Flounder fishing is one of my favorite summer pastimes. Over the years, I have tried a multitude of techniques, but I decided that trolling structure with wireline has been the best technique for catching quality fish (18″ plus). I will try and cover tackle, bait, trolling, and location in this discussion.
My basic rod and reel for wirelining flounder is a Penn 330 GTi and a custom rod with .025 single strand stainless wire. My reel has about 150 yards of wire, that has been backed by 60 pound Dacron (I use this same set up for wirelining stripers and gray trout). Terminal tackle consists of a 3/0 three way swivel, and 18″ sinker leader with a loop tied in the end and a 12′ leader tied to a 6/0 circle hook (a 6/0 “L144F” Eagle Claw Kahle hook also works fine). I use a circle hook because the flounder just hook themselves. My leader material is 50 pound mono for the 12′ leader and 80 pound for the sinker leader. The reason for the heavier sinker leader is that fishing rocky and shell bottom will cause the sinker line to chafe and quickly break with 50 pound test. I use enough weight (16 to 32 ounces) to hold bottom slow trolling (as slow as your boat will troll with the current, fishing the CBBT I troll parallel to the Bridge).
I will not troll into a current (tide), because your boat does not cover much bottom. As for bait, a strip bait (bluefish, flounder, Boston mackerel, shark belly, etc.) is my preferred bait. A strip bait is usually about 3/4″ to 1 ½” wide and at least 7″ long (big baits catch big fish). If you use a small minnow and a strip of squid, the little boys will eat you up.
Flounder fishing in the lower Chesapeake Bay really begins when the water temperature reaches at least 55 degrees. The flounder will show first in shallow water, migrating into the Bay and the local tidal rivers. I usually fish for summer flounder during June through October. Since I mainly target large flounders, I will fish locations (structure) that hold them.
By structure, I mean rocky or shelly bottoms, channel edges 30′ to 60′, the pilings of the CBBT, the tunnels and islands of the CBBT, artificial reefs, wrecks, etc. Since flounder feed on smaller fish and small fish need somewhere to hide (or they get eaten), structure is the ticket. The reason for the wireline is that it keeps you from losing all your bottom tackle when you get too close to a piling, reef, wreck or the rocks of the CBBT. I have tried Power Pro and Spider Wire (which are great when drifting channel areas, but are not suitable for the structure of the CBBT). The reason I troll instead of drift, is that trolling covers a lot more bottom.
Once you catch a flounder it is very important to mark the spot on you GPS or Chart Plotter where you were successful. Fish the area where you were successful, marking additional bites. Pretty soon a pattern will develop and the flounder will show up in the same area over and over again. On a typical fishing trip we would launch at Fort Monroe and go the Hampton Bar,
fishing in water 30′ to 60′. If there were any clam boats working the Bar, I would try around them and along the channel edge in 45′ to 50′. If you do not get hung occasionally, then you are not in the right area. If the fish were not on the Bar, I would head to the First and Second Island of the CBBT, fishing in 45′ to 55′ on the Bay side of the Second Island. The more tide that is running, the better the bite will usually be. My next stop would be the deep water between the 2 Bridges of the CBBT (60′ to 50′), near the
Islands. The 12 Mile Post of the CBBT is another good area. I troll the pilings. Some tackle (sinkers and hooks) will be lost, but the quality of flounder will be impressive.
Keep your bait as fresh as you can (dirty baits do not seem to work). Do not be afraid to strip up the white side of the 20″ flounder, because his parents are much bigger than he is! If you desire, skirts, plastic squid, etc, can be added to pretty up you presentation, but a fresh naked strip bait will do the trick. I try and hook my strip bait by the edge of the skin so that it swims and does not spin. I do not want my bait balled up. You do not have to set the hook when you feel the pull of a flounder, just drop your rod tip, count to 10 slow, and wind him in. With circle hooks, they hook themselves. Once you catch Bubba, stay in the area, he lives with buddies.