Since man began floating vessels across rivers and oceans, symbiotic relationships have formed and continue to provide benefits to users above and below the water’s surface. The thousands of docks peppering public waterways in the Cape Fear region are ideal places to find many angler favorites, including highly prized doormat flounder. However, not all docks are created equal; some will produce better than others.
While most dock owners utilize their docks and boat lifts to store their boats, the structures themselves create a microcosm from which anglers can easily benefit. They provide a host for marine organisms that supports every part of the food cycle, from microscopic organisms to the apex predators anglers chase.
The Cape Fear River has no shortage of both new and old docks, from downtown Wilmington to Fort Fisher and south to the Southport waterfront, but the ICW between Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach is the No. 1 place that guide Jot Owens finds doormat flounder during the summer.
"The docks along the ICW are ideal places to find trophy flounder," he said, "although not every dock will have the right characteristic to attract flounder and other gamefish."
To start with, Owens prefers docks built over deep water.
"At low tide, you need at least five to six feet of water at mean low tide," he said.
Second and most important, the bottom under docks must consist of mud and oyster shells.
"Flounder like these bottoms because they hold bait. Sandy bottoms don’t hold bait," he said.
Since Owens has fished the area his entire life, he has a good handle on the docks that tend to hold the most fish. To the newcomer, he recommends patrolling the ICW during periods of super low tides to see what types of structure and bottom composition are around docks. Even though the docks built over deep water will not dry up enough to see what the bottom is made of, the adjacent areas will typically be of a similar type.
Due to the high level of line-cutting structure, Owens casts either downcurrent or upcurrent to reduce snags and tackle loss. Additionally, he uses a strong leader to protect his investment.
"Always use 18 inches of 40-pound Berkley Pro-Spec fluorocarbon leader for abrasion resistance. It is much better than mono and usually saves a few break-offs each time I go," he said.
When these docks are really embossed with oysters, barnacles and mud, they can be fantastic flounder holes that will always produce a few flounder, not to mention redfish and speckled trout, which are quite fond of docks, too.