Spring is an excellent time to catch big keeper flounder because they’re available in easily accessible locations including tidal creeks, canals, and inland bays. You don’t need a big boat and you don’t have to go far to catch limits of fat flounder in the spring!
The water in the ocean and bays is still cool. However, water in the shallows is heated by the sun and usually a few degrees warmer. Baitfish, and predatory flounder, are attracted to the warmer water in shallow creeks and canals, including the Lewes/Rehoboth Canal in Delaware, the channels at Wachapreague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and the thousands of locations just like them from New York to North Carolina.
Wind, Tide Can Make Drifting Tough
One of the biggest challenges to effectively fishing canals and channels is the wind. The worst is when the wind is against the tide, which makes a decent drift all but impossible. The best-case scenario is when a gentle breeze blows straight down the canal or channel with the tide, but that’s a rare occurrence, especially in the spring. What we’re often confronted with is wind blowing across the tide and across the canal or channel.
Bob Baker with a mount of the huge 11-pound doormat flounder he caught in Lewes Canal in Delaware using power drifting techniques.
A cross wind will constantly push the boat sideways and out of the middle of the canal, minimizing productive fishing time. However, hands-on "power drifting" will keep the boat properly positioned, and keep the baits in the strike zone for the longest periods of time. Bob Baker of Seaford, Del., an expert when it comes to catching flounder at Wachapreague, demonstrated for me just how effective power drifting can be.
When he sets up to drift, he makes sure he has the transom of his boat into the wind, and he puts the motor in neutral, but does not shut it off. Baits are lowered to the bottom and the drift begins as the boat moves with the tide. But as soon as the wind pushes the boat out of the middle of the channel, Baker nudges the motor into reverse and quickly moves the boat back to the middle, then he puts the motor back into neutral.
Drifting: Using Motor Helps Position Boat
He may repeat this zigzag pattern of boat re-positioning once every minute, or even more frequently if needed — sometimes 40 to 60 times during a single drift. It’s usually possible to keep the lines in the water while he’s doing it, but if necessary, lines are reeled in, as Baker allows nothing to interfere with maintaining boat position in the middle of the channel.
Power drifting is worth the effort because it keeps the boat over the fish, keeps baits in the strike zone, and eliminates unproductive fishing time that occurs when the wind is allowed to push the boat out of the center of the channel.
He uses reverse to re-position because the wind pushing against the wide stern makes it easier to control the boat and provides for more pinpoint boat maneuvering. Attempting to re-position the boat in forward usually results in the wind pushing against one side of the bow or the other, causing the boat to turn or spin.
Maintaining proper boat positioning so baits stay in the strike zone is critically important when it comes to consistently catching big springtime flounder.
High Tide Productive
In creeks and channels during the early season, the beginning of an outgoing tide is usually most productive. An especially good time is when there’s a high tide in the afternoon on a sunny day. High tide spreads shallow water over a large area, in some places it’s only inches deep, and is warmed quickly by the sun. Then, as the tide starts to fall, small crabs and baitfish are washed from the shallows, putting flounder on the feed.
It gets more difficult each season to catch flounder big enough to keep, as minimum size limits get larger and larger. Be sure to call or visit the websites of the fisheries departments in the states you fish so you’re well aware of size and possession limits, and any closed season.
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