“I can’t tell if I’ve got a fish or if I’m hung up in some debris,” said Monty Gardner while slowly reeling in his line in a creek near Holden Beach.

Gardner continued reeling slowly, stopping at times, waffling back and forth between thinking it was a fish, a crab, or a clump of weeds that was offering the slight bit of resistance that told him something wasn’t quite right.

“There’s something on it. Grass maybe.” he said as the leader showed. He could just barely feel the dead weight, then he caught sight of it.

“It’s a flounder!” he said.

It was, sure enough, a flounder, and because Gardner had not set the hook, the fish shook itself, spit the hook, and swam down and out of sight. It’s a mistake that many flounder anglers make, but if you ever listen to Capt. Jimmy Price about flounder fishing, it’s not one you will likely commit. 

“When you’re fishing for flounder, you’re fishing around weeds, oysters, sticks. There’s a lot you can get hooked on. A clump of grass can feel like a flounder, and a flounder can feel like a clump of grass, so you can miss some fish if you’re not careful,” said Price, of Oak Island.

“If you think you might have a flounder, and you want to know if it’s really a flounder or some debris, you just slowly lift the rod tip and hold it up at about a 45-degree angle. If it’s a flounder, he’ll let you know. He’ll pull down. If you feel that, you drop the rod at his speed. Don’t drop it fast. Don’t hold it up and make it bow if he’s pulling down. Lower your rod at the speed he goes down. Now you know it’s a flounder. Once he settles back to the bottom, count to ten. Then break his jaw,” said Price.