With a couple months before flounder show up inshore, die-hard fishermen can still hook up to a king-sized fluke in February, but they will have to venture out in a much larger boat and travel many more miles from the dock.
And a perfect place to find flounder in winter is offshore out of Little River, S.C., along the South Carolina/North Carolina border.
While some juvenile flounder hunker down in deep, inshore holes or head south, many big flounder head out into deeper ocean water over the winter to find warmer and stable temperatures.
Tom Cushman of Captain Cush’s Calmwater Charters said offshore ledges and reefs are prime places to catch winter doormats.
“We catch some real big flounder in 90 to 100 feet of water this time of year,” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “We find them mostly hanging along the ledges up next to the rocks.”
Flounder will migrate offshore when inshore and nearshore water temperatures reach seasonal lows. The warmer, offshore waters with structure provide a place to stay with a food source to carry them to spring, when conditions improve inshore.
Cushman first discovered the offshore flounder migration when he spent a winter offshore in a wet suit patrolling the sea floor for grouper and other wreck fishes.
“I used to see them scattered all along the bottom near these rock ledges,” he said.
Not only did he observe them ambushing bait along the ledges, he started catching them while targeting the big schools of large black sea bass.
“Flounder and black sea bass will congregate in the same places during the winter. I usually pick up the most flounder in 90 to 100 feet of water; that is around 30 to 40 miles offshore from Little River Inlet,” he said.
Cushman will make drifts along the ledges, trying to keep his boat right along the structure as best as he can. If he catches a fish, he will re-route and follow the same track on his GPS, so a highly accurate GPS/depth finder is beneficial.
“The flounder have fewer places to hide, and they will usually lie right along the rocks. With a good GPS and sounder, you can place the baits right in the strike zone,” he said.
Cushman will fish these areas with the same rig for both lunker black sea bass and king-sized flounder. Both species have very large mouths and can take in a big bait.
“I normally prefer a jig that is light, but you have to get down through the sea bass because the flounder are right on the bottom,” said Cushman, who uses a 2- to 3-ounce silver jig with a big curly-tail grub or a chunky strip bait.
“There are some big flounder out there in the winter. If you can weed through the sea bass, you can usually pull out some real doormats,” he said.