Winter Flounder Fishing

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By Cali Hvlac

As colder temps roll in, we are starting to notice different species of fish migrate into our Gulf waters – specifically Flounder and Sheepshead. The cooler weather means the fish will school up in one area, making them easier to catch once you track them down.

Flounder and Sheepshead are two popular winter/spring fish that anglers will be targeting in this area. Flounder will start to school up in October as they prepare to migrate during winter with the cooler water, usually heading out into the nearshore gulf areas. The move allows them to settle on natural and artificial reefs to spawn at this time.

Because of their shape, flounder are typically always found on the bottom, where they can burrow into sand to await prey. They hang within 200 yards off the beach, typically at depths of 20 to 60 feet. Common flounder species in the Gulf of Mexico are the gulf flounder and the southern flounder, and odds are the latter will be a much larger fish – with the female southern flounder maxing out around 28 inches. One of the best things about targeting Flounder is that they like to come back for your bait if they miss it the first time, so just hold out and wait on them!

Sheepshead actually become more active with the colder water and are usually found hanging near structures like jetties and bridges, where oysters and barnacles grow. Sheepshead can be a little trickier to catch, as they like to steal your bait and leave the hook exposed. It’s a really subtle bite you’re looking for and once you hook them, you’re in for a fight.

Both these fish are abundant, so the season is open year-round for these species. The limit per angler is 10 flounder per day, and 15 sheepshead per day. Many anglers will tell you they love catching these fish and bringing them home for dinner. Both species are considered prime seafood, with a delicious white meat that’s never oily or “fishy” in taste. Before it gets too cold, we recommend getting out and hitting the waters to stock up while they’re easy to find!