Guide Justin Carter doesn’t get caught up in counting, waiting or pausing before setting the hook when he’s targeting flounder. A lot of his flounder catches are incidental when he’s fishing for trout, reds or “just fishing”. When a red for trout hits one of his baits or lures, he sets the hook immediately.
It’s what he does later that helps him land more flounder.
“I just don’t miss that many flounder by setting the hook immediately,” Carter said. “My experience is that the fish may or may not get the hook on the hookset, but they will almost always hang on. They will even let you lead them to the boat.”
Carter said once he recognizes he has a flounder on the line, he will lead the fish straight to the boat and then position himself and the rod tip nearly vertically over the fish.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it another hookset, but it is a strong, upward pull on the rod,” he said. “A flounder’s mouth is side to side, not up and down. If he’s not hooked, he’s holding the bait at an awkward angle, with the hook usually under his head. That strong upward pull will often set the hook in the side of his head if he’s just holding on to the bait.”
Another of Carter’s tips is never let the fish get its head out of the water. Because of the position of the flounder’s mouth, when the head comes clear of the water, the fish flaps his head perpendicular to its jawline.
“That means even a good hookset with a jighead can be slung out of the corner of the fish’s mouth if the head comes out of the water,” he said. “Always have a long-handle net ready and slide the fish into the net without lifting the head out of the water.”
Carter said in the absence of a net, grab the leader, and in one motion, swim the fish to the boat and swing him up and over the gunwales so the momentum carries the fish into the boat even if the hook comes loose.