Fall is one of the best times of the year to catch big flounder in the North Suncoast area. While usually a random catch, they gather together and feed more actively in October and November. Recent free-diving trips have revealed good numbers of flounder on shallow rock piles and artificial reefs off Tarpon Springs and New Port Richey. The key is the presence of bait fish, namely scaled sardines. Rocks that have had no bait held few if any flounder, but those that had bait swirling over them were loaded. On one trip we watched as numerous flounder darted off the bottom and grabbed sardines from a densely packed school. The best way to determine which spots have this subsurface bait is with the boat's sonar. For divers these fish can be an easy target. Use a stealthy approach and you can often poke through them into the bottom without pulling the trigger. This helps keep the spear from shooting into the substrate below and getting stuck. For fish sitting on sand, we will also undo one band from our double band spear gun to reduce shooting power. For anglers, the approach is tricky. Gag grouper, sea bass and Spanish mackerel also live on these productive spots, and it can be difficult to get past them long enough for a flounder to find your bait. Small live baits presented on the bottom work the best, but you will have to pick through a lot of other hungry fish to get to them.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at (727) 944-3474.