How to catch flounder

Flounder are a group of flatfish found in all Australian coastal waters.

They are most often targeted in our southern waters.

There are many species, but most recreational effort is for smalltooth flounder Pseudorhombus jenynsii, longsnout flounder Ammotretis rostratus, largetoothed flounder Pseudorhombus arsius and greenback flounder Rhombosolea tapirina.

All have much the same habits.

Unlike the giant flatfish of the northern hemisphere, Australia’s flounder are relatively small fish, but well worth catching as they are good to eat.

They can be caught on rod and line using tiny baits or lures, but most fishos harvest them using a spear and torch in shallow waters at night.

They are best targeted on calm nights, when they are easier to see in the sand.

They can be collected by dragging an inner tube and bag or bucket to hold the speared fish.

Flounder live in the shallowest coastal waters right out to 100m and beyond, but are mostly fished in sheltered bays and estuaries and river mouths.

Night spearing has become much easier since bright LED waterproof torches and lightweight lithium batteries became available, ending the need to tow a heavy car battery and torch through the shallows.

A submerged light can be used to find the fish, see an eBay listing for these here.

In cold waters neoprene waders provide insulation and make spearing more pleasant, while also offering some limited protection from stingrays. See waders on eBay here.
Good footwear is essential because of spiny fish and small stingrays that can pierce sandshoes or thongs.

Some fishos spear from large kayaks or flat bottom boats that are stable and can move through shallow water.

The best time to spear is on the calmest nights either side of high tide, regardless of moon phase or clouds.

Look for flounder where there are broad areas of shallows with a reasonably firm mud/sand bottom.

Flathead are often found in the same areas.

Before spearing check local regulations. Though most states allow flounder spearing there are restrictions in some estuaries.

To catch them on rod and line, use a light spinning outfit of around 3kg and small long-shank baitholder hooks around Size 10 on a running-sinker rig.

Baitholder hooks have barbs on the shank which help prevent the bait sliding down the hook, which is important with flounder fishing as you will probably drift the bait or retrieve it slowly to locate the fish.

Bait up with fresh sandworm, tubeworm or bloodworm or prawn. Whitebait will also work but being soft may not resist much movement of the bait.

Flounder can be caught in the day but are more active in the shallows at night.

They can be caught all year, although there may be localised congregations in some estuaries in spring.

Spearing at night is more comfortable in summer when southern waters are warm.

Sole, another species of flatfish, may also be seen in flounder habitat but are generally too small to be worth catching.

There are many species of flounder, with 15 in South Australian waters alone. In Victoria and South Australia, the greenback flounder is the main species caught, growing to around 42cm, while Tasmanian fishos catch mainly the greenback and longsnout flounder, while West Australians catch mostly the smalltoothed and largetoothed flounders.

The largetoothed flounder grows to 45cm and is found right around Australia.

The Australian halibut Psettodes erumei is found in northern waters and grows to 65cm, but is rarely caught by recreational fishermen, perhaps simply because it is not targeted.

By comparison, the Atlantic halibut Hippoglossus hippoglossus grows to 320kg and 4.7m.

To cook Aussie flounder, grill or barbecue the whole fish or pan fry in butter with salt and pepper.

It is possible to fillet out four pieces of meat from a reasonably large flounder frame.

Serve with a fine white wine.

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