Capt. Jimmy Price of Wildlife Bait and Tackle in Southport said as odd as the weather has been, the fall flounder bite is going strong. Despite all kinds of runoff from recent rains that has left waters stirred up and discolored, flounder – and some great big ones – are being caught.
“This might not quite be the best fall I have ever seen, but it’s been really good so far,” Price said. “Every week we weigh a dozen or more citation flounder. Those flounder have to be 5 pounds minimum, and some have been much larger. David Derrick caught that huge 12-pounder a few weeks ago and followed it up with one that weighed 8.26 pounds last week. The way things have been going, I’ll see him again to weigh another big one before long.”
Price (910-457-9903) said in addition to all the citation flounder, he has seen a bunch of 2- to 4-pounders and weighed a bunch that were almost 5 pounds but didn’t quite make it.
“The flounder bite is strong, really strong, but they aren’t all that are biting,” Price said. “We are also having a great fall for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, wahoo and offshore bottomfish. We weigh citation fish for all of those every week, and lately there have been some Spanish mackerel to 8 pounds.”
Price said fishermen are also catching speckled trout and puppy drum on the inside, plus a few black drum and sheepshead.
“Fishermen are catching their flounder in one of two ways,” Price said. “Most of the inshore fishermen are using live bait and fishing around structure that breaks up the flow of the current. The popular live baits are menhaden up to about 5 inches long and finger mullets, but several fishermen have admitted their citation flounder were caught using small spots, croakers and pinfish. The other way is vertically jigging a bucktail and flounder strip, and fishermen who are good at it catch their share of doormats too.”
Price said flounder will readily hit surprisingly large baits. He said when using a large bait, fishermen have to be patient and not try to set the hook as soon as they feel the bite. Flounder have to turn the bait and swallow it head-first, so you have to give them a little time to do it. With small baits, they might turn it pretty quickly, but with large baits it might take 30 seconds or more.
Price said if you miss a strike and reel in a bait that looks like it has been scaled, then you didn’t wait long enough for the flounder to get it turned and swallowed.
According to Price, the Southport Waterfront produces a lot of flounder. In the 1900s, it was a busy place, with many docks and numerous fishing and shrimping businesses, plus several railways. Most of that structure is still under water and holds a lot of flounder. Price said bridge bulkheads, the remains of the old quarantine station and any other place with prominent structure has potential to hold flounder, and your citation flatfish is only one cast away.