Find their habitat, find the flounder
GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of the local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham. I'm always asked a number of questions whenever the subject of fishing comes up. The most common is, "Where did you catch them?" If I was grouper fishing, you can bet I'd guard the digital numbers associated with a GPS location very closely, as most anglers do, because grouper are structure-oriented fish that may stay on a certain wreck, reef or habitat for an extended period of time before either water temperature or lack of food becomes an issue and they move on. But when it comes to fishing on the flats for species that move constantly with the tide to forage for food or to spend time setting up temporary housekeeping, the answer can nearly always vary. However, put that same fish in deep water, and things can change my answer.One of the best eating fish we pursue is flounder. These flat fish can be found in shallow sandy holes on the flats, on the edges of channels near passes, or around structure or on hard bottom, much like grouper. Flounder have natural predatory instincts. When on the flats in shallow water, these fish usually situate themselves on the edges of sand, grass or shell where there is moving water sweeping baitfish or crustaceans across the location in hopes of ambushing their prey. Their natural chameleon-like ability to change color to the surrounding habitat enables them to become a nearly invisible predator. Killifish, or mud or bull minnows as some call them, are a favorite food, as is a live shrimp. To imitate these natural baits, I throw a DOA Shrimp or a CAL Jig with a Shad tail. There are numerous others that work but these are my go-to baits. During the heat of summer, flounder can move off the flats to deeper areas of hard bottom in lower Tampa Bay in depths 6 to 21 feet. Locating them is more like locating grouper. Find their habitat and food source and you'll usually find the fish.
Ray Markham runs the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia, specializing in light tackle fishing with artificial lures using spin, plug, and fly tackle. He can be reached at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com or (941) 228-3474.