Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Flounder Fishing In May. What to expect...
Flounder Fishing In May. What to expect...

Some really nice flounder are caught during the month of May. They’re not
always plentiful, and some days they don’t bite at all. But when you catch a
dozen flounder in May, there’s a good chance that over half of them will be
keepers! (At least they will be in Maryland where the size limit is not as
large as it is in some states!)

As I mentioned in last week’s article, water temperature is a critical
factor during the early fishing season. The optimum temperature range for
fluke (summer flounder) is between 62 and 66 degrees. They like for the
water temperatures to be at least 56 degrees for a decent “bite.”

The daytime sun beating down on the waters in the upper reaches of the bay
warms the water by at least 10 degrees on a sunny day. When the tide moves
out, the water temperature can be 10 degrees warmer than when the tide is
coming in. So, if the water temperatures are on the “edge,” fish the
outgoing tide in the spring.

“How do I figure out when to go?”

Look at a local tide table. Find high tide and add two hours to it. That’s
when it will be PEAK high tide. If the tide table reads that high tide is
at 2 P.M. then you know the peak high tide will be around 4 P.M. If you go
out at 4 P.M. the tide should just be starting to go out and that’s when you
want to be fishing, JUST AS IT TURNS. Now, a fact of life about tide charts
is this. They are not “to the minute” accurate because lots of factors can
affect tides like the wind and the moon. So if I were you, I’d be out there
at 2 P.M. and wait on the tide. Besides, it could be one of those days when
the water temperature is NOT that critical and the flounder may bite on the
last of the incoming!

“What other tides do flounder bite on this time of year?”

Flounder can also bite on the low tide in the spring! For example, the
flounder may bite on the first two hours of the high outgoing tide, then
stop biting for two hours. Then, just as the tide starts to slow up and
gets close to dead low tide, (two hours before dead low tide) they may bite
again for a couple hours. (That’s called, the “last of the outgoing tide.)
Sometimes they bite when the dead low tide starts to come in. (That’s called
the beginning of the incoming tide.)

One thing is for sure. When the tide gets running really hard in either
direction, the fish usually “turn off” and won’t bite again until the water
slows down! Being out on the water every day will give you an “edge.” If the
flounder bite one day at 1 P.M. it is REAL likely that they will bite the
next day at 2 P.M.! (Tides run 50 minutes to an hour later every day!)

Some anglers “cheat” the tide by doing a slow “troll” against the current
when it runs too strong and they feel they are drifting too fast. This only
works on a nice day. You can certainly get wet “bucking a tide” when the
wind is up! Also, if the tide is dead still and no breeze is moving you
along, a slow troll will keep your bait moving slightly and make it look
more natural to the feeding flounder. You will also be covering more

Some anglers choose to “cast and retrieve” their baits when the tide is
slack. This, of course, works well if you are fishing from the shore.
Anglers fishing from the Route 50 Bridge use big plastic or Styrofoam
bobbers to drift out their baits along the edges of the sand bars with very
good results. Spreader type flounder rigs work well when doing this. It is
just like drifting in a boat!

Flounder are “site feeders” so if they don’t see the bait, they won’t bite
the hook. That’s why flounder fishing is always better when the water is the
cleanest and the clearest. Windy weather that stirs up the bottom making the
bay water murky and full of debris is the worst possible scenario for a
flounder fisherman. Some winds are worse than others. Winds that come over
the land make the water the murkiest. Strong west, south, or north winds
are not favorable for flounder fishing. Any easterly direction brings
clean water in from the ocean. So unless we recently had a bad storm
offshore, easterly winds are good.

“What do you consider a strong wind?”

Five to 10 miles per hour from any direction is perfect for fishing. Five to
ten miles per hour is not enough wind to cause any problems with water
clarity. When the wind gets up past 15 miles per hour the water is affected.
Twenty miles per hour is barely tolerable. More than that, is just plain

“What tide is the water the cleanest?”

About two hours before peak high tide we usually see the water look the
cleanest. When the tide turns and starts to go out is when it slowly starts
to get dirty again. It usually takes two hours into the outgoing tide before
we start to see the grass and muddy conditions. This is why we have always
said that the best time to go flounder fishing is two hours before and two
hours after high tide. The water is the cleanest and the clearest.

The second best time to go is one or two hours before and after low tide. As
the outgoing water slows down, it tends to clean up a bit. Low tide is
rarely ever the clearest water, but it can be clean, meaning there’s no
grass or mud because the tide is running slower.

IF we have had a storm with rain and wind the night before, the flounder
fishermen might find the water quite dirty in the upper reaches of the bay,
but see cleaner water closer towards the inlet. If this is the case, FOLLOW
THE CLEAN WATER. Sometimes the water is dirty in the Thorofare but clean in
the east channel around Convention Hall Channel. GO TO THE CLEAN WATER!

“The water up by the Route 90 Bridge is never really clear! I can never see
the bottom like I can sometimes close to the Route 50 Bridge.”

The water in the upper bay never really seems to be crystal clear. The same
holds true for the bay behind Assateague close to the Verrazano Bridge. This
is probably because the bottom there is muddy rather than sandy. As long as
you don’t see globs of grass, white foamy slicks, or light brown mud
floating on the surface, I would consider it clean water and give it a try
before moving elsewhere. In the spring when water temperature is a crucial
factor, the shallower waters in the upper reaches of the bay can produce
more flounder than the colder, deeper holes closer to the inlet.

“What are the best baits in the spring?”

Flounder always like a live minnow hooked through the lips with a strip of
squid trailing beside the minnow. Frozen shiners are the other “old
stand-by” flounder bait. Anglers hook shiners through the eyes and often add
a strip of squid beside the shiner ON THE SAME HOOK. Anglers fishing for
BIG flounder like to use frozen smelts. They look almost like a shiner but
run larger. These got very popular last year and are popular again this
spring, especially in DE and VA where the flounder size limits are larger
than Maryland. Other spring baits are cut strips of mackerel or herring. If
you use Fishbites strips of squid use the new “Fast Acting” variety in the
red packages. These will work in cold water.

“What kind of flounder rigs should I buy?”

There are a large variety of flounder rigs on the market made with either
one or two hooks. All of them work well. Since flounder are site feeders
they usually like color. Pink seems to be a “hot” color in the spring. Rigs
made with pink squids or bucktail hair always seems to be good in the
spring. Rigs made with white bucktail with a little Mylar always works well
no matter what the time of year or conditions. When the water is clear,
chartreuse can be the ticket.

“What kind and weight of sinkers do I need?”

Use just enough to hold the bottom. Buy an array of sinkers in the one to
three-ounce range in either bass cast or bank styles. Bass cast are best for
drifting in a boat, while bank sinkers are better for casting from the

Flounder fishing in the spring! A good time to go!

Good fishing!