Best Flounder and Fluke Fishing Tackle and Techniques
This article will cover flounder and fluke fishing tackle and techniques. Flounder and fluke are extremely popular inshore game fish. They are found along the coast from Texas to New England. Fluke and flounder are ambush predators, burying themselves in the sand to hide. Their markings are perfect camouflage. Anglers prize them for their tough fight, but more so for their tasty fillets!
Special thanks to Melissa Toro for the pics and fluke expertise. Follow her on Instagram
There is a bit of confusion about the differences in flounder and fluke. They are all in the “flatfish” family. In the south, southern gulf flounder are the predominant species. They have large mouths and are true predators. Up north, fluke are very similar. Same goes for Chesapeake Bay summer flounder. These all have both eyes on the left side. However, there is a winter flounder that has a small mouth and not nearly as aggressive. It has eyes on the right side.
No matter whether the southern gulf flounder or northern fluke is being sought, the techniques, baits, lures, and locations are quite similar. Flounder and fluke lie in the sand to ambush prey. However, they often relate to structure. This includes docks, bridges, rock piles, jetties, ledges, and more. Often times, the transition area where the sand meets the structure is a prime flounder and fluke holding spot.
Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota Florida. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay ends tributaries. Capt. Jim has always loved surf fishing on the barrier island beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. He is sharing his tackle recommendations and fishing tips and this article with fellow anglers.
Best rods and reels for fluke and flounder fishing
Anglers fishing for flounder and fluke need two fishing rod and reel outfits. The first would be a medium spinning outfit and the second a medium light conventional rig. These two combos will cover virtually every flounder and fluke fishing situation. Anglers who surf fish can add a third rod and reel combination.
Medium spinning outfit
A medium spinning outfit is a versatile rod and reel combination. In fact, most anglers already own several. The same tackle used for schoolie striped bass or redfish will work fine. These lighter spinning outfits allow anglers to cast artificial lures in search of flounder and fluke. They can also be used for bottom fishing for average sized fish in shallow water.
A 7 foot medium rod with a “fast” action is the best choice. “Fast” action means a stout butt with a fairly limber tip. This allows for easy casting and detecting bites, but the strength to move a decent sized fish. It can be paired with a 3000 or 4000 series reel.
Here is a link to a good Penn Battle combo.
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Medium light conventional outfit
The second rod and reel combination that every flounder and fluke angler needs is a light conventional outfit. These are used when fishing around heavy structure. Anglers will often times be fishing in heavy current and deeper water, which requires heavier sinkers. These light conventional outfits are much better for that application that spinning rigs are.
These types of conventional boat rods are generally a bit shorter. A 6 foot to 6 1/2 foot medium action rod with a 30 series reel is ideal for most inshore fluke and flounder fishing applications. This same outfit can be used for many other species such as blackfish, striped bass, bluefish, and more. It is a very versatile outfit and many experienced saltwater anglers already own several of these type rods.
Surf fishing rod and reel
Surf fishing for flounder and fluke is very popular as well. Again, many anglers who surf fish for other species will already have an outfit that is fine for chasing flounder and fluke off of the beaches. These rods vary in length from 8 feet to 15 feet long. 10 to 12 feet is a good all-around size, matched with a 6000 to 8000 series reel.
Fishing line choices
There are three choices available to anglers when it comes to choosing fishing line for their reels. These are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is an expensive but has stretch and a thicker diameter. Fluorocarbon line is better than monofilament but much more expensive.
Braided line is fairly expensive, yet lasts a long time, has zero stretch, has a thin diameter relative to strength, and is very sensitive. Most anglers today have gone to braided line. 20 pound test is a good size for inshore waters while anglers fishing heavier structure for larger fish offshore will bump it up to 40 pound or 50 pound test
Fluke and flounder fishing techniques
If there is one golden rule when it comes to fluke and flounder fishing, it is that the bait or lure needs to be presented on or very close to the bottom. As mentioned earlier, the species like to bury in the sand, then ambush bait fish and crustaceans as the tide washes them by. There are certainly times when flounder and fluke become very active and will feed quite a ways up off the bottom. However, this is the exception and not the norm.
Fluke and flounder are opportunistic feeders. They dine on a wide variety of forage. In fact, the list of things they won’t eat is much shorter than the list of things that they do. Small bait fish, shrimp, and crabs are fluke and flounder favorites. While they prefer their meals live, they are certainly not above scavenging off the bottom as well.
Flounder and fluke fishing with live and cut bait
Many anglers fish for flounder and fluke using natural bait, either live, frozen, or fresh cut. The top live bait in the Northeast is a live minnow. Somewhere near the South Carolina coast, live shrimp become equal in preference along with live minnows. The type of minnow that is productive varies depending on the geographic location. Anglers can buy minnows at local bait shops, though many anglers catch their own mud minnows and other minnows in traps. Every bait shop in the south carries live shrimp.
Strips of fresh cut bait work extremely well for fluke and flounder. The white, underside belly of just about any freshly caught fish (anglers should check their local regulations) cut into a long, 1 inch wide strip will catch fluke and flounder anywhere. Squid is very productive as well and is available at just about every bait shop. These strips of bait flutter seductively and look very natural in the water, while also providing scent and taste. Many anglers prefer cut bait over live minnows and situations where crabs are abundant and can become a nuisance.
Best flounder and fluke fishing baits
Frozen bait also works well for anglers fishing for fluke and flounder. It is a little less productive then either fresh cut or live bait. However, it is certainly much more convenient. The exception to this might be frozen shrimp, which will often catch as many fish as live shrimp. Surf anglers in particular tend to use frozen bait if for no other reason than the convenience factor.
Local bait and tackle shops are the best source for anglers fishing for fluke and flounder with live bait. They appreciate the business and are usually forthcoming with some good local information for anglers who make a purchase. Top baits include live minnows, frozen minnows, squid, live and frozen shrimp, clams, crabs, and frozen locally available fish such as mullet or mackerel.
Artificial lures catch fluke and flounder
There are a few artificial lures that are productive for flounder and fluke fishing as well. By far the most effective lure for the species is a jig. The reason for this is the manner in which a jig is presented. Jigs can be bounced right off of the bottom, kicking up little puff of sand as they move along. This very realistically mimics a wounded baitfish, crab, or shrimp.
White buck tail jigs have been catching flounder and fluke for many decades. This is the artificial lure that most anglers use when targeting flounder and fluke. These are versatile lures that can be worked in both shallow and deep water and are excellent when used drift fishing. Melissa uses S&S Bucktails, a local company. they manufacture an excellent lure of high quality with a strong hook.
Many anglers take the “best of both worlds” approach and combine the jig with live or cut bait. This is an extremely effective combination! The jig allows anglers precise presentation while the strip of cut bait or squid as well as a live minnow adds taste and scent.
Jig and grub combo produces
Anglers fishing the shallow inshore bays do well with the jig and grub combo. This is a lead head jig, usually around 1/2 ounce, with a soft plastic grub body trailer. The grub body can be of any length, with 4 inches being a good all-around size. The grub tails are manufactured to mimic both bait fish and crustaceans. They come in just about every color and shape imaginable! The Gulp line of baits is heavily scented and works extremely well on a jig head for fluke and flounder.
Fluke and flounder fishing locations
As with most fishing, locating fish is of the utmost importance. The best bait or lure has no chance if not presented in front of the fish. As mentioned above, flounder and fluke love the combination of structure and sand. The transition area where the rock or other cover turns into sand is a prime spot. This is true for artificial reefs, ledges, bridges, docks, and other structure.
Tides are crucial when it comes to fluke and flounder fishing, just as they are in most saltwater applications. While experience and local knowledge are indispensable, there are a few guidelines that anglers can adhere to. In the shallow backwater bays, high tides are usually best. In many cases, there simply is not enough water for the flounder and fluke to get up on the flats and feet. Flats adjacent to channels and deeper areas are generally best.
Many veteran fluke and flounder anglers prefer an outgoing tide. Flounder and fluke will stage on the edges of flats and drop-offs and ambush prey as the tide brings it to them. This is basically a conveyor belt of food! Tributaries and title creeks that enter larger rivers are prime spots. Passes and inlets are almost always more productive on the outgoing tide as well. The same holds true for bridges, where the points of land usually narrow a bit, increasing the current speed.
Anglers can either anchor or drift fish, depending on the situation. Large flats are almost always drifted, it is just more efficient. Smaller spots such as ledges and rock piles are best anchored. The best approach is to place the boat so that the bait can be presented just up-tide of the spot to be fished.
Terminal tackle and rigs
Anglers fishing for fluke and flounder will need some terminal tackle as well. These items include hooks, sinkers, leaders, and swivels. Most of veteran anglers tie up their own bottom fishing rigs. However, commercially available flounder rigs are available for those who do not want to tie their own.
There are many different flounder and fluke rigs. However, they really break down into two different types; fish finder or Carolina rigs, and high low or chicken rigs. While there are many variations, these are the two most popular ineffective rigs to present live and natural bait to fluke and flounder.
While most seasoned fluke and flounder anglers tie their own rigs, some prefer the convenience of commercially prepared rigs. There is nothing wrong with this! They can certainly save time and are quite convenient. Prepared rigs are available in a wide variety of hook sizes and leader lengths.
Anglers purchasing the best fluke and flounder fishing tackle have a surprising selection available to them when it comes to sinkers. Some have a unique design which allows them to walk over rocks and other structure without snagging. Anglers just starting out will do fine with a selection of egg sinkers and bank sinkers from 1 to 4 ounces. Heavy currents, deep water, and surf fishing may require even heavier weights.
Anglers will have to vary the weight of the sinker to match the local conditions. Tide strengths are constantly changing, and successful anglers adjust their sinker weights as well. The general rule of thumb is to use just the amount of weight to get to the bottom, and no more. Anglers who drift fish want the weight to be hitting the bottom but easily bouncing off.
Carolina rig and high/low rigs work well
The Carolina, or fish finder rig is a very popular and versatile rig. It consists of a sinker, usually X-shaped, with a hole through the center. The main line passes through this whole then a swivel is tied on. The swivel stops the sinker from moving any further and allows angler a place to attach the leader. A leader is then tied onto the other end of the swivel. It is usually between 3 feet and 5 feet long, followed by a hook.
This rig has several advantages. The hole in the sinker allows for a flounder or other fish to pick up the bait and move off with it, without feeling the resistance of the sinker. This can be important when fish are biting in a finicky manner. Also, the longer leader allows the sinker to sit on the bottom and the bait to undulate back in the current. This is attractive and will help elicit strikes. When drifting, the sinker will bounce off the bottom, kicking up puffs of sand, which attracts fish.
The high low or chicken rig is a very simple bottom fishing rig that works on fluke and flounder as a well as just about every bottom species. With this rig, the sinker is tied at the bottom and then several hooks are tied off of droppers at varying depths. This allows anglers to present multiple baits at multiple depths, to see what the fish want that day.
Both of these rigs can be used in just about any fluke or flounder fishing application. Each angler will certainly develop his or her favorite. However, these two rigs can be used when surf fishing, fishing from jetties or docks, bottom fishing from an anchored boat, and bottom fishing from a drifting boat.
Flounder fishing hooks
There are many different styles and sizes of hooks that anglers can choose when fishing for fluke and flounder. Once again, local bait shops are excellent sources of information and resources. Some anglers prefer long shank hooks. Many have recently gone to circle hooks, is a reduce fish mortality, almost always hooking the fish in the corner of the mouth. Some states actually require the use of circle hooks when bottom fishing. The standard live bait hooks that of been around forever work fine as well.
It is important to match the size of the hook to the size of the bait, not the size of the fish being targeted. Otherwise, using two small a hook in a large piece of bait will result in the bait blocking the hook, resulting in no hook set. Conversely, too large a hook with a smaller bait is an unnatural looking presentation, and may scare off a fish. Some flounder anglers put an in-line spinner in front of the hook to add some flash to the bait.
Leaders are used between the mainline and the hook or jig and are an important piece of flounder and fluke fishing tackle. Fluorocarbon leader material is mostly used these days. Anglers using live or natural bait usually go with longer leaders, between 3 feet long and 5 feet long. Those who are casting jigs shorten up the leader to 24 inches or so as the longer leaders make casting difficult. The leader can be attached to the mainline using a small swivel or a line to line knot such as a double Uni-knot
Swivels are basic pieces of terminal tackle that serves couple of purposes. They are used as weight stops on Carolina rigs. Swivels allow for easy attachment of leaders. They also help reduce significantly line twist. Anglers should purchase quality ball bearing swivels, this really is not the place to save a couple of dollars. A selection of #6, #8, and #10 black swivels is all that is required.
In conclusion, this article on the best flounder and fluke fishing tackle and techniques will help anglers catch more of these delicious fish!