by Carl Hyland
Flounder or sole as they are also known, are a popular fish not only toothsome but the actual activity of spearing them of a night can be extremely fulfilling. It’s an activity of fishing in a different way and can often involve the whole family. Fishing for flounder can be inexpensive as all the equipment that is required usually is a torch and spear and the actual spearing can be done in shallow water, so if temperatures allow, an old pair of sandshoes and shorts will be all the apparel that is also needed.
I’ve compiled a list of items required before contemplating having a go yourself. This may vary from state to state, for instance at this time of the year in Tassie, you wouldn’t wear shorts as waders would be required.
A great spot for flounder on an incoming tide, sand and rocks are ideal.
Spear (single prong is best)
Light, either a dolphin torch or hand held flounder light with remote battery.
Headlamp (for when the light goes out)
Stout shoes and warm clothing……if heading into deeper water, flotation device or PFD.
Other things you will need to check; an incoming tide. When the tide floods in, flounder and other fish move across shallow bottoms searching for broken pippis and sandworms and other invertebrates. In saying that, we have also taken flounder on an outgoing tide, as they fall back into deeper channels as water recedes.
You also need no wind. You will find even the slightest ripple will distort your underwater view and you will miss most fish. A still clear, frosty night is best, whilst water is still and clear.
A good flounder light.
I use a small motorbike battery to power our light. This can either be carried on a lap belt or as we do, in an inflated car tube (with wooden bottom) dragged behind us. The person who drags the battery is usually also the lighter with another person doing the spearing. I also carry a Hawaiian sling in case we come across a squid or other large fish that would be hard to take with a single spear. This can then be handed to the spearer as the need arises.
Here’s a good little video to explain how to put it all together correctly.
Topography: Terrain for flounder is very important. I indicated that they like to come close inshore into shallow bays, looking for food that is on the move as the tide encroaches. You probably won’t do too good if you are searching shallow waters on a surf beach as the wild wave action will disturb the fish too much. I’d prefer to head to an estuary, where the water is quieter and the fish are less likely to be ‘agitated’. In saying that, I look for sandy patches in amongst rocks as historically, this is often where the bigger fish are found, sheltering, with only eyes protruding from the sand.
A good bottom, with sand rocks. This is a likely spot for pippis, crabs etc.
Don’t be too quick to move only on to sandy patches either, some of our most memorable captures have been on rocks, rocks that most people would walk past and sometimes in water that is less than ankle deep. The large fish move right up onto the rocks and I suspect they are either spawning or chasing big rock crabs which they love. Either way, be prepared to have to sharpen your spear as the rocks will take the edge off real quick.
Other captures under the light can also be spectacular, we have had big sea run trout come in for a look, yellow eyed mullet, calamari squid, prawns, couta, big garfish(and little) plus endless amounts of puffer and toad fish and many other species.
Dont discount rocks, big flounder love these when covered with water.
The Tasmanian Sea Fisheries and Aquaculture website list the following about flounder.
Common names: Greenback Flounder, Longsnout Flounder, Melbourne flounder, southern flounder, sole.
Flounder and sole are mainly dark green to light brown colouration above with a white underbelly, but fish may vary their colour to blend into their environment.
Greenback flounder can reach a maximum size of around 40cm (0.6kg) at 3-4 years of age.
There are some 12 species of flounder and only one species of sole found in Tasmanian waters.
The most common flounder found in Tasmanian coastal estuaries and bays are the greenback flounder (above) and the longsnout flounder (below). It is the longsnout flounder that is frequently referred to (incorrectly) as sole.
Distribution of flounder occurs from freshwater through to 100m.
A popular eating fish commonly caught on shallow coastal sandy flats using spears and lights at night or in specially-designed bottom set gillnets called flounder nets.
They are rarely caught on lines. Flounder feed by digging for polychaete worms and small crustaceans in the sand and mud habitat they inhabit.
Spawning occurs offshore in water depths of around 20m during times of extended colder water temperatures in June-October.
Little is known of the biomass and growth of the greenback flounder.
So whatever you do of a night, have a go for flounder at your local beach as I can guarantee, they are one of the most toothsome fish in the sea. Please check your local regulations for size and bag limits.
Here’s a good recipe…………. Ingredients
2 medium sized flounder
1/2 cup plain flour
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tb lard
1 Tb butter
4 Tb crushed hazelnuts
1 whole lemon cut into quarters
1. Coat the flounder in lemon juice and then dust with salt and white pepper lightly.
2. Then dust flounder with plain flour to finish coating making sure you shake off excess flour.
3. Heat lard in a large frypan (or BBQ flat plate since we are in Australia)
4. Fry flounder a few minutes per side until done - set aside to keep warm...i.e. either in oven or under BBQ hood.
5. Melt butter in saucepan and fry off hazelnuts until light golden brown on medium heat.
6. Serve flounder with hazelnut/butter mix poured over each fish and garnish with fresh lemon quarters.
Apparently this dish goes well with beer and potato salad