Description: A flat, oval-shaped fish found throughout North Carolina’s estuaries. Southern flounder are brown on their left side with numerous dark and light spots and blotches, but they are not ringed or ocellated as are other flounder species. The right side of a southern flounder is white.
Size: Typical Southern flounder catches range from 15 to 18 inches, but the fish can grow to as large as 33 inches. Citations are given for flounder weighing 5 pounds or more.
Sometimes confused with: summer flounder, Gulf flounder
Habitat: Southern flounder are found in the oceans and estuarine waters along the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia to southeast Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Eating habits: Southern flounder are predators that ambush prey from the bottom where they lie camouflaged under a thin layer of mud or sand. Large flounder feed on blue crab, shrimp and other fish.
Life cycle: Southern flounder spend the early portion of their lives in the lower-salinity portions of the coastal rivers and sounds. The fish reach sexual maturity around age 2 and spawn offshore in the fall and winter. The post-larval and juvenile fish move into the estuarine nursery areas for food and cover.
Fishing tips: Anglers catch Southern flounder using live fish, such as finger mullet, on a single-hooked rig and artificial lures. Southern flounder are caught under bridges and docks and in the nearshore ocean. Fishermen plug for flounder with jigs along soundside marshes. They also catch flounder at night with gigs and spears from boats equipped with lights.