We're rappidly aproaching Fall here in Northeast Florida. This time every year the big fish on everybodies mind are the Flounder. Every Summer the Flatties move into the river from offshore. We'll continue to get waves of fish moving in all Summer long. By around late October to early November, The Flounder will move back out of the river and head offshore again. The first major cold snap in late Fall will usually trigger the migration.
There are plenty of scattered Flounder From Mayport on South past downtown Jacksonville. Finding them takes work and a willingness to cover a lot of water. You'll find Flounder just about anywhere, such as Creeks, creek mouths, Jetties, River banks, and docks.
There are a number of different rigs that can be used to catch Flounder. Carolina Rigs are easily the best and simplest to use. You can also catch them with jigs tipped with live bait. Another productive way to target them is with artificial baits. Berkley Gulp, Swim Mullet in Pearl White color is a popular bait used to target Flounder.
This time of year the river is full of all sorts of live bait options that work well for Flounder fishing. They'll eat Mud Minnows, Finger Mullet, Pogies, Pilchards, and even live Shrimp. In the late Summer, you'll often find big schools of Pichards around docks in the Mayport area. They swim in huge schools and can be easily seen near the surface. They prefer shallower water from 1 to 6 feet. You'll usually see the smaller ones at the surface. Most of the time the bigger ones will be right underneath them just out of sight.
You'll need a cast net with a 1/4 inch mesh if you plan to catch them. Not because a 3/8 inch mesh wont work but, because they'll get gilled in the net. Pulling them out one at a time by hand is not fun. Especially when you net a couple hundred baits at a time which is often the case. Small Glass minnows can and do on occasion get stuck in a 1/4 inch mesh but the Pilchards won't. You may not find it worth the effort and the money to go the Pichard route but make no mistake, they are hands down, the best bait for Flounder. Especially if you plan to fish anywhere from Mayport to Blount Island.
Once you locate a good starting point, it's time to bait up. You'll want to hook Pilchards in through the bottom lip and out just behind the upper lip. When using a Carolina Rig, you'll want to use a Kahle Hook. The shape of a Kahle Hook holds Pichards and other live baits very well. They also have the best shape for hooking Flounder. Hooking Pilchards sideways through the nose is a bad idea. They don't have enough cartilage in the nose to hold the hook. Also, since you'll be working them across the bottom, you wont want to tail or belly hook your Pilchards. Any time you plan to work a bait rather than dead sticking it, you'll want to lip or nose hook it. This makes for a more natural looking presentation when being reeled back towards you.
Once your ready to fish, you'll be systematically working the area. Basically fan casting the bank or dock area all the while keeping the bait near the bottom and slowly rolling it back towards you. You don't want to overlap your casts. That is unless you get a bite or you catch a Flounder. They'll often stack up in an area. Most of the time, if there's one, there's a few more in the same spot. When you get picked up, you'll feel a single thump followed by a sensation of weight. If you're using Pilchards for bait, they'll pretty much inhale them and you'll only need to let the fish eat it for about 10 seconds before setting the hook. However, if you use a larger bait such as Mullet or Pogies, you'll want to let them eat it for at least 20 or 30 seconds. Some will let the fish eat for closer to a minute even. It all depends on who you ask. Either way, it's important to let the Flounder have time on the bait before setting the hook.
Catching large numbers of Flounder all comes down to how much area you're willing to work. It can be exhausting but the pay off is worth it.
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