Flounder numbers increase in June around nearshore artificial reefs, rocks and wrecks south from North Carolina’s Bald Head Island to the state line, and after a mild winter, they are getting a head start this year.
Plenty of secret and semi-secret wrecks are scattered around the area, primarily Confederate blockade runners, along with seven artificial reefs within 5 miles of the beach. The reefs’ coordinates are published on many charts and by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (www.ncdmf.net) and the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association (www.longbayara.com).
The northernmost reef, WOFES, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reef comprised of rock dredged from the Cape Fear River ship channel, is the largest. The southernmost reef, Jim Caudle Reef, is actually a few hundred yards across the state line in South Carolina and is a favorite of fishermen from both states. AR 425, the Yaupon Reef, is the most popular, the closest to shore at 11/2 miles, and the most complete.
The reefs contain sunken boats and barges, but the most-common additions over the past decade have been concrete pipe and reef balls that resemble igloos with numerous holes.
Jimmy Price, a well-known guide from Southport, N.C., nicknamed the reef balls “flounder motels” early on, and the name stuck.
“Some fishermen prefer using live baits for flounder, and it works well,” Price said. “However, you must have the patience to let the flounder turn the bait to swallow it before trying to set the hook, and not everyone is patient enough.
“I like to jig a bucktail with a strip,” Price said. “You fish it vertically, so you can fish deeper in the structure and not lose as many rigs. If you aren’t losing some rigs, you aren’t fishing deep enough in the structure where the big flounder live. Flounder hit the bucktail and strip harder, and you can set the hook as soon as you feel it.”
Flounder begin staging on the nearshore artificial reefs in May, and the fishing typically gets good during June and continues into the fall. King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red drum, spadefish, and more are also caught at Long Bay artificial reefs during June.