Flounder Fishing: How To Catch Fish When The Drift Is Slow

One of the peculiarities of flounder fishing is that you need to cover ground in order to catch them.  They are aggressive predators that will chase a bait and they expect a bait to run from them when they approach.   When the wind is light and your drift is slow or non-existent, it can become much harder to catch them.

A method you can use to catch these fish under such conditions is the cast and retrieve technique.  As the name implies, it is a much more active fishing technique than most flounder fishierman may be accustomed to.  Read on and learn more about it. 

There is a technique that can be used under these conditions that will allow for catching flounder.  It is the cast/retrieve technique, and can be very productive.   There are a number of items required to do this.  You must be able to cast a good distance with the rod you are using, a spinning reel is best for this.  The reel must be spooled with a braided line, as braid is extremely sensitive and will allow you to feel the hits much easier than with monofilament.  The rod should be at least 7 feet long, and have a light action to it to help feel the hits.  The last consideration is the flounder rig.  Instead of using a standard flounder rig, it must be modified for the conditions.  Since this rig will be cast and worked, the leader between your sinker snap and the hook will be much shorter, on the order of 12-16″ in length and 50 pound test.  It is best to use a green  monofilament like Berkley Trilene big game line.  Your end rig can be rather simple, just one spinner blade and a white bucktail hook, or just a bucktail hook.   This shorter rig is necessary to control your casting and because this is a much more active technique then typical flounder fishing, where the longer rig will tangle repeatedly.  Typically, you don’t want to use more than 2-4 ounce sinkers for this type of fishing. 

The Technique.
Now that you have the right gear, onto the actual jigging retrieve.  Bait the hook with squid or whatever else works, then cast the rig out as far as you can, and wait until it hits the bottom before closing up and taking in the slack.  Reel in the slack until the rod is nearly horizontal, then begin jigging.  Jig upward about 18″ and go back down until you feel the sinker hit the bottom, then do it again, and again, until the rod reaches a point where it is vertical.  Then reel in the slack until the rod is nearly horizontal again, and repeat the pattern.  You do this until you feel a hit and hook a fish or the line itself is nearly vertical, then reel it in and cast out again, repeating the method.   It should be cast it in at a least a slightly different direction each time, covering new ground.  Normally you would cast downdrift or perpendicular to the drift.  If the drift speed is exceptionally slow, then casting updrift is also an option.

The Strike Reaction
Be aware of the hits when they come, there may be just a little more resistence than the sinker alone.  At this point, most people want to jerk back on the rod to set the hook.  This rarely works, as the flounder comes up behind the bait and grabs it at the end, usually not getting the hook but just the end of the bait farthest from the hook.   So your reaction should be to immediately lower the rod tip and take the pressure off the line, waiting for a few seconds to give the fish a chance to take the bait in.  Then lift the rod tip slowly until you think the fish is hooked.  Now reel the fluke in.  If the fish is lost on the way up, open the bail and let the line back down to the bottom right away and begin jigging, often a flounder will come back for it.  If no hits occur within a minute or two, reel the line in and check to see if the bait is gone.  When you lose a fish this way, it’s often a good idea to rebait and cast out in the same area again to get a second chance at that fish.

You may notice that this technique also tends to attract larger fish, which are more aggressive and like a more active bait.  Also, If this technique fails to catch fish, better move to a different area because there are no fish around the boat.

Best Times to Fish for Fluke
When fishing for flounder the best fishing is normally between 5:30am and 11:00am.   This doesn’t mean that they won’t bite at other times and often they do, but most of the fish will be caught during this time range in any given day.    Usually the worst time is from 12:00pm to 3:00pm.   On many days there will be a very active bite for one or two hours while the tide is running, and a slow bite during other times.

Chris Bell has lived in Rhode Island for 35 years and fished. He is a fishing guide and before that was a writer and PC administrator.   Chris now guides flounder fishing charters from Jim’s Dock and in the winter writes on various aspects of fishing for flounder and other species.

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