“Flatfish” is a term that applies to quite a couple of species in the Scophthalmidae family. Brill, turbot, plaice, dab and flounder, are the most common ones, they’re quite similar and most of the times anglers have difficulties telling which one’s which. When it comes to their fishing, methods and tackle pretty much apply for any of them, as they pretty much have the same diet and similar living and feeding habits.
Where to Catch Flatfish
The shape of their body speaks for itself. Flatties are bottom fish, waiting for their prey on the sea (or estuary) floor, sometimes buried in the sand or gravel, with only their eyes bugging out. They prefer long expanses with sandy or muddy bottoms to camouflage better as they wait for their prey. Flounders (and other species as well), for example, can be caught in very short ranges from the shore, sometimes less than 10 meters. Also, flatties can be caught in estuaries, and sometimes they swim quite far up on rivers, and so can be caught in fresh water, along fresh water fish.
Although flatfish prefer sandy bottoms, they can also be caught in places rich in seaweeds, which usually are richer in food sources.
Still fishing from the shore or piers is one of the most common ways for catching flatties. They can also be caught by float fishing on a slow tide, and in this case, you should conduct firs some rigorous measurements of the depth, to be sure your bait will always be on the bottom, or at least very close to the bottom. On estuaries, flatfish can be caught on lures, especially on jigs. Finally, trolling against the current, and using either heavy lures or various rigs, is another way to catch these nice fish.
Bait and Lures for Flatfish
Some of the best baits used for flounder in the UK, are peeler crabs and ragworms. However, flatfish show a lot of interest in many other baits. You can be sure you’ll catch at least a few ones, using mackerel, herring or squid strips, mussels or other shellfish, minnows, mullets or shrimp. Although a big flattie won’t shy away from a big bait, they like their food smaller, especially when it comes to crustaceans, since they don’t possess a lot of crushing strength to break their shells. They prefer their food fresh and neatly looking, so, especially if you’re practicing still fishing from the shore of from a pier, change the bait more often if it becomes raggedy. They also like their bait on the move, and even for still fishing, chances are you’ll get the most hits when you’re recovering your rigs to check on the bait.
In terms of lures, spinner baits and jigs of about 1-2 oz., brown, yellow and red colored, have brought the best results for me. I’ve seen anglers catching flatfish though, with just an empty red hook and a few red beads on the line, right on top of the hook.
I haven’t tried crankbaits so far, but the ones that mimic shrimp should bring some results in waters where there are plenty of shrimp and flatfish feed on them. The thing is, depending on the water depth and conditions, it might not be that easy to drag a plug at the right depth.
Rods. Since fishing for flatfish is mostly done from a beach, you’re most definitely need a surf fishing rod. These are usually 3.6 to 4 meters long, medium, or medium-heavy power, and medium action. Here are two recommendations (quite cheap) for a surf rod:
Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rod
Okuma Tundra Surf Glass Spinning Rod
On the other hand, if you’re fishing on an estuary, from a longer dock or from a boat, a shorter stick about 7’=8′ long, medium or medium heavy and moderate action, should be more handy, especially if you’re actively fishing with jigs or live baits. You can always go with Ugly Stiks, Daiwas, Calstar Grafighter, or St. Croix rods of within the specs mentioned.
Reels. Since the most suitable test line for flatfish is somewhere between 15-20 lb., it’s best to use an appropriate reel for such line. Here are some recommendations:
Line. The ideal line for flatfish should stand somewhere between 15-20 lb. test, braided if possible, because it has superior abrasion resistance. However, if you’re not expecting bigger fish, you can drop it to 12-14lb.
Rigs. When it comes to the rigs used for flounders, there’s quite a variety to be mentioned. I usually go with the basic 2-hook rig, on a 20lb. fluorocarbon leader, with a 4 oz. sinker. However, if you prefer active fishing, recuperating the line more often, here’s a different rig: diamond jig rig.
Hooks. Choose the size of your hooks depending on what bait you’re using. Bigger bait, normally calls for bigger hooks. Also, if you’re using fish strips or ragworms, it’s best to use hooks with a longer shank. But as a general idea, never go with hooks smaller than no. 4, or bigger than 6/0, if flatfish are on your fishing list for the day.