The Cape Fear River is known for producing some of North Carolina’s biggest flounder, and Dennis Watson of Leland caught one of them last Tuesday, an 8-pound, 9-ounce monster.
“I was fishing a 5-inch mullet minnow on a Carolina rig with a 1-ounce egg sinker,” said Watson, who caught the fish near a drop-off in a creek mouth between Snow’s Cut and Wilmington. “I was using 30-pound-test Power Pro braid backing and a 30-pound-test Sufix leader tied to a 3/0 Matzuo octopus hook.”
“September is the best time to catch big flounder in the river,” he said. “I think a lot of flounder don’t go to the ocean when it gets hot in the summer but get in deep holes up river, almost to Wilmington, and stay there.”
Watson, who was fishing with his cousin, Sean Watson, credited three or four days of rain for dropping the water temperature and triggering a bite that had stagnated under a late-August, early-September heat wave.
“We started fishing about 1:40 p.m.,” he said. “We fished for an hour without a bite on a little bit of the last part of the rising tide. Sean said we should go somewhere else, and we’d probably catch some fish when the tide turned.”
By the time they reached his cousin’s favorite creek mouth, the tide was flowing toward Southport. Sean Watson missed a nice flounder then landed two that measured 17 and 18 inches.
Dennis Watson put his 7-foot HMX rod in a rod holder while he grabbed a sandwich out of his cooler. His cousin saw the rod bend double over.
“When I picked up the rod, (the flounder) turned loose of the mullet,” he said. “Then he came back and hit it again and was hooked. That flounder measured 18 inches.”
Watson unhooked that flounder and flipped another mullet into the water, dragging the egg sinker toward the ledge.
“That’s when the big boy hit and folded the rod over,” he said. “I told Sean it was a phenomenal fish. I got him headed up three times, but he took drag under the boat. Cape Fear River flounder really show themselves when they see a boat bottom.”
Watson’s huge flounder measured 29 inches in length.
“We ended up catching four keepers and one throwback,” said Watson, whose wife, Laurie, a major in the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department, gave the flounder to John Ingram, the Brunswick County sheriff, and Ola M. Lewis, a Superior Court judge.
“We usually give away flounder because I don’t like to freeze them,” Watson said. “It’s too much for us to eat.”