Summer Flounder are members of the large-tooth flounder family Paralichthyidae. They grow fast and have a relatively short life, about 12 to 14 years. They’re able to reproduce when they reach age 2 or 3. Summer flounder spawn in the fall and early winter when they migrate offshore. They spawn several times throughout the spawning season. Spawning peaks in October and November when water temperatures change and autumn plankton is most productive. The combination of these elements improves the chance of survival for larval summer flounder. Depending on their size, females have between 460,000 and more than 4 million eggs. They release the eggs into the water column and the eggs hatch in waters of the continental shelf. Newly hatched larvae move with the currents toward coastal areas, where they develop into juveniles.
There are typically 5 to 14 ocellated (eye-like) spots on the body. Like most members of the left-eye flounders, they can change the color and pattern of their dark side to match the surrounding bottom, and are also capable of rapidly burrowing into muddy or sandy bottoms. The teeth are quite sharp and well developed on both upper and lower jaws. Summer Flounder have flat bodies. Males grow to more than 2 feet in length and females grow up to 3 feet. Summer Flounder are white below and some shade of brown, gray, or drab above. They’re nicknamed “chameleons of the sea” because they’re able to change their coloring to blend in with the texture and color of the bottom where they live.
Summer Flounder are well known for the aggressive way they grab bait and battle when hooked. They offer a particular challenge to the angler bold enough to use light tackle. Average sized Summer Flounder,weigh about 2 to 4 pounds(1-2kg), while the aptly named "doormats" (so called due to their similarity in size to a welcome mat) weigh 8 or more pounds(4kg) and provide memorable battles for the angler lucky enough to hook them. Shoreline anglers use medium weight spinning gear spooled with 12 pound(6kg) test monofilament line, while boat anglers fishing deeper water with strong currents need 15 to 20 pound(7,5-10kg) test line on light to medium conventional gear to match the larger fish found there.
Summer Flounder can be found on sandy or muddy bottoms in many inshore habitats and are particularly abundant in fast moving rips that gather debris and bait fish. Anglers troll, chum, still-fish and cast for Summer Flounder, but the most popular method is drifting bait along the bottom. When drifting, the bail of the reel should be open and the line held by the finger. Once the line stops drifting and it tugged, it should run free for a moment to let the fish get the bait in its mouth before the hook is set. Casting baited red and white bucktail jigs juiced up with strips of fresh or frozen squid, sand lance, 4 to 5 inch strips of meat cut from the tails of fish such as sea robins or the belly area of a Summer Flounder or Bluefish from boat or shore can also produce fish. The jig should be retrieved with a slow pumping action. When a Summer Flounder grabs the rig the rod tip should be lowered to slacken the line; when the line tightens again, the hook can be set. Try fishing edges of channels, banks, underwater valleys and humps, as big fish ambush bait there.
Summer Flounder are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to the east coast of Florida. In US waters, Summer Flounder is most common in the Mid-Atlantic region from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.