First Flatties of ‘19: Winter Flounder Prep - The Fisherman

First Flatties of ‘19: Winter Flounder Prep

2019 2 Winter Flounder Prep With Dog
The March 1 winter flounder opener still provides an outstanding opportunity to shake off the winter cobwebs while fishing with best friends.

The shortest month of the year still gives plenty of time to prepare for the flounder opening.

Nothing quite knocks the rust off your angling arms like opening day of winter flounder season. Yeah, it’s not heavy muscle for sure, but it is a bent rod. Thing is, the opening day flounder bite is usually either feast or famine. It could be a torrid bite or a terrible bite on March 1, but the opportunity and excitement to get out and have at it is more than enough to spark some activity.

Most guys won’t start hitting it hard for flounder until they hear word by late March or early April, but no matter when you decide the time is right to try for the flatfish, be sure you are fully prepared.

Chum Ready

Chumming and deployment of said chum is absolutely the key in winter flounder fishing success. Sure, there are times you cast off the dock and luck into a few fish, but if you get a steady chum slick flowing from a boat (or the dock for that matter) you’ll attract the blackbacks like the Pied Piper. Standard issue cylindrical metal mesh chum pots work best, hanging one or two off the bow so they sit firm on the bay floor. The pots are filled with frozen clam, mussel and corn combinations that fit nicely into the canister.

Be sure to poke the chum bag with holes before you put it in the pot for a slow sliding slick, and if you really need to get the slick flowing, take the whole frozen block out of the bag for use. There are also some non-traditional tricks to get chum flowing even better; for example, if you are fishing shallow enough, bring a plunger attached to a long broom handle to be plunged over the side to stir up the mud bottom, releasing worms, clams and forage that runs with the tide to attract flounder to your baits.

2019 2 Winter Flounder Prep CHUM
Standard issue cylindrical metal mesh chum pots work best, with chum logs in plastic bags available in most area tackle shops.

Another way to attract a few fish is to utilize the engine props.  For some reason, every time the boat’s engines start, the flounder start hitting. When the props begin to turn, it churns up the shallow water but could also be the vibration that gets them eating. Try starting and stopping your engine every now and then and see if it sparks a bite. A big barrel wiffleball bat can also be effective in dispersing chum as the top is cut off, then the barrel filled with your chum. Simply swing the bat to spray the chum in the surrounding waters.

Rigging & Bait

Generally, a snelled Mustad size #6 Chestertown or Size #8 Mustad Long Shank Beak hook is sufficient to get into the small peanut mouth of the flounder, while having enough shank to thread a good piece of worm on.  A yellow bead above the shank or a small 3/4-inch yellow rubber grub creates enough color and attraction to convince a flatback to eat. Fin Strike makes some solid pre-packaged flounder rigs with the yellow corn beads already pre-lanced; yellow seems to be a predominant color that attracts flounder.

2019 2 Winter Flounder Prep BIG PAIR
While still early for many to launch boats and a rather restrictive two-fish bag keeping some from gearing up, some hardcore Jersey anglers just can’t keep from floundering about every spring.

Sinker shape can make a difference as a coin shaped or bank sinker will stir up the bottom when bounced up and down and it will also lay dead flat on the mud bottom, presenting your baits in the strike zone. Many old schoolers will paint their sinkers yellow!  Again, adorn your hooks with certain attractants such as small yellow grubs or Fishbites strips as many times the added fluttering or presence of the bells and whistles sparks a strike.

Flounder feed on a variety of sandworms, bloodworms, tapeworms and clams. Sandworm and bloodworm baits can be bought a dozen at a time, but it’s of paramount importance to keep them fresh by storing them in the fridge and rotating out paper towels along the bottom of the box every day to soak up the deteriorating juices put out by the seaweed and worms. Fresh clams can simply be bought and cut into small streamlined bits. Lance the strips on the hook once and let them flutter in the current. Sandworms, bloodworms and tapeworms can all be cut into 1-inch lengths, then can be lengthened or shortened depending on the bite.

2019 2 Winter Flounder Prep STOMACH
Always check the stomach contents from whatever fish you bring back to the cleaning table. The author has often found clam siphons in his flounder bellies and said, “Anytime I am shucking clams, I always keep the siphons and thread them on the hook for baits.”

Also, I have found zillions of clam siphons in the bellies of flounder, so they must be snipping them off in the mud bottom when they are foraging. Anytime I am shucking clams, I always keep the siphons and thread them on the hook for baits.

As springtime moves in, we may just have a hot bite started from the get-go.  Prep now and be ready to deploy the gear come the first sunny days of March.

LIGHTEN UP
Regarding rods and reels, there’s not much more to it other than using light to medium type tackle; but don’t kid yourselves, flounder put up a pretty spirited fight, especially on lighter tackle. A prime set up is something like a 6-1/2-foot Shimano Teramar or St. Croix Tidemaster Inshore rod, medium to fast action, matched with a 4000 class spinning reel. You can spool up with 12-pound monofilament or 20-pound Power Pro braided line to which you can tie on the pre-tied flounder rigs at the barrel swivel.  Anglers in the Shark River area had a fairly productive late fall and early winter fishery with bankcasters and boaters pretty much able to score their two fish limit (12-inch size) when putting in the time.  Remember the season opens March 1 and runs through the rest of the year.

 

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