Catching saltwater fish requires a lot of careful thought, especially when it comes to timings. Unlike freshwater species, when we talk about the best time to catch flounder, we are dictated primarily by the tide instead of our watch.
When is the best time to fish for flounder? As a general rule, you’ll want to fish around high tide.
As to why this is so, I’m going to explain what goes on under the water so you can get the best possible understanding and hopefully catch more fish.
Read on to find out more…
Table of Contents
- What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder?
- Inshore vs Offshore – Does it Make a Difference?
- Do I Need Anything Special for Flounder Fishing?
- When are Flounder Most Active?
- Is it Better to Catch Flounder in the Morning or Evening?
- Flounder Fishing Times Broken Down into Seasons
- Can I Catch Flounder at Night?
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What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder?
Want the truth?
Flounder don’t run so heavily based on the time of the day, but the time of the tide. All that said, if you are looking for the absolute optimum time to catch flounder, I’d suggest fishing during the early morning if it coincides with the run of the tide.
There are lots of factors to consider when fishing for flounder.
Let’s run through a few of the reasons that the above time is the best to fish.
Flatfish and the Tide
To understand why the high tide is the ideal time to catch flounder, you have to have a little understanding of flatfish behavior.
Let’s start from the basics. It’ll only take a second.
As you’ll be aware, all coastal regions have a tide. It comes in roughly twice over 24 hours and goes out again in a perpetual cycle.
What we are interested in is high tide.
As the tide rises, it floods areas that we could probably consider ‘dry land’. This gives fish, specifically flounder, access to all of the goodies lying on or under the sand. Small creatures, like nematode worms, mollusks and crabs make their way up to the surface, and the flounder like to be there to gobble them up.
And it isn’t limited to when the tide is rising either.
When the tide falls from high to low, those goodies on the beach are washed into the water. Flounder will wait a little way offshore with their noses into the tide for these treats to be washed towards them on the outgoing tide.
When sea fishing, you’ll find in 99.9% of cases that you’ll catch more fish when the moon is bright. Brighter moons allow fish to see more clearly. What’s more, often, algal blooms are triggered by moonlight, meaning that the ocean is awash with all sorts of tiny creatures.
All of which flounder love to eat.
If you see a full moon and the tides coincide with this, it is time to grab the rods and go fishing.
I know I don’t have to tell you this, but…
The sea contains a vast amount of water. And as a result, it takes a long time to heat up and cool down. I’m talking weeks and months, not days.
What does this mean for you as an angler?
Well, most fish love warmer water. But the ‘season’ in the sea will lag significantly behind the seasons we know up on dry land.
Summer isn’t the warmest month for sea temperatures, and winter isn’t the coldest. You need to knock each season on to get a true picture, with fall being the warmest and spring being the coldest.
Time of Day
Do yourself a favor.
Next time you’ve got free time and fancy a trip, head to the beach at sunrise.
I guarantee you’ll see more than you will at any other time of the day. The morning provides the optimal time for most wildlife to feed. The lower light conditions provide cover for sub-aqua species.
However, there are still plenty of creatures that will be out looking to take advantage, flounder among them.
The bottom line?
If you can combine a few of the above factors by fishing at dawn, following a full moon around high tide, you have an excellent chance of landing the flounder of a lifetime.
Inshore vs Offshore – Does it Make a Difference?
A boat, Bob?
Why would I need one of those? A few feet of tide aren’t going to make a difference out at sea, right?
My friend, it can make a difference…
That said, while tide does affect fish feeding behavior, it is less pronounced when fishing offshore.
While you can catch flounder all year round from the shore, you’ll find that the optimal seasons are the shoulder months around the fall and the end of summer. During these times, the flounder will come in to take advantage of the relatively warmer water found in shallower areas.
Outside of these times, your best bet for catching flounder is to jump on a boat and head out to deeper water, where the temperature is more consistently stable. You’ll also be able to gain access to features that might not be reachable from the shore. Keep a good lookout for sandbars next to substantial drop-offs, as these can be ideal flounder holding areas.
Flounder spawn in the colder months, and due to the tidal nature of the sea (and the fact that if they spawned in shallow area’s their roe would be left on dry land), they’ll head out into deeper water.
Do I Need Anything Special for Flounder Fishing?
If you are fishing from the shore for flounder, I’d recommend a decent pair of saltwater wading boots, essential if you want to cast past that ‘third breaker’.
Flounder, being a flatfish, is a little bit of a funny shape, but you’ll be amazed at how easily they are deep hooked.
You are definitely going to need a good pair of saltwater fishing pliers.
When are Flounder Most Active?
Flounder are most active during the first few hours of the morning when fishing inshore. If you are heading out to sea to fish offshore, flat sandy areas often yield the best results mid-afternoon.
Let me share a secret with you.
Flounder love burrowing and digging into soft ground.
Do you know where the best place to find this is?
If you fish near the mouth of a river, you’ll find the best time to catch flounder is any time that the tide is flooding in and the river mouth is filling.
Is it Better to Catch Flounder in the Morning or Evening?
I must admit, I’ve always had the biggest amount of success catching flounder in the morning, provided the tide was right.
Ideally, you are looking for two things.
Low light levels and a flooding tide. Both of these can often be found in the morning.
The evening can also be a great time to fish for flounder. But you will still want a decent tide coming in if you want to have the greatest chance of success.
Flounder Fishing Times Broken Down into Seasons
The Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder in Spring
Spring definitely falls into what I’d classify as the colder months, both in terms of water temperature and air temperature. You aren’t going to get much in the way of sunshine heating the sea.
What’s more, this is prime flounder spawning time, meaning they aren’t present in any large numbers inshore.
It almost certainly will be time to head out in a boat if you want to catch them.
You’ll be gaining access to deeper water and fish-holding features that aren’t as dependent on the tide. Because the water is deeper, it tends to have a more stable temperature, which is influenced by truly colossal events (like the gulf stream) more than the localized season where you are.
If you are fishing offshore, the ideal time to go is early in the morning fishing through to the late afternoon.
The Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder in Summer
Summer starts to fall into the category of the warmer months.
But, remember what I said right at the start.
The water temperature lags behind the season. It is only in the late summer that you’ll see significant numbers of flounder returning inshore. You might get lucky depending on the localized conditions.
If the water is warming up and you can coincide it with the tide, the best time to go flounder fishing is early in the morning, when they will be less cautious due to the low light conditions. You might struggle during the height of the day. Flounder love eating in shallow water in the warmer months, making them a prime target for airborne predators.
Summer is the ideal time to have a go at night fishing for flounder too. The warmer temperatures and relatively short hours of darkness mean it is a great time to sit outside in relative comfort.
The Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder in Fall
Early fall is bumper flounder season.
Well, for a start, they are done spawning and won’t be preoccupied.
The water will be the warmest it will get to. This means that life, or flounder food as I like to call it, will be abundant, and they’ll be coming in on the flooding tide to gorge themselves.
During the fall, especially late fall, flounder will be eating all they can, ready to head back out to sea for the winter.
Again, early in the morning can be a great time to catch flounder, but you’ll find that they are around all day long, depending on the conditions.
The Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder in Winter
Your hands are a little tied in winter for a few reasons.
For a start…
Flounder will begin to make their way back out into the deeper stretches of the sea as the water inshore begins to cool down, meaning that offshore fishing may start to become your best choice.
Furthermore, there are fewer small fish, crabs, and other creatures to eat in the shallower water.
Finally, daylight is limited during the winter, so unless you want to fish at night, your options regarding the best time to fish are going to be limited.
Faced with all of the above, I suggest you let the tide and little else dictate the best time to try fishing for flounder. If it’s daylight, go for it!
Can I Catch Flounder at Night?
Here’s something great you must know.
Yes, you can catch flounder at night! In fact, it is one of the best times to try.
Unlike freshwater species, it is extremely unlikely that any saltwater fish you catch will have been hooked before.
Why is that a good thing?
Well, saltwater species have a trait that you don’t often find in freshwater fish.
Curiosity instead of wariness.
If you look at a freshwater discipline like carp fishing, anglers will be doing their utmost to hide any signs of hooks and rigs.
Not so with flounder fishing, especially at night.
You’ll find flounder rigs generally are adorned with brightly colored beads and spinning blades. This is precisely so the fish can see them. They’ll make a real effort to come and check them out!
And at night time, you can use this natural curiosity to your advantage. Glow in the dark beads work really well to attract flounder. They will make a beeline for anything unusual on the uniformly flat sand.
Sea fish are nearly always attracted to bright lights too, so if you can fish off a well-lit jetty, harbor wall, or pier, then give it a go!
If you are going to fish at night, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need close to hand. Why not check out my article on the best tackle bags for saltwater right here.
When discussing the best time to catch flounder, I’d say in most cases, try and aim for early morning and combine that time with a rising tide.
The most productive months tend to be around the late summer and early fall, with flounder being caught offshore during the colder months.
Tide is the most important factor, and the rest is an added bonus.
What’s the biggest flounder you have caught, and where did you catch it? Let me know in the comments below.