Chincoteague Island Flounder Fishing Techniques
Preparations for our flounder fishing trip began around dawn, as we gathered tackle, bait, snacks, drinks and other essentials. Spring weather is very unpredictable and this day was no exception, so we chose to carry hats, light rain jackets, sun block, sunglasses and layered clothing. This may sound like a case of being over-prepared, but conditions on the water can change with little or no warning, so it pays to be prepared.
By 7 am we arrived at the boat and were greeted by the captain. He was polite, helpful and explained what we could expect in terms of weather as well as advising us about recent fishing activity. The current weather conditions included a considerable amount of wind, clear skies and a call for increasing winds and the possibility of rain. As the captain loaded fuel, ice and bait, we agreed it was worthwhile to fish, but stay close to port as a safety precaution.
Within minutes we arrived at one of the many productive fishing spots near Chincoteague Island. Our outfits were simple; baitcasting and spinning rods spooled with 10-20-lb line. Virginia anglers use a variety of flounder fishing rigs, our choice was one of the most popular styles. Our single hook rigs consisted of circle or kahle hooks, dressed with a mylar skirt and rigged on 36-42 inch leaders. A 3 way swivel connected the leader, sinker and main line. For bait, we had a choice of live minnows, silverside minnows and squid strip baits. Anglers often a combination of baits, such as the famous "squid-minnow sandwich".
Flounder fishing sometimes requires experimentation to find the best presentation. On our trip the fish were feeding on small baits, including shrimp. Switching from large live minnows to the smaller silversides seemed to increase bites, perhaps as they were a closer match to the current source of food. As anglers fish throughout the season, tactics may be need to be changed many times as food sources come and go.
To catch flounder, the captain maneuvers the boat into position, then communicates to anglers that lines can go down. When beginning a drift, the captain must allow for wind, tide, boat traffic and depth. A perfect situation occurs when several factors align, allowing the boat to drift at the correct speed while moving over the correct habitat. In reality, this is very hard to accomplish. Most fishermen try to keep a line in the water as much as possible, covering a wide range of situations.
Flounder feed by ambush, preferring very specific structures where they feed. As most fishermen know, the species has both eyes on the same side which allows it to lie flat on the bottom and conceal itself. Flounder are beautifully marked and can easily change color to match their surroundings. They sometimes bury their bodies in the sand, making them practically invisible to unwary baitfish and other prey. When food comes within striking distance, they lunge and bite, then hold on as they sink back to the bottom. Only after they settle on the bottom again do they swallow their prey.
Knowing how flounder feed and where they are found is important when targeting them. They are most often found along the edges of sandbars, oyster bars, creek entrances and channel edges. Although some flounder are caught by themselves, it is very common to find schools of these fish in close proximity to one another. At times several anglers will get bites at once and drifting over the exact spot a second time may draw more strikes
Depending on the speed of the drift, type of bottom and tackle used, the feel of the sinker along the bottom might be smooth or very bumpy. In addition, the water depth may vary constantly, which demands that the angler be alert and let out additional line or reel up slack as the boat travels over the underwater terrain. The angler must also pay attention to the strain on the line, as any change might indicate grass or debris on the line, which should be removed.
When a flounder bites, it may be very obvious, or discrete at first. The urge to yank hard on the line must be overcome as pulling too soon will surely result in a lost fish. A more effective technique is to be alert for a single nudge or series of short pulls. This signals that a flounder has risen up, grabbed the bait and is waiting until it sinks back to the bottom. Some anglers lower the rod at this time; others actually pay out a few feet of line. Microseconds seem like an eternity as the urge to set the hook is overwhelming for most fishermen. After settling back on the sea floor, the flounder will re-position and perhaps spit out the bait for a split second, before inhaling it in a lightning fast maneuver.
To the angler, this feels very odd. The entire process may be sort of a "thump, thump thump, delay....thump, sudden weight on the line and perhaps more violent thumps. At this point, the angler needs to react very quickly. When using the traditional kahle hook, now is the time to YANK HARD once or twice to set the hook. Circle hooks work slightly differently, and require the angler to remove any slack from the line, but avoid excessive snatching until the full weight of the fish is felt.
Once a flounder is hooked, it is vital that the captain be notified and no slack is allowed in the line. A steady but gentle retrieval is usually the best technique, watching as the fish nears the boat. Smaller fish can be flipped in and laid on a wet towel or left in the water while the hook is removed. Large flounder are difficult to land and should be netted. The angler must remain calm and keep slow but steady pressure on the fish as it nears the boat. The captain or another fisherman will come from behind with a net as the angler brings the fish near. Once the net is in place, the angler should slowly drop the rod, allowing the fish to sink into the net and be lifted into the boat.
Flounder should be treated gently, laid on a wet surface and carefully measured to make sure they are of legal size. Undersized fish should be handled gently and released right away to insure their survival. Fish for the table should be kept on ice until the trip is complete, then cleaned at once and kept chilled.
To book a Chincoteague Island flounder fishing trip, visit Little Duck Fishing.
Submitted by: cin