Flounder fishing is popular in Maryland and
Virginia. Towns like Chincoteague, Wachapreague and Quinby are well known for
their access to flounder hotspots. Some anglers specialize in catching
this fish almost exclusively while other choose to target them only at certain
times. While no single location, technique or angler is a guarantee of success,
there are a few tricks to the fishery.
A good way to break down flounder fishing is by looking at the fishery in
chronological order. Here on the Delmarva Peninsula, flounder fishing is a
spring ritual for many anglers. Locals and transient fishermen alike converge on
the inshore waterways each spring for the opening weeks of flounder fishing.
The action typically begins around Machipongo, Quinby and Wachapreague and
within days spreads north to Chincoteague and eventually into Maryland and
Delaware. The first fish may come in March but April sees the main thrust of
fish. The surge of incoming fish can continue into May.
The early spring action involves several key factors that can make or break
the anglers success. Water temperature seems to play a critical role in
influencing the fish to become active. A popular rule of thumb is to look for water
temps around 55 degrees. This is only a guide and many fish have been caught in
colder water. Water temperature is very complicated and surface temperature is
not always an indicator of the situation at other depths. Tide is also a big
factor and the tide-water temperature relationship is a key factor.
Good spring time fishing often occurs when the tide will be high in the mid morning thru afternoon
hours. The theory is that the cold ocean water comes in and flows up onto the
flats were the sun can warm it a significant amount in just a few hours. At
times, the flounder stack up in key areas and when the tide changes, the warm
water flows into the channel edges, triggering the flounder to suddenly become
aggressive feeders. This phenomenon doesn't occur everyday but when conditions
are right, the fishing can be excellent.
A discussion of spring flounder fishing would not be complete without
mentioning the obstacles to success. First on the list is the dreaded northeast
wind. This curse stirs up the bottom, makes fishing uncomfortable and seems to
discourage flounder to bite. The only defense is to try as best to use the wind
to advantage, perhaps by finding an area where wind and tide will cancel each
other in order to obtain a decent rate of drift.
The second bane anglers encounter is the sudden bloom of a brown algae known
locally as "cow slime". Cow slime consists of long thin strands of disgusting
ooze which covers bait, leader, line, boat and angler. The infestation can vary
from slight to unfishable. A bonus plague is the green "lettuce" or "salad"
which can accompany the cow slime. The lettuce has considerable weight, so at
least you get to fight something. The best defense against algae attacks is to
fish the top of the incoming tide and hope a bite develops before the
mess gets unbearable.
The third hindrance is less of a problem and to many anglers, a welcome
event. Bluefish, from 1 to 10 lbs. will sometimes invade the inshore channels.
At times, any rig dropped for flounder will be quickly attacked. After a long
winter of frustration, this is generally a welcome occurrence for me. Some
anglers fuss if confronted with these aggressive fish.
A few tricks for the spring fishery have been developed by flounder
specialists over the years. Successful anglers often prefer big minnows or big silversides for bait.
Flounder rigs with a hair or vinyl skirt on the top hook are also popular. One technique
is to free spool a conventional reel with the angler's thumb on the
line. When a bite is felt, the angler slowly feeds line out, then puts the reel
in gear and sets the hook.
A bonus in the fishery is the unpredictable appearance of other species in
the mix. Along with the greedy bluefish, gray trout, kingfish, rockfish and even
black and red drum sometimes appear in the same area. A catch of any of these
fish is often a signal to quickly retrace the drift pattern as these fish move
As spring gives way to summer, the fishery changes somewhat. The flounder
migration settles down and anglers either turn attention to other quarry or, in
certain cases, anglers crack the mystery of the fish's habits and continue to
find fish. These experts are 1 in a 100 anglers but the chosen few bring in
prize fish day after day.
Most are secretive about details but hard work and relentless
dedication to the sport are usually key factors in their success.
By mid summer, anglers begin fishing the many wrecks, shoals and
artificial reefs along the Atlantic coast. Anglers in search of flounder drift strip baits with
sporadic success. Some days they catch flounder and some days they don't. If a
fish is caught, anglers often repeat drifts in the area in hopes of locating others. The fish
vary but can be quite large in the inshore areas. The Artificial reefs near
Chincoteague and Wachapreague hold potential for good fishing in the future. By
this time, flounder are also common in the surf and anglers fish from there
experience catches of other species as a bonus.
As late summer nears, the inlet areas and near shore shoals sometimes get
another surge of flounder. The shoal fishing just gets going by Labor Day and
peaks around Halloween if weather allows boaters access. The luckiest of surf,
shoal and channel fishermen can also encounter trout, rockfish and drum during
this productive time. While some fish remain, the brutal weather of November
sends most anglers on a retreat ........or least a switch to the excellent local
Chincoteague Flounder Fishing
Flounder Charters and Guides
How To Clean - Fillet Flounder