Fishing for fall flounder
Locals look for cooler weather to catch these tasty flatfish
By Ryan Seeloff
Although caught sporadically year round in most Brevard County coastal waters, the latter parts of autumn are 'prime time' for a chance to land a true doormat for dinner.
Starting in early Novemrber each year local flounder junkies scan the Weather Channel and keep tabs on various weather web services for the first burst of cold air to pass through the Space Coast which triggers the annual fall flounder run.
Where and how to catch them
Naturally the two areas that flounder congregate on the way to their offshore spawning grouds are Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlet. Sebastian with its free flowing water is the focal point of the fall spawning run as the locks at Port Canaveral prevent a steady flow of Indian River Lagoon flatfish from entering the Atlantic.
Lets start with Port Canaveral
After the first decent cold front local anglers fishing at Port Canaveral either gear up their boats to slow troll from one end of the Port to the other focusing on areas where the water flow might intrigue the resident flatfish to set up an ambush or they set up shop from shore hoping to come across a hungry flounder as it makes its way through the area.
Some favorite spots are along the sea walls bordering Port's End Park a the west end of Port and along the rocks at the west end of Jetty Park. Regulars fishing from the pier at Jetty Park take their fair share of Port flatfish as well.
Favorite baits at the Port are mud minnows (these can sometimes be purchased at local bait shops and can be caught with a cast net if you can talk a local into giving up their secret spot), live shrimp, finger mullet, and jigs tipped with a piece of shrimp.
Techniques vary a bit, but one tried and true method is to cover as much ground as possible by casting your bait of choice and slowly bouncing it on the bottom as you reel in the line. As the current can vary greatly around the Port you will have to judge exactly how much weight to use to get your bait to the bottom. Usually a 1/4 ounce will suffice if the current is light, but it could take up to a triple that if the are you are fishing has a decent current.
On to Sebastian Inlet
By far the most popular destination for Florida flounder fishing is the waterway connecting the Indian River Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean known locally as "The Inlet". The rapidly flowing water that swirls throughout this local landmark also becomes a virtual highway for flatfish as they find themselves drawn out to deep water to spawn each November.
The waters at The Inlet can be downright crowded as the first cold front passes and anglers anchor their boats to drift their lines over the rocky bottom in search of the year's first doormat. Anchoring your boat is really only possible west of the A1A bridge as the current during any tidal change will pull your anchor right out of the sand (or your anchor will get hung up in the rocks and your boat will capsize) if you try to anchor closer to the ocean. Drifting The Inlet is just as popular and you need to have the most experienced boat handler on the wheel/throttle while traversing the waters inside The Inlet.
Shorebound anglers need not worry as both the north and south sides of The Inlet produce flounder all winter long. The problem is getting your line out far enough and of course dealing with the snags that you WILL get hung up on. To lessen the chance of getting hung up try fishing on the south side as far west as you can go. The area near the playground are pretty clear of rocks, but you will need to cast farther to reach deepr water.
Anglers fishing from the catwalks underneath each side of the A1A bridge also take their fair share of autumn flounder, but they get to deal directly with the full onslaught of the current with each tidal change AND the rocks.
Both the famous north jetty and its little brother on the south side are good choices if you can deal with the current as you are now right at the tip of The Inlet. Plus, you never know what else might decide to hop on your line (oversized redfish, snook, and jacks are all possible almost year round).
Popular baits at The Inlet include finger mullet, live shrimp, jigs tipped with shrimp, and assorted artificial baits (a gold spoon tipped with a little shrimp or anything mimicking a finger mullet top the list). Also a must when fishing Sebastian is a can of really good bug spray as the resident 'No See 'Ums' will be sure to attack to if the wind isn't blowing hard.
Flounder to go
Although Port Canvaeral and Sebastian Inlet are your best shot at landing a flounder on the Space Coast these tasty fish can be caught just about anywhere in the Indian River Lagoon as well as along the beaches as they move around in search of food.
They also can be caught all year long, but from the first good cold front until mid-January is when they are on the move.
Rules and Regs
The Florida saltwater fishing regulations state that all flounder which are to be kept must be at least 12 inches in length with a daily limit of 10 per person (if you can catch 10 flounder in a day you have had a REALLY good day).
For more information on rules and regulations concerning flounder and all other saltwater fish in the state of Florida click Here.
Enjoying your catch
This recipe is my absolute favorite for flounder;
Easy Baked Flounder with Crabmeat Stuffing
1 whole flounder filleted
1 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken-flavored dry bread stuffing mix
1 (6 ounce) can lump crabmeat
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
-Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
-Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery in the butter until tender. Place the stuffing into a bowl, and stir the onion and celery into it along with the butter in the pan. Mix in the crab, adding a little more liquid, or more stuffing to get a good consistency.
-Melt the remaining butter, and brush some of it onto a cookie sheet. Spread the stuffing mixture over the fillet and roll the flounder just like a jellyroll. Place the fish on the cookie sheet. Brush the outside of the fish with melted butter, and season with the Old Bay seasoning.
-Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until the flounder flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!