Tasty Flounder Need a Painstaking Evaluation
Anglers across the country are ecstatic when they land a trophy fish and are usually eager to share it with the rapidly growing online fishing community. Every region of the country will have several species that are considered a prize catch, and landing your local trophy might produce some short lived satisfaction. For the inshore anglers of northwest Florida, a Flounder can always be found near the top of this list. They are a blast on light tackle, and to say they are delicious would be an understatement. What’s better than baked Flounder stuffed with crab meat? My only hope is that I get to enjoy this tasty dish for years to come.
As a kid I had the privilege of learning the Pensacola, Florida inshore fishery at a very early age. My father and I would frequent the local waters every chance we had. The one thing I remember most vividly is the large quantity of Flounder we would catch. Boating between 15 and 40 fish in a single trip was a common occurrence. Even as a young adult I recall Pensacola bay in particular was a prime location for high numbers of quality fish. I recently had the chance to speak with a hand full of inshore guides and tournament directors in the north west Florida region and all of them had the same question. What happened to the Flounder?
The decline in the local Flounder population is no secret and anyone that would argue against this hasn’t spent very many hours on the water. A fish that is highly targeted for it’s excellent table fare should be regulated with more awareness. The current Gulf Flounder regulations for North West Florida states that you can keep 10 fish per day per person with a 12″ minimum length. You are also allowed to gig or spear them. Unfortunately, a 12″ Flounder doesn’t possess enough meat to fulfill even a light afternoon snack. Non the less you are within your legal right to harvest ten 12″ flounder every day.
This rapid Flounder decline has also been evident in the local fishing rodeos. Retail stores like Outcast and Gulf Breeze Bait & Tackle put on a handful of rodeos annually that bring out the majority of top inshore anglers in the north west Florida area. It was sad to see that in 2015 there were only a handful of Flounder brought to the tournament scales that topped the 2 pound mark. That should be a clear warning signal as to how bad off this fish really is. There was a day when a 3 pound fish wouldn’t even make the board.
Fall flounder season is just around the corner, and I’m writing this in hopes that each and every angler will be aware of our current situation and take it upon yourself to help out the fishery. Whether you enjoy gig fishing or hook and line I encourage you to be smart, keep just what you need for food, and release anything under 15″. Be mindful of what could happen to the future of our fishery if everyone has a “kill all” mentality.