Surf Fishing for Flounder: Everything You Need to Know

Surf fishing for flounder is a lot of fun! There are a few things you need to know before hitting the beach. We’ll discuss the different types of flounder, the best tackle for catching flounder, and provide some tips for catching more flounder.

Types of Flounder

There are several different species within the flounder family. Let’s learn a little about each type so we know exactly what we’re trying to catch.

Summer Flounder

Summer Flounder (fluke) are a very popular surf fishing target. The species is most common along the Mid-Atlantic coast, from the Carolinas up to Cape Cod. They range between 2 – 3 feet in length and can weigh over 20 lbs.

Winter Flounder

Winter flounder (blackbacks) are can be found between North Carolina and Canada, and are most common north of the Delaware beaches. They can grow to be over 2 feet long and can weigh up to 6 or 7 lbs.

Southern Flounder

The southern flounder can be found along the east coast of Florida, in the Gulf, and along the Texas coast. Males southern flounders only grow to about 1 foot, but females can be over 2 feet long. Female southern flounders move offshore to spawn from late fall through winter.

Gulf Flounder

Gulf flounder are similar to southern flounder and inhabit some of the same areas in the Gulf of Mexico. This variety of flounder are normally smaller than southern flounder. Gulf flounder will migrate offshore when they become adults.

How to Catch Flounder

Here are our recommendations for the best tackle and the best time to catch more flounder.

Best Rod and Reel Setup When Surf Fishing for Flounder

The best setup for you is largely dependent on where you’re located, and how versatile you need it to be. A longer rod is a virtual necessity for surf fishing, and you’ll want to pair it to a reel in the 6000-8000 class range. 

If you’ll mainly be targeting flounder with the rod, a medium power spinning rod that can handle lures up to 4-ounces in the 10-12’ range is ideal. Look for something heavier if you need a rod that’s versatile enough to handle larger fish.

Best Bait for Flounder

Surf anglers rely on a variety of different baits to land flounder. These time-tested varieties represent your best shot at a trophy fluke. 

Live Baits

Both live bait and dead baits prove to be among the most effective when targeting flatfish. Flounder and fluke are far from picky when it comes to live baits. These fish are quick to chomp on killies, spearing, baby bluefish, minnows, peanut bunker, clams, squid (whole or strips), worms, and much more. 

When it comes to surf fishing for flounder, a fluke sandwich is a proven winner. Rig up a killie, spearing, or peanut bunker in between two strips of squid; the flatties can’t resist! 

Spinners & Spoons

Spinners, spoons, beads, and other flashy add-ons can prove deadly when targeting flounder. Spinner bodies and spoons provide water disturbance and noise which trigger aggressive strikes from fluke. Adding beads for a bit of noise helps seal the deal. 

Artificial Baits

Artificial baits have become some of the most popular for targeting flatties, thanks to their convenience and effectiveness. 

Zman’s DoorMatadorZ have quickly become a favorite, and they offer incredible elasticity for lifelike underwater motion. The material is also tough enough to withstand a flounder’s chomping. 


Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet

While DoorMatadorZ are a viable option, most inshore anglers agree that Gulp is the best choice for artificial flounder bait. The swimming mullets are usually a hit with flounder, but the grub shape is even deadlier. 

Best Rig for Flounder Surf Fishing 

Flounder and fluke will hit a variety of rigs, but there are a few, in particular, that are ideal for surf fishing. Here are a few you’ll want to try. 

High-Low Rig

A proven killer for flounder fishing, this classic bait rig allows you to rig a sinker at the bottom while fishing two different baits. The first bait presents along the seafloor, in line with the sinker, while the second bait is suspended about a foot higher. 

A high-low rig is especially productive in the summer when flounder are more inclined to rise towards the surface.

Fish Finder Rig

When surf fishing for flounder, a fish finder rig might be the best of all. This rig is ideal for live baits and leisurely trips to the beach where you chuck your bait out and throw the rod in a sand spike. 

This simple rig involves a 2-3-foot leader with a 3/0-5/0 bait hook on one end and a barrel swivel on the other. Above the leader, attach either a bank sinker with a fishfinder slide or an egg sinker. Placing beads in between the sinker slide and the swivel will help preserve your knot as the sinker bangs against the swivel. 

The fish finder rig allows the bait to move independently of the weight. An intelligent fish like a flounder can take the bait without realizing there’s something, er, fishy going on with it. 

Best Time of Year to Catch Flounder

Flounder are plentiful up and down the east coast and the gulf, but the best time to catch flounder varies by region. Here’s the best time to get out there and slay some flatties depending on where you live. 

  • Northeast: Winter flounder fishing is hottest from April to June, while the summer season offers ample opportunities to target fluke from June through September.
  • Mid-coast: Flounder fishing from Maryland through the Carolinas heats up from May to September.
  • Southeast: The southeast offers bountiful flounder fishing through the late spring and summer months, but you can target the species year-round from the surf. 
  • Gulf coast: The fish tend to spend the colder season in deeper water, returning to the coast in the spring and fall when water temperatures are around 72-degrees or lower. 

Flounder Fun Fact: Flounders are flat fish and have both of their eyes on one side of their body. Unlike other fish, they rest on their side, with both of their eyes facing the same directions.

Best Time of Day to Catch Flounder

A flounder rarely passes up a good meal, and they can certainly be caught at all hours of the day. When fishing from shore, there are some variables you’ll need to use to your advantage to catch more fish. 

As the tide rises and pushes bait towards the shore, flatfish move along with them, settling in for an easy meal. When surf fishing for flounder, your best bet is to head out about an hour or two before peak tide and fish through as the tide recedes. 

Questions & Answers

Here is some additional information to help you catch some flounder.

What Size Hook is Best for Flounder?

Hook sizing is especially important when fishing for flounder and other flatfish. Too small, and you risk missing the hookset while encouraging more short fish to take the bait, too large, and you’ll have just as many issues setting the hook. 

A 3/0-5/0 bait hook or wide gap hook is ideal for flounder fishing from shore.

What is the Best Line for Flounder? 

Anglers have been catching fish with monofilament lines for nearly a century, but braid has become the line of choice for flounder fishermen. 

Braided line provides higher abrasion resistance, allows you to cast further, fit more line on the spool, and limit scope in heavier currents. 

But, braid doesn’t offer the same forgiving “give” of monofilament or fluorocarbon line, making it more difficult to free yourself from snags or finesse a large fish to the shore. 

Flounder anglers typically employ a 15-30-pound test braid for their mainline and attach a 20-40-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to provide the best of both worlds. 

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing