gulf flounder, obviously, along the beaches. They can be identified by their distinctive spots, and usually their smaller size. The southern flounder is darker and more mottled, but the state record is a whopping 13 pounds, 3 ounces caught way back in 1975 by my late fishing pal Pete Melech.
The dedicated flounder anglers will use bull minnows if at all possible, fished on light tackle with as small (as small as the tide allows) lead sinker above a swivel with a couple of feet of leader. I prefer a Kahle hook because it does a better job of hooking the fish. Flounder do not have large mouths, so don’t use too large of a hook, probably the maximum hook size would be 1/0.
Drop the bull minnows around any type of inshore structure and slowly drag the bait along the bottom. If there’s a flounder anywhere close, it won’t be able to resist that bull minnow. Anglers on the Gulf State Park Pier are particularly adept at dropping bull minnows straight down beside the pilings of the pier. Flounder will seek refuge from the sun under the pier and can be caught with regularity when the fish are moving through that area.
Other live bait will work on flounder, but just about everything in saltwater will eat a live and fresh dead shrimp, so you could go through quite a bit of bait before anything you want to throw in the ice chest bites.
At times, artificial lures work like a champ, especially those like the Berkley Gulp that has scent impregnated in the plastic. Of course, I’ve seen times when just a regular H&H Cocahoe Minnow or Lunker City Fish-S-Fish will work as well as anything. Add a strip of flounder or baitfish belly to the jig to further entice the flounder.
Back to the flounder’s mouth, because it is small, flounder have a heart-breaking tendency to come unhooked right at the boat. Therefore, when you’re flounder fishing, have your net ready to go and don’t hesitate to get it under the fish as quickly as possible.
As I said at the start, flounder is probably the best-eating inshore species on the Gulf. If the fish is large enough, you can get nice flounder fillets. If not, scrape off the scales, gut the fish, coat with fish fry mix, and douse in 350-degree oil. If you’re ambitious, go by the seafood store and grab some crab meat. Mix the crab with bread crumbs, a little Tony Chachere’s or Old Bay seasoning and butter. Slice the flounder down the back and create pockets on each side. Pack the crabmeat stuffing in the pockets and bake on 400 for 20-25 minutes. Yummm!