Flat-out fun — Tips for catching flounder

Kyle Perry caught this nice flounder fishing the down current side of a boat dock in Fort Bayou.
Kyle Perry caught this nice flounder fishing the down current side of a boat dock in Fort Bayou.

Perry says bass anglers will see similarities in the approaches to putting delectable flounder in the boat.

Kyle Perry’s creature bait landed in the shoreline grass without a splash or a ripple, but it never reached the bottom.

Instead, Perry’s line started moving to the let, away from the grass.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three …

On five Mississippi, Perry set the hook with seemingly enough force to drive the 2/0 hook into the jaw of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Thirty seconds later the flat-but-meaty slab flounder was swung over the gunnel of the Carolina Skiff and was soon sitting in an icy bath, sure to be turned into a tasty treat.

Flounder are wall-to-wall in the bays and estuaries of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in June and July, ready to be caught by any angler who can sling a Gulp! shrimp against a pier piling or current-braking structure near a channel.

An Air Force officer now stationed in the nation’s capital, Perry was stationed three years at Keesler in Biloxi, using that time to perfect predictable summer patterns that kept his icebox filled with the flat fish.

Kyle Perry positions his boat so that he can work his lure past every pier piling, since each is a potential flounder hiding spot.
Kyle Perry positions his boat so that he can work his lure past every pier piling, since each is a potential flounder hiding spot.

A native of Augusta Ga., Perry said he is proof that freshwater anglers with the skills to catch bass, can learn to master flounder.

His No. 1 tip: All of his best spots, whether a grass point, a marsh line or a docks share one important characteristic: Deep water nearby.

“You can find flounder pretty much anywhere,” Perry said, “but the better concentrations of flounder, the better numbers and bigger fish I’ve found are near marsh points, grass lines or docks near deep water. When I say deep I’m talking at least 5 to 10 feet; like a good channel. Not only is that a highway for them traveling up and down the back bay, but like trout, flounder are migratory.

“They’re always in their migration throughout the summer. They’re heading further up (the bay) then they’ll come back out in the late fall and winter to head back out into the gulf. Channels are their highways so that’s naturally where they’re going to post up at.”

According to Perry, flounder spawn offshore in the winter. Starting in late spring and into the summer they make the transition back inshore, working their way into the beaches, bays and bayous.

“By July, August, and September the majority of them are in the bays, up in the bayous and even up in some of the rivers,” Perry said. “That’s where all the bait’s at so that’s where they’re feeding. They’ll move back out in the December timeframe. They’ll start transitioning out to the front beach then out into the gulf.”

Fishing a grass line near deep water with a Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet, Kyle Perry caught this plate-filling flounder in Back Bay Biloxi.
Fishing a grass line near deep water with a Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet, Kyle Perry caught this plate-filling flounder in Back Bay Biloxi.

Like any saltwater fish, the best time to catch flounder is when the tide is moving. Flounder find a location on bottom to camouflage themselves so they can ambush bait. They position themselves where the current will bring bait by them because they typically do not chase anything down.

With that in mind some strategy is involved when fishing various structure.

“If you’re looking at a dock,” Perry said, “the first way I’m going to fish a dock is the down-current side because they (flounder) want to use the pilings to break that current for them. I pull up to the end of the dock, perpendicular to the dock, and cast so the lure is retrieved parallel to the pilings so you’re bringing your lure by each piling. There could be a flounder behind each of those pilings so it just increases your odds that you’re going to bring that lure in front of a flounder. You can work it from different angles but that’s the ideal one. I catch the most fish doing that.

“As far as grass points, you want to fish a point that has the current coming down by it, whether its incoming or outgoing. The reason points are great is because you have current coming down either side. I like to bring my lure right across the front of the point or down the sides within 10 yards of the point.”

Perry fishes grass lines similar to how he fishes docks. He parallels the grass line, hitting every minor point or pocket along the grass line with his bait.

One thing he has noticed about fishing tidal waters is that some areas are better on one tide or the other. Some areas produce better on an incoming tide while some produce better on an outgoing tide. Time on the water is a key factor to unlocking specific sites.

One of Kyle Perry’s favorite flounder patterns is working a lure tight to grass lines, making sure to hit every irregular feature like minor points and pockets.
One of Kyle Perry’s favorite flounder patterns is working a lure tight to grass lines, making sure to hit every irregular feature like minor points and pockets.

Some docks are better on one tide or the other, but, for the most part, docks are more forgiving according to Perry. Simply fish the down current side of a dock, if a flounder is there, she’ll hit your Gulp!.

Most of our bay system and marshes consist of soft black mud with scattered areas of sand and shell. Perry doesn’t put a lot of focus on bottom composition as much as he does access to deep water.

“When you’re fishing docks I’ve found it doesn’t really matter what the bottom composition is,” he said. “Most of the docks that are really good are right on the channel. Sometimes the banks around those docks are built up with shell and stuff the owners have put in there; that may be an attracting factor.

“On grass lines and marsh points, if there is shell on those, they’re always better for flounder. If you can find shell along a bank or shoreline, that makes a difference. Docks not so much because I think flounder are there for that dock structure. If it’s just a small layer of shells flounder will get on the shells. You can tell they’re on the shells when you pull them up, you’ll see their pattern is a lot lighter, a lot more splotchy. The camouflage is designed to the shells as opposed to if they came right off the mud, when they’re very dark just like the mud.”

Perry said flounder to relate differently to varying bottoms.

“If it’s just a light layer (of shells) and it’s not protruding up they will lay on top of those shells,” he said. “If it’s a lot of gravel or rock they’ll be on the outside of that, right on the edges of it, typically.”

When fishing for flounder, don’t be surprised if you catch a redfish. Kyle Perry said they frequent the same kind of areas and can be a bonus catch.
When fishing for flounder, don’t be surprised if you catch a redfish. Kyle Perry said they frequent the same kind of areas and can be a bonus catch.

For some freshwater anglers there seems to be an air of mystery about fishing saltwater because of the migratory nature of most our estuary fish. In later spring through the fall a bass fisherman could bring his or her tools of the trade to the coast and have success using the tools already in their toolbox.

“If you have any background with bass fishing you would immediately realize that this very similar to bass fishing,” Perry said. “Everything from the technique of the way you’re dragging the bait on the bottom to the areas you look for, it’s very similar to that.

“You should feel more confident coming down here and giving this a shot and trying to get yourself a mess of flounder in these bays and estuaries. If you have a bass fishing background, you should feel very confident you could come down here and figure this out.”

It might take time, but it’s worth the effort.

“There’s a little trial and error trying to figure out exactly where they are, but technique wise you’re probably already there on what it takes to catch these fish — a lot of pitching, casting to structure, that type of thing,” Perry said. “It’s almost like fishing a plastic worm on the bottom, you’re just slow-dragging a creature bait or a plastic worm or a jig. You’re just bouncing it on the bottom, you want to keep contact with the bottom because that’s where the flounder are.”

The Mississippi Coast has a lot more to offer than casinos and beaches. If you’re interested in either of those two keep in mind we have a great fishery down here so bring your bass boat, grab some Gulp! and hit the bays. A broiled or stuffed flounder at a restaurant typically costs $25. Combine Perry’s advice and your knowledge of bass fishing to get your own cooler full of a five-star meal.

Gearing up: Medium spin, braided line, and the Gulp!

The great thing about flounder fishing is that the necessities are minimal and most fishermen already have the tools necessary to get started.

While Kyle Perry’s preference is a medium-action spinning rod with braided line, any rod and reel combo used for catching bass on soft plastics will work.

“All my rods are 7-foot,” Perry said. “For flounder fishing I like to use medium action. You could probably get away with medium-heavy but I don’t think it’s necessary. You could use bait-cast gear if you wanted, and sometimes I do, but I just like that medium action spinning rod with braid.

“I like to use braid when flounder fishing; sometimes the bite is subtle. Sometimes when they pick it up you won’t feel the bite, you’ll feel the weight. Braid gives you that sensitivity to feel everything, especially when you’re bouncing the bottom.”

Flounder use their mouthful of teeth to grab prey, before going back down to the bottom, usually within a few feet of where they were laying. Kyle Perry said it’s important to give them a 5-count before setting the hook.
Flounder use their mouthful of teeth to grab prey, before going back down to the bottom, usually within a few feet of where they were laying. Kyle Perry said it’s important to give them a 5-count before setting the hook.

One thing Perry will not deviate from is his bait of choice — a Berkley Gulp! Shrimp is his hands-down No. 1 choice.

“Gulp! is my go-to,” Perry said. “You can catch flounder on any soft plastic, but for me, I’ve done it enough side-by-side now that Gulp! will catch fish that were there that I was missing or not catching with regular plastics. Put a Gulp! on and I catch them.”

When choosing lure color, Perry offers this advice: “With our water, the clarity is about a foot to a foot and a half. It’s usually a dingy, kind of tea colored, sometimes dirtier than that from the rain. With that water clarity in mind I use any of your glows, like a Sugar & Spice Gulp! Shrimp.

“There’s straight up glow, and it works pretty good. The new penny they’re making now, the bottom has kind of a white glow color, so it stands out pretty good with the contrast to the pinkish root beer color.”

On the rare occasion when Perry finds clear water, he makes a change to natural colors but stays with the same basic lure.

“You could go with some of your natural colors like molting or natural shrimp,” he said. “I like to use Gulp!, that’s my confidence bait. When I’ve used regular non-scented soft plastics I’ve had fish let go of it. When a flounder hits, they’ll grab it and a lot of times they’ll only grab half the bait; the same if you’re using live bait.

“What they’ll do is they’ll grab it, they’ve got teeth that hold on so they’re not worried about it getting away. They’ll grab it and go back down to the bottom, usually within a couple of feet of where they were at. What it feels like to you is a bump-bump-bump — that’s them knocking the bait back in their mouth in the process of swallowing it. That’s why with a flounder you always give a 5-count and wait for them to knock it back before setting the hook.”

Scent-impregnated lures, like the Berkley product, can fool the fish.

“The good thing with Gulp!, they’ll never drop it,” Perry said. “You’ll notice if you let them go too long the bait will be in their stomach. They will have literally already swallowed it whole.

“That’s another confidence thing with Gulp!; they’re not going to let it go as long as you don’t snatch it from them. I have had flounder drop the bait with regular non-scented plastics.”

Perry uses jig heads in the ¼- to 3/8-ounce range, based on depth and current. Do yourself a favor and buy jig heads with quality hooks.

“I use a ¼-ounce jig a majority of the time I’m fishing, because I’m usually fishing in 1- to 5-feet of water,» Perry said. “In shallow water like that you really don’t need anything heavier. If you’re fishing some deeper areas or areas with a lot of current, you could bump up to maybe a 5/16. If you’re fishing really deep you could use a 3/8-ounce.”

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