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Drift fishing for flounder

by Lee & Sharon De Bevoise
anglers & editors

Drift fishing for flounder is a popular summer pastime. However, many anglers do not understand all of the basics.
Berkley Courtesy Photo

The basics

An uneven bottom is a necessity. Water depth should be between 25 and 50 feet.
In general, a moving tide is the most productive, with an outgoing tide being the best. Above all, avoid a slack tide. During these times fluke usually are immobile and do not actively feed. And, the lack of movement makes the bait less attractive to the fish.

Scum Line

This is a foamy brown line formed by natural and man-made trash. Cast into the clean water, allowing your rigs to drift across the scum line. Many times fluke will stack up on the bottom just across the line in the dirty water.

Drift Speed

The ideal speed is .7 to 2 miles per hour. Any slower and you will only catch skates and sharks. Faster, and strikes will be few and far between.
Try not to plan a summer flounder fishing trip if the wind is blowing against the tide or if the wind is too strong. These conditions will make maintaining the proper drift speed impossible.

Rod & Reel

Spinning or bait casting outfits spooled with 14 pound-test line are recommended. The action of the rod is a personal choice, although medium or medium-heavy is the most common.


For the leaders, use monofilament-fishing line with a test-strength of approximately 5 pounds lighter than the line you have spooled on your reel. That way, if you become snagged, you will only lose the sinker instead of the entire rig.


The basic flounder rig starts with a 2- to 5-ounce sinker. And, it can consist of one or two hooks.
Add a snap to one of the rings of the three-way swivel. This allows them to easily change sinkers according to conditions.
Prepare your sinkers by tying a 6- to 8-inch leader onto each. These leaders have a loop on the end, making it simple to slide it on and off the snap.


By using lures with the larger 2/0 and 3/0 hooks will result in fewer small and undersized flounder being caught. The primary result is the preservation of the fluke fishery by sparing smaller fish the trauma of being hooked and possibly injured.


Live or cut bait should be added to any flounder rig. Minnows and squid are the primary baits for summer flounder fishing. You also can use cut baits such as sea robin and shark belly.


Once you have baited your flounder rig, allow the sinker to hit the bottom. Then, reel up any slack line so that the weight barely touches the bottom.
Allow the sinker to bounce along the bottom as the boat drifts. Keep a taut line at all times.
An alternate technique is "long-lining". This involves slowly letting line out as the boat drifts. The weight is then dragged, rather than bounced, along the bottom.
The more line let out, the slower the sinker is dragged along the bottom. This technique is especially effective on windy days when the drift speed is 2 miles per hour or more.
Both techniques work well under various conditions. Do not hesitate to experiment until you find what works best for you at any given time.


Patience is the key, since most fluke will nibble on the bait before swallowing it. However, large flounder will be more aggressive in their strikes.

15 percent skill

Fishing, in general, is 15 percent skill and knowledge and 85 percent luck. This also applies to fishing for fluke.
The best tip is to fish S-L-O-W! Patience is the key. Do not get frustrated. Instead, try to ignore your rod and reel until the rod tip bends under the weight of a fish, hopefully a summer flounder!
©Fish Dreams


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