The Key to Catching Flounder in Cooler Weather

Phil Whitehouse with a Flounder he caught on a CAL jig with a Shad tail.
Phil Whitehouse with a Flounder he caught on a CAL jig with a Shad tail.

The fall season brings cooler and shorter days. The reality of the change for me is when Daylight Savings Time ends. “Spring forward, fall back” is what I hear, but for me it just means that I come in from fishing an hour earlier because of the earlier sunset time. It also means that it’s flounder time. With cooler weather from cold fronts like the one that we experienced last weekend, water temperatures drop. Summer’s heat dissipates as the front takes the edge off the temperature, and for most Suncoast fish, it’s a welcomed feeling.
Looking at the comfort range for most fish that live in our waters, the low-to mid-seventies are about the prime zone for comfort. Flounder thrive in 58-to 77-degree water temperature. Gulf water temperature has now dropped to 77-degrees. What this means is that in the shallow waters of Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas, fish move in from the Gulf, and the flounder is one such fish that begins to invade the flats, particularly on the incoming tide.
Flounder are not a wary fish. They will hit baits multiple times in an attempt to eat them, and will even follow baits up to the boat. About the only things you can do to keep from catching these fish are to work baits too fast and work them above the bottom. Flounder lay on the bottom waiting to ambush baits like killifish and shrimp. There are a number of lures that can catch these flat fish, but there is a handful I call “flounder pounders”. They sink and they can be worked slowly on the bottom and look natural. Many lures will work, but some of my favorite flounder lures are the 3-inch DOA Shrimp, the new 4-inch CAL Shad, the MirrOlure 4-inch Marsh Minnow, the MirrOlure Lil’ John, and the Saltwater Assassin 4-inch Sea Shad. I may vary the weight of jig heads based on depth or current, but usually I’ll use a ¼-ounce CAL Jig head on the CAL Shad and Saltwater Assassin’s Sea Shad, and a 1/8-ounce CAL jig head on the MirrOlure Marsh Minnow and the Lil’ John. This group of lures consistently produces flounder anywhere for me, but the key to catching them is to work them slowly on the bottom.