Flounder have slowly but surely made their way to the top of the mixed bag of fish caught in the summer heat around Wrightsville Beach and Carolina  Beach, according to Rick Bennett of Rod-Man Guide Service, with numbers of fish increasing and fish getting bigger.

Bennett said the relative scarcity of puppy drum has made it easier for flounder to move in and establish themselves as the primary fish in inland waters with an odd, wet spring and oppressive heat skewing the fishing this summer.

"There have been some small menhaden to use for bait, but the mullet minnows have just gotten to the size they are easy to catch in cast nets," Bennett said. "They are abundant, too, which probably explains why fish are so active and feeding." 

Bennett (910-520-7661) said flounder will also hit lures, often incidentally while targeting puppy drum. They regularly attack soft plastics and weedless spoons.

"I prefer to fish for flounder with live bait," Bennett said. "Some fishermen prefer small menhaden and some prefer mullet minnows. I've caught flounder well using both.  

"I believe it is important to put live baits on the hook correctly," Bennett said. "I hook finger mullet through the bottom of their mouth and out the top. Menhaden have different body shapes and should be hooked side to side through their nasal cavity."

Bennett uses a basic Carolina rig to fish live baits, with the lightest egg sinker he can use that will hold in the current, 12 to 15 inches of a 20- or 25-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader with an Eagle Claw Series 042 hook, a wide-bend, offset hook that works well with live baits.

According to Bennett, flounder orient to structure, giving them a place to hide out of the current; if the current disrupts and confuses the bait, it is easier for the flounder to catch. Flounder are surprisingly adaptable, and their favorite structure could be almost anywhere. Many flounder are being caught around nearshore artificial reefs and wrecks, and they also set up in the sloughs in the inlets, in the rocky structure and holes in Snow’s Cut, in the marshes and around spoil islands in the Cape Fear River and under docks along the Intracoastal Waterway and the numerous creeks off of the Waterway and river.

"Flounder feed when the tide is moving," Bennett said. "They aren't particular if the tide is rising or falling, just as long as it is moving. They don't swim about a lot, but wait to ambush unsuspecting baitfish that the tide carries by. When a flounder bites, give it a little time before trying to set the hook. It has to turn the bait head first to be able to swallow it. A little patience goes a long way towards catching a limit of flounder."