Ray Fowler of Wilmington readily admits he always has his sights set on big flounder. On the morning of July 30, when he squeezed in a little fishing time before heading to work, his sights were on target. A favorite spot on the Cape Fear River near Carolina Beach produced his largest flatfish to date, an 11-pound, 30-inch doormat on a live finger mullet fished on a Carolina rig.
“I just fish for big flounder, I don’t care anything about quantities,” said Fowler, who notes that big baits are the key to scoring above average fish. “I try to fish big baits all the time, but right now most of the finger mullet are only 3 or 4 inches.”
Good fortune graced Fowler when he managed to net one 9-inch mullet while catching bait that morning.
“When the tide was right, I put him on the hook,” said Fowler, who noticed his move immediately drew the attention of something under the surface. “I saw my pole dance a little bit, and I knew the fish was big, because that mullet was as big around as a silver dollar.”
When Fowler saw his line move sideways as the flounder swam away, he leaned into a hook set. After several minutes of struggling, his trophy surfaced ready for the net. With the flounder safely on board, Fowler put his rods in tow, his catch on ice, and headed to work.
The Cape Fear River, especially the Carolina Beach area, is home to some of our largest flatfish. Fowler admits that he’s seen a good run lately.
“I caught a 10.3-pound flounder last week that was only 28 inches, but that fish was thick,” he said. “This one was a little thin, like he hadn’t been eating good; that probably took a couple pounds off of him.”
Fowler believes the biggest flounder inhabit deeper water.
“I like to fish deep holes near structure,” he said. “In the last several years, I’ve caught 40 or so 7-pound plus flounder that have come from 15 to 20 feet of water. Bridges or any kind of cement structure near a drop off is a good place.”
Many flounder fisherman prefer a falling tide, believing that the fish are lying in wait of bait being flushed from flooded areas. Fowler would rather fish a rising tide for the best visibility.
“I like to fish in the cleaner water, the river is usually dirty anyway,” he said.