Count to three to ID gulf flounder

A triangle of three dark, eye-like spots identifies this flatfish as a Gulf flounder.

Of the three flounder species that inhabit waters off the North Carolina coast — summer southern and Gulf — the Gulf flounder is the least plentiful.

Anglers seldom encounter them inside, in coastal sounds, creeks and rivers, but they catch them around inlets, ledges and artificial reefs. They make up about 5 percent of the total flounder catch in North Carolina’s ocean waters.

Anglers can identify a Gulf flounder by its three eye-like spots, aka ocelli. They are dark in the center with distinct rings, and they form a triangle with the apex located on the fish’s body near the base of the tail. The two other spots are a bit less than halfway down the body from the back of the head. In younger or juvenile fish, the ocelli are more distinct, and smaller fish lack many any other indistinct blotches and spots, giving them an overall gray appearance except for the three prominent spots. That makes the identification of the younger fish much easier.

About Mike Marsh 356 Articles
Mike Marsh is a freelance outdoor writer in Wilmington, N.C. His latest book, Fishing North Carolina, and other titles, are available at

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