NC reefs: a good, last-chance shot for big flounder

Jon Hall, an officer with the N.C. Marine Patrol, caught this 22-inch flounder around an artificial reef off Oak Island on one of his day-off fishing trips.

Flounder closure is likely as anglers rake them in

It appears that flounder fishing will close sometime soon, and many fishermen are making the best of the last few days in a year that has been a good one for flounder in the ocean off Cape Fear. Some might say it’s been an exceptional year considering how the past few played out.

The waters off North Carolina’s southeastern coast has an abundance of nearshore artificial reefs and shipwrecks, plus a fair amount of rocky outcroppings. Most have been holding flounder this spring and summer. And some have been holding a lot of flounder. Anglers have also caught a higher percentage of keeper flounder than in recent years.

Yaupon Reef (AR 425) off Oak Island is one of the state’s most-popular artificial reefs. It is about 5 miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and about 1 1/2 miles off the beach. Tom McGlammery Reef (AR 420), 1 1/2 miles farther offshore, and the Jim Knight Reef (AR 330), a few miles west, complete the close-in reefs off Oak Island.

Civil War wrecks scatter the ocean floor here, attracting flounder and baitfish

Eight more nearshore artificial reefs lie between Wrightsville Beach to Ocean Isle Beach. The locations and layout of these reefs are available on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries website, Anglers from Ocean Isle and Sunset beaches fish the Jim Caudle Reef heavily. It is barely across the S.C. line out of Little River Inlet.

This area was a hotbed of blockade-runner activity during the Civil War. And numerous blockade runner wrecks are scattered along the beaches and around shallow inlets. Along with a few, scattered rock outcroppings, some flounder prefer them to the man-made flounder habitat.

Fishermen target ocean flounder in two ways. One technique uses live baits fished on the bottom. The second is vertical jigging, pioneered by the late Jimmy Price, a longtime Southport guide. It involves using a bucktail jig and trailer that is jigged vertically a foot or so above the bottom and falls back to the bottom. This technique is productive, sometimes even more effective than using live baits.

The primary live-bait rig is a Carolina rig. Price made it heavier, with 30-pound mono or fluorocarbon instead of 20, to handle the abrasion from all the structure. He also used a short leader to prevent the bait from hiding in the structure.

Click here for tips on how to set the hook on flounder.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1171 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.