Once upon a time, plenty of flounder could be found in North Carolina’s inside and nearshore waters. Two varieties of this delicious flatfish filled sounds and the nearshore ocean.
The problems for anglers probing sounds, inlets, marshes and other inside waters this month is water temperature.
Flounder like water temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees, but in August, water temperatures in flat-water areas may hover near 86, leaving fishermen targeting flounder with a short fishing window.
But that’s not true around reefs, ledges and bottom structure just off the beaches where flounders hide in cooler water 40 to 50 feet deep waiting for baitfish or shrimp to bump across the bottom.
Guide Robbie Hall of Swansboro’s Hall ‘Em In Charters, said the ocean is the way to go this month.
“There are plenty of good places in the ocean where they’ll be in August,” said Hall (910-330-6999), “but flounder might be at a wreck or reef one day and gone the next. Sometimes, they’ll favor one side of a deep-water wreck or (artificial reef) and not the other.”
Tackle is pretty basic, including 7-foot, medium-action rods and 4000 class reels spooled with 10-pound braid tied to 1- to 11/2-ounce bank sinkers that don’t get hung up as easily as barrel or pyramid sinkers.
“I like 18 inches of 10- to 12-pound leader and 2/0 wide-gap hooks,” Hall said.
The most-popular baits are 4- to 6-inch live finger mullets, although mud minnows and strips of flounder or other white-bellied fish work. Experienced anglers often use flounder belly strips or 4-inch soft-plastic shrimp and minnows.
Hooking a flounder in deep water isn’t the same as shallow water, when anglers often wait a few seconds for a fish to turn a baitfish around in its mouth to swallow.
“You’ve got to set the hook as soon as you feel him,” Hall said. “When you hook one, you also have to turn his head toward the surface, or he’ll go in a reef ball or a wreck. Barnacles and other sharp stuff can cut or snag lines.”
Novices may hear deep-water flounder chasers talk about “ledges,” which are uneven bottoms with depth changes from 1 to 8 feet that provide hiding places for baitfish and lure flounder.
Most anglers don’t like to be pressured and have secret ledges that consistently yield legal (15 inches or longer) fish. But January 1, 2016, the daily flounder creel was cut from six to four fish.
Well-known nearshore reefs, created by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and local fishing clubs, are made up of tugboats, train boxcars and concrete pipe sections, and include AR 320, AR 342, AR 340, AR 345 and AR 330. Exact locations are available on the NCDMF’s website at www.portal.ncdenr.org.