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Pensacola Fall Flounder Quick Start by Aaron Sago

Pensacola Fall Flounder Run Overview

Florida Flounder Species
Image courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Flounder - General Overview

Four species of flounder are commonly caught in Florida waters: southern flounder, gulf flounder, summer flounder, and fringed flounder. Gulf and southern flounder are by far the most commonly caught species, and one or the other may be encountered statewide. During the Fall run, Flounder leave the bayous and rivers and head for the Gulf to spawn in mass numbers. It is thought that the spawning migration is typically triggered by two factors:
  • Water Temperature
  • Female Flounder Development of Roe
The run will typically begin in late October or November during the first major cold front and continue through the early winter months. For the Pensacola area this means heavy concentrations of Flounder from the river mouths to the pass.
Florida Flounder Spawn Information
Image courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida Founder Fishing Regulations

  • 12-inch size limit and recreational 10-fish bag limit
  • Allowable Gears hook & line, cast nets, seines, gigs, or spears
  • Commercial bycatch = 50 lb possession limit
  • No federal fishery management plan; state regulations apply
Always check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Web site for the latest update on Flounder regulations.

Rod, Reel, and Line

Flounder fishing is typically done by rod and real or by gig. When choosing a rod and reel for Flounder, typically light tackle is best. A 6' to 7' medium action rod and matching spinning reel will do the trick. Rod sensitivity isn't as important when Flounder fishing as it can be when targeting other species. Most anglers will spool their reel with 10-15lb test mono or braided line.

Fishing Live Bait

Bull Minnow When fishing live bait there's no question that the Southern Bull Minnow or Killfish is the bait of choice. These hardy minnows can be caught in shallow water in baited minnow traps, mostly near muddy bottoms or purchased at your local bait and tackle shop. When rigging a Bull Minnow, most anglers will use a Carolina Rig on a 10 to 15lb mono or fluorocarbon leader, egg weight or bullet weight, and size 4-6 circle or standard hook. When choosing the weight size, you'll typically want to fish with the smallest weight you can get away with and still keep your bait on the bottom. Typically for the Pensacola Fall Flounder run and the areas you'll fish, this is a 1/2 to 1 ounce size.
Carolina Rig
NOTE: In the photo above the typical Carolina Rig is shown, however, when fishing the Fall Flounder run a longer leader is advised. Most anglers will fish a 2' to 3' leader. When rigging the bait, always hook the bait through the mouth, from the under-side, through both the bottom on top lip. This will prevent the bait from drowning and provide a more natural presentation.

Artificial Baits

The same rig can be used for fishing artificial baits as live bait. Many anglers fishing the Fall run will use Berkley Gulp® in shrimp, shad, or baitfish patterns. "Glow" patterns are very effective during the Fall run, especially when fishing a darker bottom. These baits can be fished on the same Carolina Rig above, or also fished on a Texas Rig, or Jig Head.
Texas Rig
Other effective patterns include small spoons and spinner baits retrieved slowly at or near the bottom.

"Gigging"

Flounder are one of a handful of fish in the state of Florida that are still legally taken by gigging or spearing. During the Fall run the learning curve involved in this unique challenge is lessened simply by virtue of the sheer numbers of fish available.

Flounder Gig Gigging can be done from a boat or by wading in the shallow water where Flounder are most vulnerable and is typically done at night using a wide variety of lights and lanterns and a "gig" consisting of a multi-pronged "fork" on the end of a lightweight rod or spear. Bamboo is a popular materiel for a gigging rod. The length of the gigging rod varies based on the method. Shoreline anglers will typically use a shorter rod - anywhere from 4' to 8' in length while anglers pursuing these fish from a boat will use longer gigging rods, 10' or more.


Flounder Gig There are hundreds of light/lantern setups possible for use in Flounder gigging. Shoreline anglers have the option of using either above-water, underwater, electric, and even propane lights. A majority of anglers seem to agree that sub-surface lighting is better because it eliminates surface glare, but plenty of Flounder are taken by shoreline anglers with no more than a powerful flashlight. It would be impossible to mention all the light/lantern possibilities. I would recommend some time spent on the Pensacola Fishing Forum / Flounder Section for anyone interested in buying or building a Flounder light for shoreline gigging.



Flounder Gig Those who are really dedicated to the sport will configure light systems on shallow water skiffs. These "Gigging Boats" run the gamut from utilizing portable simple battery-powered floating lights to mounted dedicated generators with integrated above and sub-surface lighting. Again, the Pensacola Fishing Forum / Flounder Section is a great resource for information if you are interested in putting together a Flounder-hunting watercraft.



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Special thanks to Chris Phillips, Writer, Flounder Expert, and Owner of Hot Spots Bait and Tackle in Gulf Breeze for much of the information in this Quick Start.



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