Summer flounder are also called Fluke. When summer flounder are large they are known as “doormats”. The summer flounder is considered to be a “left-handed” flatfish because its mouth and eyes are on the left side of the body when viewed from above. They are excellent tasting fish, one of my favorites. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen.
Females live to at least 14 years, and males live to 12 years (1)
Flounder have the habit of burying themselves while waiting for unsuspecting bait fish to come by.
Summer flounder usually grow 15” – 30” and average between 3-6 pounds, although there are larger specimens. Females are larger than males. Summer flounder have a flat rounded body. Its topside is brownish on top with 10 to 14 eye-like spots. This upper side can change from light brown to almost black, allowing the fish to blend in when it is lying on the bottom. The bottom of the fish is white. They have sharp teeth. The dorsal fin of the summer flounder stretches from the head to the tail.
Summer Flounder overlap range with the southern flounder. The southern flounder however lacks the eye-like spots of the summer flounder.
Once the summer flounder metamorphoses, it becomes a bottom-dweller. Adults usually live in deep channels and ridges while young are more common in shallow waters and on sandbars. Usually migrates offshore for winter as water temperatures decrease.
Summer flounder eat shrimp, squid, worms, crustaceans and other fish.
Summer flounder are found in waters from Nova Scotia to Florida. They are most abundant from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina – even as far south as Florida.
Summer flounder migration occurs in late Autumn possibly due to decreasing water temperatures and declining photoperiods. They move offshore but stay on the continental shelf. When spring comes along the flounder move back to shore.
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Spawns in autumn and mid-winter in coastal ocean waters. After hatching, larvae look like regular fish fry – one eye on each side of the head. Eventually, the right eye moves to the left side which becomes the upper side of the fish.
Reproduction:, Depending on their size, females can have 460,000 to over 4 million eggs. Summer flounder spawn several times throughout the spawning season. Eggs are buoyant and released in the water column and hatch in waters of the continental shelf. Larvae are transported by prevailing water currents toward coastal areas where they develop into juvenile summer flounder.
From winter through early spring, larvae enter estuaries and coastal lagoons and develop into juveniles that bury in the sediment. Juveniles use estuarine marsh creeks, seagrass beds, mud flats, and open bay areas for habitat. Juveniles are most abundant in areas with a predominantly sandy bottom or sand-shell substrate, or where there is a transition from fine sand to silt and clay. Adults spend most of their life on or near the sea bottom burrowing in the sandy substrate. They can also be found in marsh creeks, sea grass beds, and sand flats.
When I lived on Long Island (NY), we would go out at night into the Great South Bay spotlighting for eels. I was amazed at the numbers of flounder we would encounter in 6’ – 8’ of water, almost always on sandy bottoms. It got to the point where we were able to spot the fish when they were partially buried into the bottom. These flounders were not tiny either – they were good sized fish. Why I say this is so the reader can understand the areas where you can fish. You can make fishing for flounder simple, a pole and bait fished from shore, or more expensive – out on a boat.
There are many ways you can fish for summer flounder. These include drifting, fishing at anchor and using chum, trolling, casting from shore, and angling from piers and banks.
Drifting is an effective method. Basically you let the boat drift with the wind or tidal current. Drifting can be particularly effective diagonally across channels, where summer flounder move along lanes in search of food. Drifting increases your chances by covering the areas where summer flounder are. It also keeps the bait or lure in motion. Summer flounder find moving bait attractive. The optimum drift speed is about 1 mph.
Chumming, or fishing at anchor and using chum, is a popular method for both summer flounder and winter flounders. It also can be done while drifting, provided the drift speed is not too fast; and it is effective when the fish are scattered. Chumming for summer flounder is accomplished in either of two ways.
1. A chum pot, fashioned from netting or other material. I use an old bucket with a lid that I have drilled ¼” holes all around. I use cracked mussels but cut bait such as bunker or even the guts etc. of fish carcasses / guts can be used. The chum pot is attached to a length of rope and bounced on the bottom at intervals to release the tiny bits of meat and juices to attract fish.
2. Chumming also can be done by dropping a cracked mussels or bits of chopped fish every few minutes. You will need very slow current when doing this. If the current is too strong the chumm will not get to the bottom.
If you cannot drift, anchor in a likely spot and cast out your bait. Retrieve your line to keep the bait in motion. If you’re anchored in a channel where the tide is moving at a fair clip you can let it carry the bait away from the boat (use a round or oval sinker for this), then reel it in along the bottom.
Trolling has an advantage in that it also covers ground and you determine the area covered. Summer flounder-trolling speed is a matter of opinion, but best results are obtained with a speed of about 1-2 miles an hour. Remember you want the bait down on the bottom so a weight is necessary.
Pier, shore, and bank angling can produce summer flounder in channels and deep creeks, at inlets, and in close in shore ocean zones. Channels and inlets can be particularly productive of summer flounder. Occasionally summer flounder will come very close to shore, and at such times surf and jetty fishing with natural baits work well.
The Basic Summer flounder Rig: The basic rig starts with a three-way swivel tied to the line. To the middle of the swivel’s remaining two loops attach a hook on 2-3 feet of monofilament leader. To the lowest loop tie a sinker. A refinement can be added to this rig by attaching one or two shiny spinner blades to the leader not far above the hook. Their motion and glitter provide an extra eye-catching attraction.
Two-Hook Rig: This is essentially the same as the basic rig except that a second hook is added. The first hook is rigged as before. The second hook is tied into the first hook’s leader at about the midpoint or slig
Bait: When drifting or fishing from shore / piers, spearing and squid work well as does small live bait fish. When fishinf from a boat you can also slow drift and jig with bucktails and fluke balls. Remember, your line must be on the bottom!
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