David Derrick of Oak Island targets big flounder in the Lockwood Folly River, and in the fall, he only fishes a few spots – but he fishes them thoroughly. And on Sept. 21, that strategy paid off with a huge flatfish that tugged the scales down to 12 pounds and was 29 ½ inches long and 25 inches in girth.

Because of all the rain and dingy runoff flowing into the Lockwood Folly River, Derrick had changed when he was fishing, eliminating fishing on the falling tide because so much dirty water was flowing out of the river and through Lockwood Folly Inlet. He had been concentrating on fishing the rising tide, when clean, salty water was pushing back through the inlet.

And because he was targeting big flounder, he had switched to big baits – the huge fish hit a 6-inch finger mullet. Derrick said a big flounder has a big mouth and can easily swallow big baits; he thinks they key on bigger baits.

"I had just moved and set up in a new place,” Derrick said. “The tide was almost high and I knew I didn’t have long, but wanted to try this spot before quitting for the day. He hit on my second cast and the deal was on.

“It was a strong fish and was hugging the bottom,” Derrick said. “It was acting just like a big skate, and I was concerned it might be one. Sometimes big flounder act like skates, so you don’t even consider breaking it off until you see it and know. When I got it out and in deeper water, it went under the boat, and I still couldn’t see it. Finally, it rolled on the surface and I didn’t see a long tail, but I still didn’t see it well enough to know for sure what it was. After a few minutes, it boiled on the surface again and I finally saw it was a big flounder.”

Derrick, who fishes by himself a lot and was alone that day, said when he saw it was a flounder, he grabbed his net and got it in position. Thanks to years of practice, he was ready when the flounder came to the surface again. After one final lift of the rod, he grabbed the net and scooped up the big flatfish. 

“At that point, I knew he was mine,” Derrick said. “With him lying in the boat, I could tell he was big, but he didn’t seem that big. At that time, I didn’t realize how fat he was. I’ve got a flounder hanging on the wall at home that weighed 11 pounds and a few ounces, and it was 32 inches long, so I guessed he was about 10 pounds but decided to weigh it to be sure.”

That was a good decision. He took the fish to Ocean Crest Pier, the closest location with certified scales and a weigh station for the NC Division of Marine Fisheries Saltwater Tournament and had it officially weighed.

Derrick was fishing a Carolina rig with a No. 2, wide-bend Mustad live-bait hook on a short leader – he said it’s important to keep the bait near the bottom, especially when the water is dirty, because the flounder can’t see very far.

“I owe this catch to my dad, Charlie Derrick,” Derrick said. “He taught my brothers and me about fishing and camping and got me loving it. Because of him, I spend all my free time in the creeks behind Oak Island and in the Lockwood Folly River. I sure would like to share a boat with him now. He named his boat the Fishin’ Fool, and I have named mine that too and hope to carry on the tradition. That 11-pounder on my wall and this one should be a pretty good start.”