• Capt. Sergio Atanes

Flatties of Tampa Bay (Flounders) November By Capt. Sergio Atanes

Tampa Bay offers a smorgasbord of species to fish for, including redfish, snook, trout, and cobia, just to mention a few. As a charter captain, the most requested inshore species is snook with redfish a close second. One species often overlooked is Paralichthy lethostigma, or in layman’s term Southern Flounder.

Southern Flounder are frequently called “doormats”. These fish can easily camouflage themselves and can be found around sandy or muddy bottoms along the edge of grass beds and channels. These doormats average in size from 2-4 pounds with many tipping the scales at 8 pounds. A strong fighter on light tackle and rated as one of the best in food value, most Southern Flounder are caught by accident while drifting the flats or cuts for redfish and trout.

Although Southern Flounder can be caught all year long, I find the cooling fall season as prime time for catching doormats. November and December are my favorite months to catch them, when other fish are slow to strike the flounder are always ready for an easy meal. Flounders are bottom feeders, and in order to increase your chances at the big ones I recommend several techniques that have worked for me over the years.

Dead or Live Bait Fishing: Drift along the outer edges of grass beds or along side of channels with structure or rubble. A ¼-ounce jig head this method works best in 2-6 feet of water. Hook a small piece of shrimp or Fishbites Shrimp scent on the jig or if you prefer a medium live shrimp. Bounce the jig along the bottom and the drift of the boat will do the rest of the work. In deeper water (6-10 foot), I recommend a 3/8 ounce jig head.

Artificial: A 3/8-ounce jig head with a 3-inch tail works during cold fronts. The last several years with the introduction of artificial baits with fish attractant built in or the use of products like The Fish Bomb (shrimp cocktail) can make a big difference in the amount of fish caught. Anchor on the outer edges of grass beds or deep water channel casting up current or tide. The secret is to bounce the jig along the bottom with a slow retrieve. Flounder will only travel short distances for food, so the presentation must be close. The more casts the better chances

of catching fish. We must not forget the old standby Fishbites Scented shrimp.

Dock Fishing: Is another good way to catch the big ones, while the heat generated around the concrete piling on cold windy days is a natural attractant ¼-ounce sinker setup as a Texas rig with a glow bead between the hook and the sinker for the big ones. It’s my belief that the glow bead just draws attention in the dark bottom and turns the flounder on to strike quicker. Seawalls that have a quick drop into sandy bottom with grass patches are also key spots.

Bridges: Flounder tend to sit and wait for their bait so try fishing the bind side of the bridge where the tide is moving bringing food to them. Here I use 3/8-ounce sinker setup with the glow bead all the time, casting along the edges of the shoreline and working the shrimp towards the drop.

Tackle-My favorite rod is a 7.5 ft. Okuma medium light action rod in the 10 to 17-pound test range, medium size spinning reel like the Okuma Halios 30. Fall months usually means windy days so I prefer using Fins Windtamer 15-pound test braided line. It’s one of the best lines I have found in helping keeping wind knot down to a minimum. Most of my big founder fishing is done around docks and braided line seems to be the most proficient.


Old Tampa Bay

Big Island cut west end of Howard Frankland Bridge.

4th street bridge on incoming tide.

St. Pete side of Gandy bridge just outside the rocks.

South end of Picnic Island the rock piles.

Tampa Bay

Edges of the rocks along the St. Pete Airport.

Sandy areas on the outside of the artificial reefs east of the Vinoy Resort.

Terra Ceia Bay

Bird Key

Flounder Pass

Southern Flounder will offer a change of pace and taste, so don’t overlook the doormats of Tampa Bay. Please e-mail any questions concerning fishing or tackle and I will be glad to respond.

Caught fishing with Capt. Sergio

Good fishing and tight lines.

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