Tidelines – Aug 30, 2018
After three tournaments into 2018, their third season of weighing in flounder and red drum for Fisherman’s Post inshore events, it was time for weigh masters John Metzger and Ryan Glass (Simba) to be the ones catching, so we made plans with Capt. Luke Donat of Spot On Charters about a week before the Southport Inshore Challenge. We wanted to target reds and flounder in the Cape Fear River, and since Luke hunts these two species in the river on a daily basis, he was an obvious choice.
All of the recent rain, Luke predicted, would have his upriver spots too flushed with freshwater to be productive, so we headed down river from Snow’s Cut to target some creeks in the Bald Head Island area.
The tide wasn’t perfect when we arrived, so he decided on a spot that works well through multiple tide stages. Once we had Power-Poled along a grass line on one side of the channel, Luke started to tell us why we were here.
“There’s a deep hole towards the center,” Luke explained, “and it stays deep through the full tide cycle. On one side of the creek there’s super heavy current and a dramatic drop-off, and on the other side there’s a slow, gradual slope where the current is a little slowed up.”
“Flounder like to go up and down on this gradual slope. They like a certain amount of current and a certain amount of depth, so the gradual slope makes this a good place to flounder fish throughout the day—not just one point in the tide cycle.”
We soaked a couple of live baits off the bow and stern and right along the grass line, hoping the mullets would find the red drum that like to patrol the area in packs of 2 or 3. Then Metzger, Simba, and I started fan casting live mullets toward the middle, hoping to find some flatfish.
The reds were the first to strike, first for Metzger and then second for me. Metzger’s drum measured out at 25”, and so it went into the livewell. Though off duty, the two weigh masters each ruled with Luke that my pinched-tail red was 27.5”, so the fish went swimming off after a couple of photos.
Before we could say it was now time for Simba to catch a fish, he was fast to something that was acting like our other target species. Soon a head-shaking-then dip, head-shaking-then-dip, keeper flounder came into Luke’s waiting landing net.
Setting a hook on a flounder can sometimes be a guessing game. Do I set it now? Do I wait and let him eat? Wait longer? Set now?
Luke liked how Simba’s hook was perfectly sitting in the flounder’s mouth, so he directed our attention to the hookset and told us about his flounder rigs.
“I use a Carolina rig, but a little different Carolina rig,” Luke said, holding up the hook that had just come out of Simba’s flatfish. “Instead of kahle, I use a modified circle hook. There’s a non-snelled loop on the hook. I snell the hook anyway, so when it pulls, it pulls sideways. I find it makes for a much more dependable flounder hook set.”
“Also, the circle hook with a bigger, wider bend is better with live bait. The modified circle hook allows live bait to swim more naturally, and the barb remains better exposed when the live bait swims, as opposed to the kahle where the barb often rests right up against a live bait that is swimming around.”
Luke’s been one of our more popular instructors every winter at the Fisherman’s Post Saltwater Fishing Schools, and his description and reasoning behind just the hook selection in a Carolina rig is one of the reasons why he’s so popular.
We somehow got on the topic of flounder “scaling” a bait, and Luke had clearly put a lot of thought into this aspect of flounder fishing, too.
I’ll let Luke explain: “It is in my humble opinion that flounder don’t scale the bait, and that’s because they don’t have an opposable thumb. They don’t want to take the chance of losing the bait they just worked for, and it makes no sense that they would scale the bait. There’s no other fish out there that scales its bait.”
“The reason I believe that to be the case relates to the traditional kahle hook that’s being used when people set the hook. Flounder have more of an alligator mouth than anything. They have a three-hinge mouth. They will clamp down like an alligator and won’t let go, but if you pull hard enough, you can pull that bait completely out of its mouth. When that happens, the flounder is raking its teeth across the scales, and that’s where I believe people think a flounder scales its baits.”
Metzger, Simba, and I ended up catching more reds and several more flounder, with way more keepers than short fish going into the net. And since the three of us have worked together for years now, of course the day was ripe with bad jokes and smack talk, such as the old man hat that Metzger wore and the 3-4 times that Simba didn’t notice that the bail wasn’t flipped on his reel and snapped the line while casting a topwater.
Luke continued our flounder and red drum education throughout the day, touching on such topics as his favorite type of mullet, jigging the live bait instead of using a slow retrieve, optimizing the angle for the flounder hook set, and flounder following baits back to the boat.
If this sounds like the type of inshore fishing trip you’d like to go on, one where you both catch fish and learn way more about flounder and red drum fishing than you can retain, then check out Capt. Luke Donat of Spot On Charters. You can look him up on Facebook, or call him direct at (910) 200-9331.
And after your trip with Luke, please enter a Fisherman’s Post tournament and bring flounder and red drum in for Metzger and Simba to weigh in. Just be sure to closely watch that 27” mark on your measuring stick.