How To Fish For Flounder

Flounder is a unique and interesting type of fish, primarily known for its distinctive physical characteristics. It belongs to the flatfish family, and its most notable feature is its flattened body which allows it to blend seamlessly with the ocean floor. As a bottom-dwelling fish, the flounder has both its eyes on one side of its head, which is an adaptation for its lifestyle lying on the seafloor. This camouflage not only aids in its survival but also its hunting strategy.

Flounder are often found in coastal nearshore waters, including bays, estuaries, and near the seashore. They are particularly attracted to areas with soft mud or sand bottoms where they can easily hide and ambush prey.

Catching flounder can range from easy to challenging, depending on the technique and location. This guide will explore the best setups for flounder fishing, effective baits and lures, fishing techniques, the best times to fish for them, their preferred habitats, and tips for beginners, as well as essential fishing gear and tools.

Flounder Fishing Setup

The most common tackle to catch flounder typically involves a light to medium action rod paired with a spinning or baitcasting reel. This setup offers the sensitivity needed to detect the often subtle bite of a flounder and the strength to bring them in. The ideal rod length is around 6.5 to 7 feet, giving a good balance of control and casting distance.

For the best setup, it’s recommended to use a braided line with a test strength of 10 to 20 pounds. Braided line is preferred because it has less stretch than monofilament, which allows for better bite detection. To this, you should add a fluorocarbon leader, usually about 15 to 20 pounds test and a length of 1 to 3 feet. The fluorocarbon leader is nearly invisible underwater and helps to present the bait or lure more naturally, while also providing abrasion resistance.

The best rig for flounder fishing is often a simple yet effective one known as the Carolina rig. This setup consists of a sliding sinker, typically a 1 to 2-ounce egg or bullet sinker, followed by a bead, and then a swivel. The swivel prevents the sinker from sliding down to the hook and helps reduce line twists. Attached to the swivel is the fluorocarbon leader, ending with a hook suitable for the size of the bait being used. Hook sizes between 1/0 and 4/0 are commonly used, depending on the bait size. This rig allows the bait to move freely and naturally with the current, making it more attractive to flounder lying in wait on the bottom.

20 inch flounder

Best Bait For Flounder

Flounder have a diverse diet, which includes a variety of smaller fish and aquatic creatures. They primarily feed on minnows, mullet, shrimp, and crustaceans, using their camouflaged appearance to ambush their prey. This diet preference plays a key role in determining the best baits for catching them.

The best live bait for flounder includes mud minnows, finger mullet, and live shrimp. These baits are highly effective because they closely mimic the natural prey of flounder. Mud minnows and finger mullet can be hooked through the lips or just behind the dorsal fin to keep them lively and attractive. Live shrimp, a favorite snack of many coastal fish, can be rigged with a hook through the tail or head, ensuring they remain active and enticing.

When it comes to artificial baits, soft plastic baits, such as curly tail grubs, paddle tail swimbaits, and jerk shads, are the best lures for flounder. These lures should be chosen in colors that mimic natural prey, like white, gray, or brown. The key to success with lures is in the retrieval technique. Since flounder are ambush predators, it’s effective to slowly drag, bounce, or twitch the lure along the bottom to mimic a wounded or disoriented prey fish.

To maximize success in catching flounder with these baits, it’s important to fish them near the bottom, as this is where flounder typically hunt. Whether using live bait or lures, the presentation should be slow and close to the bottom, often around structures like piers, pilings, or natural drop-offs, where flounder like to hide and ambush prey. Patience is essential, as flounder can take the bait gently, and it may take a moment to feel the bite. Once you detect a bite, a firm and steady hook set is necessary to ensure a successful catch.

Flounder Fishing Techniques


One of the most common and effective techniques for catching flounder is drifting. This involves slowly moving your boat with the wind or current over areas where flounder are likely to be. The setup for drifting usually involves a Carolina rig with live bait like minnows or shrimp. This technique is most effective in larger, open areas such as bays or estuaries where flounder are spread out. As you drift, the movement of the boat imparts a natural motion to the bait, making it more enticing to flounder. This method allows covering a lot of ground and is particularly effective in locating active fish.


Jigging is another productive technique, especially in areas with structure, such as near piers or over wrecks and reefs. The setup for jigging typically involves a jig head paired with a soft plastic lure, like a curly tail grub or a paddle tail swimbait. The technique involves casting out the jig and letting it sink to the bottom, then using a series of lifts and falls to mimic an injured prey item. Jigging is most effective in areas where flounder are known to congregate and feed, and it can be particularly rewarding when the fish are concentrated in a specific area.

Casting and Retrieving

Casting and retrieving is a simple yet effective technique, especially suitable for shoreline anglers. This method employs either live bait on a Carolina rig or a soft plastic lure on a jig head. The key is to cast out near likely flounder spots, such as sandy bottoms near structures or drop-offs, and then retrieve the bait slowly, keeping it close to the bottom. This technique is effective because it imitates the movement of fleeing prey, which can trigger a predatory response from flounder.

Slow Trolling

For those with a boat, slow trolling can be an excellent way to target flounder. This involves moving the boat slowly, usually just at idle speed, while trailing baits or lures behind. The setup often consists of a Carolina rig with live bait or a soft plastic lure. Slow trolling works well along edges of channels, over flats, or around structured areas where flounder are likely to be feeding. The technique covers a lot of ground and can be very effective in finding active fish.

Best Time To Catch Flounder

  • Flounder Spawning: Flounder typically spawn in late fall and early winter. During this period, they migrate from the bays and estuaries to offshore waters.
  • Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder: Early morning and late afternoon are ideal. Flounder are more active during these times due to lower light conditions, which align with their predatory habits.
  • Best Time of Year to Catch Flounder: Spring and fall are the best seasons. In spring, flounder return to the bays and estuaries from their offshore spawning grounds, and in fall, they move back towards the ocean, making them more accessible and active.


In spring, flounder can be caught effectively as they make their way back to inshore waters. This season is characterized by increasing water temperatures, prompting flounder to feed more actively. The best technique during this time is drifting or slow trolling in estuaries and near coastal areas using live bait like minnows or shrimp. Early morning and late afternoon are the most productive times, taking advantage of flounder’s heightened feeding activity.


Summer sees flounder settling in inshore habitats, and they can be caught throughout the day, though early morning and late afternoon remain optimal due to reduced heat and light. Casting and retrieving with soft plastic lures around structures such as docks, piers, or natural bottom contours proves successful. In deeper, cooler waters, jigging near the bottom can also be effective.


Fall is an excellent time for flounder fishing as they start their migration towards offshore waters for spawning. During this period, flounder feed aggressively, making them easier to catch. Drifting and slow trolling in channels and near inlets can be particularly productive. Live bait remains a strong choice, but this is also a great time to use larger lures, mimicking the bigger prey flounder seek for energy before spawning.


Winter fishing can be challenging due to colder water temperatures and reduced flounder activity. However, flounder can still be caught, particularly in deeper, warmer waters. Slow-moving techniques are essential; thus, slow trolling or jigging with bait close to the bottom is recommended. Focus on areas with structure or where warmer water may be present.

Night Fishing for Flounder

Flounder can effectively be caught at night, thanks to their predatory nature and excellent low-light vision. Using lighted docks or bridges to your advantage is a great strategy, as these lights attract baitfish, which in turn attract flounder. Live bait like shrimp or minnows, fished on the bottom, works well. Additionally, using glow-in-the-dark or illuminated lures can increase visibility and attractiveness to flounder in the dark waters.

Where To Find Flounder

Coastal bays, estuaries, inlets, and nearshore ocean waters are prime habitats for flounder. They are often found in shallow waters, typically ranging from 1 to 30 feet deep, depending on the time of year and location.

Electronics like fish finder can be helpful in locating flounder, especially for identifying bottom contours, drop-offs, and areas where baitfish are concentrated.

Coastal Bays and Estuaries

In coastal bays and estuaries, flounder are often found near structures like piers, jetties, and submerged vegetation. The best setup here involves using a light to medium action rod with a Carolina rig and live bait, such as minnows or shrimp. Drifting or slow trolling through these areas allows for covering more ground. Pay attention to variations in the bottom structure and areas where currents meet, as flounder often ambush prey in these locations.


Inlets are dynamic environments where flounder can be caught, particularly as they migrate in and out of bays and estuaries. Jigging near the bottom with soft plastic lures is effective in these areas. Look for spots where currents create eddies or where there is a change in bottom composition. The moving water brings in baitfish, which in turn attracts flounder. Casting near the edges of the current and working the lure back with a bouncing motion can be very productive.

Nearshore Ocean Waters

Nearshore ocean waters, particularly around reefs, wrecks, and sandbanks, are excellent for catching flounder. Here, heavier tackle may be necessary due to stronger currents and potentially larger fish. Using a heavier jig head with soft plastics or live bait and focusing on areas around structures can yield good results. Flounder often hide in the sand near these structures, ambushing passing baitfish.

Shore Fishing

Shore fishing for flounder is also popular, especially in areas with accessible flats, jetties, and piers. A simple setup with a spinning rod and reel, using a Carolina rig and live bait, works well. Casting the bait near structures or drop-offs and slowly retrieving it can entice flounder, which are often lurking close to the bottom waiting for prey. Walking along the shore and casting in different spots can help locate areas where flounder are feeding.

Tips To Catch Flounder For Beginners

  • A medium-light spinning rod and reel combo is ideal for beginners. It’s versatile and easy to handle, suitable for various flounder fishing methods.
  • The Carolina rig is a great choice for beginners. It consists of a sliding sinker on your main line, followed by a swivel, a short leader, and a hook. This setup allows the bait to move naturally in the current.
  • A size 4 to 1/0 hook is typically suitable for flounder. The size depends on the bait being used and the average size of flounder in your fishing area.
  • Live bait like mud minnows, finger mullet, or small live shrimp is highly effective for flounder. These baits closely mimic what flounder naturally eat.
  • For live fish like minnows or mullet, hook them through the lips or just behind the dorsal fin to keep them lively. For shrimp, hook them through the tail or just under the horn on the head.
  • Flounder are bottom feeders, so ensure your bait is close to or on the seabed. Adjust the weight on your Carolina rig according to the current to keep your bait in the right zone.
  • When using lures, retrieve slowly with occasional pauses and twitches. This mimics injured prey and can trigger strikes from flounder.
  • Flounder bites can be subtle. Pay close attention to your line for any unusual movements or tugs. Once you feel a bite, wait a few seconds before setting the hook to ensure the flounder has the bait in its mouth.
  • When setting the hook, use a firm and steady motion. Flounder have a hard mouth, so a good hook set is crucial to successfully land the fish.
  • Look for areas with structure, such as drop-offs, sandbanks, and areas near docks or pilings. These are often hotspots for flounder.
  • Conditions can change, and so can flounder behavior. Be prepared to adjust your tactics, such as changing locations, depths, or baits.

Best Flounder Fishing Gear And Tools

Fishing Rod

The ideal fishing rod for flounder is a medium-light to medium action spinning rod, about 6 to 7 feet in length. This range offers a great balance between sensitivity and strength, allowing anglers to feel the subtle bites of flounder while still having enough backbone to set the hook firmly and handle the fight. A longer rod can also be beneficial for casting distance, especially when fishing from the shore or in large bays.

Fishing Line for Flounder

A braided line of 10 to 20 pounds test is best fishing line for flounder. The no-stretch quality of braided line increases sensitivity, allowing anglers to detect even the lightest nibbles. Additionally, its thinner diameter relative to monofilament or fluorocarbon lines means more line can be spooled onto the reel, which is helpful in deeper water or when long casts are required. For leader material, a fluorocarbon leader of about 15 to 20 pounds test is recommended due to its abrasion resistance and near invisibility underwater.

Fishing Reel for Flounder

For catching flounder, a spinning reel in the 2500 to 3500 size range pairs well with the recommended rod and line. These flounder reels provide a good balance of weight, line capacity, and drag strength. They are also user-friendly, making them a great choice for both beginners and experienced anglers. A smooth drag system is important for handling the runs of a hooked flounder, and a higher gear ratio can be beneficial for quick line retrieval.

Fish Finder for Flounder

A fish finder is an invaluable tool for locating flounder, particularly in deeper or unfamiliar waters. There are many fish finders in the market but choose a fish finder with value for money that offers clear imaging and can distinguish bottom structures where flounder often hide, such as near drop-offs, sandbanks, and around submerged objects. Side-scan and down-scan for getting a detailed view of the seabed. GPS functionality is also a plus, as it allows anglers to mark productive spots and navigate safely.