Mark down Capt. Jimmy Price of Wildlife Bait & Tackle in Southport as one fisherman who is glad the flounder have arrived early this year in the Cape Fear area.

"Usually it takes a little longer for the flounder bite to get going good, but it's been so warm this spring, everything is running a little early," said Price. "We are typically just starting to hear about some good flounder catches, but they have been biting for a while now. The big ones usually come a little later too, but we've already had fishermen come in with citation flounder. We've weighed a bunch of flounder over five pounds and one over 10 pounds."


Price attributed the strong fishing to a winter when it never really got cold, allowing the flounder to remain active and feed all winter – not forced offshore or to hide in the mud to survive. He expects the flounder fishing to continue to be good all summer and fall.


Good flounder fishing around the lower Cape Fear River is never a real surprise, but the timing is what has Price smiling. The bite has really kickced off around nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs; it's not usually good there until July.


Yaupon Reef (AR 425) is only about 1 1/2 miles off Oak Island; boats fishing it are clearly visible from the beach anywhere between Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers. The GPS coordinates for the buoy are 33.53.061N and 078.06.546W.


McGlammery Reef (AR 420) is approximately 2 miles south-southeast of Yaupon Reef. On a calm day, boats there are visible from Yaupon Reef. The GPS coordinates for the buoy there are 33.51.053N and 078.06.708W.


Reefs off North Carolina's coast can be spread out in a circle a mile in diameter, with the reef buoys right in the middle. The Yaupon and McGlammery are two highly developed reefs and come close to having structure throughout all of the permitted area. Price believes Yaupon is the busiest artificial reef on the entire North Carolina coast.


"Most fishermen like to go flounder fishing with live baits on a Carolina rig," Price said. "They like mud minnows, mullet minnows and small pogies. All of those are excellent baits, but they aren't necessary, especially at the reefs. 


"More fishermen are realizing they can use 1-ounce bucktail jigs with a flounder strip and jig vertically to catch flounder," Price said. "This will work anywhere, but is especially good at the reefs. I like the Sea Striker artificial flounder strips, but real strips of bait work too."  

 Price said fishermen can drift while jigging and cover more of the reef's structure. He said you'll occasionally get hung up and lose a jig, so it's wise to carry a handful of extras. If you're not losing a jig every now and then, you aren't fishing the heavy structure the flounder really like.