Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's time for flounder around Southwest Florida

This beefy flounder was taken on fly in the surf off Manasota Key.
               I love when I’m out fishing and floundering.

                Now, that doesn’t mean for a second that I’m not succeeding or just aimlessly casting a lure. Not at all.

                What it means is that I’m targeting flounder,  a strange looking fish that’s both a strong fighter and delicious. There aren’t many fish around that can top flounder on the table.

                Most people don’t think you can purposely fish for flounder in this part of the world. But, obviously, you can.

                I learned about targeting flounder when I first arrived in Florida in 1971. I would fish the waters in and around East Pass near Destin. I figured out that if you drag anything tasty slowly along the bottom, sooner of later and flounder would latch onto it.

                And that’s particularly true in November when the flat fish gather in numbers along sand bottoms on the edge of grass flats, channel and potholes.

                For this type of fishing, I prefer to use a combination of light jig heads and soft plastics. I most often will use a D.O.A. CAL 1/16-ounce jig head with a D.O.A. paddle tail or MirrOlure Little John.

                Key to success is allowing the lure to drop to the bottom and s-l-o-w-l-y retrieving it; the slower the better.

                When a flounder takes your lure, it will feel as if you’re hung up. Your instinct is jerk your lure loose from the snag.

                Don’t!

                Simply pull back slowly. Most often, the flounder will respond by pulling back, too. That’s when you set the hook.

                The battle won’t start until the flounder sees the kayak. When it does, it will dig for the bottom and pull line from the reel.

                You can identify a flounder long before you see it by its fight. The fish will stay deep and hug the bottom. At first, it will come in easily.

                Flounder are ambush attackers. They lie along the bottom and attack unsuspecting prey as it swims by. Flounder are naturally camouflaged and blend into the sand, grass or gravel nicely.

                I prefer to use medium-light to medium spinning rods. I like braided line because of its sensitivity. I like 8- or 10-pound PowerPro or Fins.

                In southwest Florida, we have two species of flounder: summer and gulf. Summer flounder are the most common. They’re also the largest species, averaging 2-4 pounds. Florida and world record is 20 pounds, 9 ounces.

                Gulf flounder can easily be identified by three distinctive eye-like spots on its back. Southern flounder do not have these “eye” spots. Gulf flounder average a pound and reach 5 pounds or slightly larger.

                No matter what species you catch, flounder are arguably the tastiest fish in our bays. Of course, they’re great fried, but I try to stay away from fried food.

                I prefer to sauté fillets in olive oil with lemon juice, garlic and chopped onion.

                It’s flounder time in southwest Florida.

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