As soon as the weather starts to cool from the First Coast’s first few Nor’easters, the mullet begin to make their journey to warmer, southern waters. Big game fish follow the migrating mullet and feed incessantly, fattening up for their journey south. Flounder are one of these game fish that target the masses of mullet, ambushing them, as they pour from our river out of the inlet.
Flounder can be targeted in a variety of ways, from wading to kayak fishing. For the majority of anglers, these flat fish are a valuable by-catch, as they target other game fish such as red fish and trout. But for true flounder fisherman, “flatties” can be targeted and harvested, sometimes in copious numbers. Location, presentation and a few pointers can help the majority of anglers become much more effective in targeting and finding flounder in Northeast Florida’s fall waters.
Starting off, flounder are following the migrating mullet, and are pretty much a swimming ambush point as they are flat and can camouflage themselves easily. This means they can lie along the bottom, very close to shore. Find the paths that the mullet are swimming, parallel to shore, and work your bait through them. The bait of choice in the fall months is mullet because you want to adhere to the “match the hatch” philosophy. Mud minnows will still work, but you would be surprised by how many larger flounder turn their noses up at mud minnows when there are mullet around.
In addition to the aforementioned intellection, two different points of sedimentary bottom are the best combination for finding good flounder fishing. Rocks and sand, or rocks and mud, are amongst the best. Rocks provide cover for bait, therefore attracting flounder, which easily ambush the corralled bait. Although not a sediment, docks that are set in muddy bottoms of the St. Johns are also great flounder spots, as they provide a current break for bait fish, which attract flounder.
Furthermore, when fishing by rocks or around docks, I like to use ¼ ounce (lil sparkie) jigs tipped with a live mullet, 4-5 inches long. The jig allows a fresh mullet to swim over the rocks, but slows him down enough for flounder to catch him. For areas without rocks, the conventional method (Carolina rig) of catching flounder is preferred. A “Carolina rig” consists of an egg, or bullet sinker, that is directly above a swivel attached to 12-14 inches of 20-25 pound test leader line. The hook of choice in this situation is a number 4 wide bend or similar sized kahle hook. Either way, you need to work the mullet as slowly as possible, along the bottom, raising your rod tip slowly and then reeling in the slack. It is almost identical to working a plastic worm when bass fishing. As you work the mullet at a snail’s pace across the bottom, you are feeling for the tell tale “thud” of a flounder bite. It is very important that when you feel this “thud” you allow the flounder to adjust the mullet in his mouth for at least 5 seconds before setting the hook. I like a fast action rod and find that my Cajun Coastal 811 or 812 model (6’9″ and either Medium Light/Fast or Medium/Fast), Cajun Delta 872 model (7’3″ and Medium/Fast), or even my Savannah 843 model rods (7′ and Medium Heavy/Fast) are perfect for catching flounder of all sizes. This will ensure a solid hook set and bring many a “flatty” to the net. Well my friend, the last part is up to you. Good luck and great fishing!
By Zsolt Takacs, Cajun Rods® Pro Staff and “Zen Fisherman”