When fishing for flounder, start with hard structure

July 9, 2011

Flounder fishing has been good over hard structure in the ocean. Reef Site 10, B Buoy, A Buoy and the Old Grounds have all seen keepers put in the box. The key to success is finding structure, either natural coral beds at the Old Grounds, A Buoy or B Buoy, or artificial structure on the reef sites.

Once you have pinpointed the structure you must fish directly on top. Many successful flounder fishermen are using bucktails tipped with bait or Gulp! and jigged over the snag. The weight of the bucktail is determined by the depth of the water and the strength of the current. Lures weighing as much as 4 or 6 ounces may be required during periods of full and new moons when the current is the strongest. Tackle loss is to be expected.

This is not an easy technique. Many of the items placed on the bottom by the state are not real big, and it can be difficult to hold the boat in position where the anglers can effectively work the structure.

In most cases, the captain will not be able to fish and keep the boat in the strike zone. While this technique is currently used in the ocean, it will be in play in Delaware Bay once the flounder take up residence on those reef sites.

Another technique that will produce flounder on reef sites is to anchor up and fish bucktails behind the boat directly over the structure.

To do this, the captain must take into consideration the wind and current before setting the anchor. The boat must be directly up current from the target so the bucktails can be fished by letting the current take them to the structure. The only way I know to learn this is through experience. It helps to have someone young and strong to pull the anchor when the set is not where it should be.

In order to find and fish any of these flounder-producing locations it will be necessary to log the latitude and longitude coordinates into a GPS. In the days before GPS and even before LORAN, captains had to use a compass and landmarks to locate specific fishing spots. That would be pretty difficult if you were searching for a pile of concrete culverts on a reef site.

The state prints a book with the LAT/LON locations of every pile of rubble on the bottom of the reef sites. Using this information and a good SONAR it is not too difficult to find flounder-holding structure.

I have had reports of flounder over open bottom at Brown Shoal. This was a hot flounder spot before we had reefs, so perhaps it is going to produce again.

At Indian River Inlet the trick to catching keeper flounder has been live spot. While anyone can stumble into a keeper, those who score consistently take the time and trouble to catch their own spot or shell out over $2 each to stock the live well.

Once the spot are secured in a device that will keep them alive and happy, the next trick is to place them in front of a big flounder. In my experience, the inlet holds the best chance of scoring a doormat.

Try drifting a live spot there during the incoming current using tackle heavy enough to handle the weight needed to carry the bait to the bottom. During those times when bluefish invade the inlet, save your spot for another day.

If the blues are snappers, catch a few and drop them down instead of the spot. Some of the biggest flounder caught in New York are taken on snapper blues.

Offshore fishing was good at the end of last week, but fell off over the weekend. The yellowfin between the Baltimore and Wilmington canyons and around the Poorman’s pulled a disappearing act.

My sons fished the Norfolk Canyon on Sunday and saw very little action there as well. It has always puzzled me how fish know when the weekend comes so they can go into hiding until the working people have to leave.

On the plus side, more marlin were released by offshore anglers. It looks like another good year for billfish.

The inshore lumps still held a few bluefin tuna along with some dolphin. Inshore wrecks gave up sea bass, ling and a few triggerfish. Expect to see more triggers as the water warms.

The surf is slow with spot, kings and croaker caught on bloodworms or FishBites. If you hit the right spot at the right time, you can put enough tasty panfish together to have a decent fish fry.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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