Fishing for Flounder: Tackle and Fishing Methods
The flounder (Platichthys flesus) starts off its life with its body in a vertical position (ie. like a mackeral and not like a flatfish), but a few weeks later the body tilts to one side until one of the eyes moves round to meet the other, and the fish sinks to the sea-bed — a true flatfish.
The colouring of the flounder often varies from coast to coast, according to the bottom it frequents. The upper surface may be a brownish-black, or a light brown. Sometimes there are almost plaice-like spots on it, but these fade pretty quickly on capture. The underside is white, except in the occasional freak which has the same brownish colouring all over.
Sometimes the flounder, or fluke as it is called in many areas, is confused with the Dab. An aid to identification is the fact that the flounder feels smooth, except for small tubercles at the base of the spine, when you run your finger along its back from tail to head. The dab feels rougher to the touch, like very fine sandpaper.
Flounders run to a good size, the best being caught in spring before the spawning period.
Flounders are an inshore fish and can be caught from piers, harbours, muddy creeks, or inshore boats; they are often found well up rivers. They have a liking for fresh water and good catches are often made where fresh water enters the sea.
Tackle and Fishing Methods
There is a big list of baits with which to lure flounders, varying according to the area being fished. Ragworm, soft crab, slipper limpets, lugworm, and pieces of sand-eel or sprat are all useful hook-baits.
Observation pays in this kind of fishing. Flounders like to lie in gullies, waiting for food to drift into them. These gullies are often only a few metres from the shore, so it will pay to survey the beach at low water to note them.
While beach fishing do not be in too much of a hurry to strike. Many fish are lost by hurried striking. Flounders are noted for the time they take in mouthing the bait, and it is some time before they take in the lot. Use a single hook and a flowing trace rather than awith several hooks and a heavy weight. A weight sinks slowly into the sand and becomes buried. A trace will move around with the tide, attracting the fish by its free movement.
Flounders are very inquisitive fish and quick to investigate any disturbance on the sea-bed. In some estuaries anglers attract them by ‘mudding’ — raking the bottom with a fork. This is the theory behind the wander tackle devised by Mr P. Wadham, who fished the many Hampshire creeks with great success. It is a light-gear method of taking fish and is easily set up.
At one end of a long nylon trace tie a smallfor attaching to the main line. A foot away from this fix a plastic boom with a small trace to a No. 4 hook. Add a tiny spiral lead 15 cm (6 ins) along the main trace. Between this and the final hook have a small ball-type lead, stopped by a lead shot.
In practice, the lead, moving along the bottom will stir up sand, etc., attracting the fish. It is a particularly good idea to use this method in crab-infested areas.
The ‘bounce’ idea is another popular method, especially from inshore boats. It was once thought that flatfish were slow-moving fish and one had to leave the bait where it was first cast. This is not the case. With this style one uses a single-hook trace which is retrieved with a series of jerks. The principle is similar to that of wander tackle — to disturb the sea-bed and lure the fish to the disturbance.
A baited spoon is a wonderful way of taking flounders. Often the problem is just what spoon to select. There is a varied assortment on the market and it is important not to buy one too small. A 7.5 cm (3 ins) plated or white enamelled spoon will do nicely.
Some anglers have been disappointed when they first tried spoon fishing because they have presented the tackle in the wrong way. It is essential that only the spoon spins. If the hook goes round as well, the flounder will have no chance to mouth the bait and the fish will be lost. The hook behind the spoon should be baited (ragworm is good), the idea behind the method being that the flounder should think the fluttering spoon is another flatfish following up food, so it decides to investigate and seizes the bait.
Spoon fishing is best done from a boat and accounts for big bags in places such as Poole Harbour, Dorset. It is preferable to operate from a rowing boat with the rod out over the stern. Watch the rod carefully as the tip beats with the revolving of the spoon. When the beat changes to a twitching it is a sign that a flounder is interested. A tightening of the line follows as the fish dives with the bait. See that the tackle does not snag a weed-bed, for a small wisp of weed is enough to upset the smooth operation of the gear.
Another sporting method is fishing with a roving float. This is useful for fishing from piers, harbour walls, and occasionally boats. The bait should be arranged just to trip the bottom and allowed to roam unhindered in the current.
Anointing the worm with pilchard oil can help a great deal. The oil gives off an attractive trail on the sea-bed. Again, hesitate in making the strike. Letgo well down and don’t act on a mere bobbing which only means that the fish is giving the bait a once-over.