Originally Published in Coastal Angler Boston June 2013: Boston Harbor Blackbacks – Capt. Tim Egenrieder, AnglerFish Guides
One of my earliest memories and definitely my earliest saltwater fishing memory is being barely able to hold a rod and feeling the tap, tap, tap and surprisingly strong fight of a flounder. With my Dad’s help, I was able to reel it in and remember staring in awe at this peculiar creature.
The winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus of the family Pleuronectidae, is a flatfish that almost always has its eyes on the right side of its body. They are also known as Blackbacks and lemon sole. Winter flounder range from Labrador, Canada to Georgia. Unlike most species, winter flounder move into shallower water to breed in the winter and then retreat to the deep in summer. The majority of the spawn occurs from late February through early May in our waters. Each female produces 500,000 to 1.5 Million eggs annually. These fish live to be up to 20 years old and grow up to 28” and 8 pounds.
Flounder Capital of the World:
As I worked the fishing and boating show circuit this winter, I was consistently asked various forms of the same question – “How is the flounder fishing in Boston Harbor? I remember coming up there as a kid and renting a boat in Quincy and catching them by the trash barrel.” Quincy and Hough’s Neck were once widely marketed and known as “The Flounder Capital of the World.” The days of small boat rentals and filling a trashcan with fish may be gone, but the flounder fishery is excellent and getting better every year.
The common shallow water shoals with easy access to deep-water retreats make Boston Harbor perfect habitat for the Winter Flounder. They prefer mud/sand bottoms and love the eel grass habitats that are found throughout the harbor. May and June are best months to get out and fish for them.
What to use:
On my flounder charters, I typically use a light tackle spinning rod and the Santini 2 hook Zobo rig from Fishing Finatics in Everett. I adjust the weight so that it will stay just off of vertical to the bottom with weight ranging from ¾ to 3oz depending on current, drift etc. Flounder will eat nearly anything. Sea worms and clams are always effective and widely available throughout the region. Buying bait is a lot like buying meat from a grocer. Look for a shop that moves large quantities for the liveliest and freshest bait.
Anyone can catch a flounder. They are aggressive and opportunistic feeders and are not shy about tugging on the end of a line. There may not be a better fish to introduce young children to the sport of saltwater fishing than flounder. I will never forget those days of my youth spent fishing with my family.
Lastly, they are delicious. Fresh crab stuffed flounder with Old Bay hollandaise sauce may very well be the most delicious thing you ever eat.
I run flounder charters from late April through early July and begin flounder / bass combo trips mid May. I hope to see you aboard this season.