BaitIf I can’t find any finger mullet, I will opt for mud minnows. With mud minnows, I switch from the terminal tackle I described. I remove the sinker and tie a 2/0-jig head to the end of the leader. If mullet and mud minnows are both scarce, I will opt for live shrimp and use them with the jig head. And if there simply is no live bait, I will go with a pink or red plastic grub tail on the jig head. There have been days that the fish would hit the grub tail better than live bait! Go figure!
Using a Mullet BaitWith the mullet bait, I will work an area where the water is moving on an outgoing tide. I look for the areas around structure that provide a break to the water movement – areas that create an eddy. This is where the flounder will lay and wait for an ambush. They often will strike out at moving baitfish into the current and move back to their relative safety. I work the mullet along the bottom slowly, casting beyond the eddy and dragging the bait across. I will do this from several angles, looking to draw a strike.
Using a Jig HeadIf I am using a jig head with a mud minnow or shrimp, or even with a grub tail, I will do they same thing. I slowly move the bait on or just off the bottom.
Feeling the StrikeA flounder’s strike will never take the rod out of your hand. It is subtle, and sometimes it just feels like some extra pressure – like maybe your sinker is hung on something. The trick to catching more flounder is to NOT set the hook right away. When you feel that pressure the flounder usually has the bait in his mouth, holding it in his sharp teeth. He may swim 10 feet or more to his safety zone before trying to swallow the bait. If you set the hook when you first feel the fish, you’ll come back with half a mullet!
The Right HookThe great thing about circle hooks is that you can let the flounder go ahead and attempt to swallow the bait. The design of the circle hook is such that it will pull right out to the corner of the flounder’s mouth and then set itself! You never really set the hook – and that is a very hard thing to learn about circle hooks. Simply start reeling slowly and increase speed. As you increase reeling speed, the hook does all the work.We catch flounder using this method and these baits all the way up to very cold weather. We look for the current breaks on an outgoing tide, anchor up and begin working an area.
HabitatIn northeast Florida, specifically, we work the docks that line the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to the ocean. Sometimes we seem to find a flounder behind every large piling. At the harbor entrance to the Mayport Naval Station, the river current is relatively swift. The water depth comes up from about 40 feet deep to around 15 feet just off the rocks on the west side. That shallow area is dotted with rocks, and provides an excellent place for flounder to sit and wait. If you aren’t sure where this are is specifically, just look for the other boats – they will be right in the thick of it. But be sure to observe the Navy signs, they really get upset if you venture too far into the harbor.
Fish the Rocks and JettiesIf you have a trolling motor, the rocks that line the jetties heading out into the ocean are an excellent place to try this method on a slack tide. Remember that these fish are migrating out. On a slack tide they will hug the rocks and sit on the bottom.
If you are in the St Augustine area, the rocks that line the inlet provide the same opportunity at slack tide.
Cuts and InletsAny cut or inlet up and down the US East Coast that goes to the ocean from a bay or estuary will have similar situations, and these tactics, or slight variations of them, can be used to catch these elusive doormats. Try your luck on one.
What’s your method for catching doormats? Let me know on the Saltwater Fishing Forum.