Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Where to fish for winter flounders
There's no doubt that locally, our winter flounders, commonly called black backs, are not as abundant as they were a few years ago, but they still are in enough numbers in some places so a targeted fishery is still viable.
While the southern shores of Maine, especially here in our Piscataqua River and along the coastline still offers some flounder action, the best luck seems to come from here southward, with New Hampshire and Massachusetts coastal waters providing some fairly reliable flounder fishing with the hot spots located around the Boston Harbor areas.
In Maine, you're apt to find some flounders in the Pepperell Cove area and in Spruce Creek and up the coastline to the area around York Harbor and Brave Boat Harbor but limit catches shouldn't be expected.
There are some places in the Piscataqua River and the Little Harbor area of Newcastle/Portsmouth but not in the abundance of years past. Off the rocks at Rye Beach there's enough flounder to attract divers that are spear fishing for them. Rye Harbor itself and the waters just off the jetties have been a good bet for catches up to limits for several years but this fishing is not always productive.
The real concentration of fish is in and around the Hampton/Seabrook harbors and southward towards the mouth of the Merrimack River in Salisbury and Newburyport, Mass. Boat access for these places can be by launching at Rye or Hampton harbors, NH State boat launching and parking areas or by trailering to Newburyport and launching at Newburyport's fine Gilman Park Facility.
When there's enough flounders in these areas half-day fishing charters and party boats out of Hampton/Seabrook Harbor will target these fish and these boats have seen a lot of success in the last few years. If you are fishing these areas in your own boat, it's a good idea to watch where the concentration of the "flounder fleet'' of party boats are fishing as this is a sure tip-off as to the hot spot is at the moment.
If you don't mind the Boston traffic, launching at Winthrop's very nice boat access will put you in the "Mecca" of New England's winter flounder fishing and you'll even have a chance of boating a summer flounder (fluke) while you are there. When the fishing is good around the inner harbor and the North Channel limit catches of winter harbor are not unusual with the Deer Island Flats easy to find because of the huge treatment plant located on the Island and that place is probably the most consistent but there are plenty of other hot-spots in the Greater Boston Harbor area for flounder.
Although anchoring your boat over a hot spot can produce good results, a good way to find the concentration of fish is to drift-fish. Know that you need to keep your baits of either sea worms or cut pieces of clams right on or just off bottom as these fish are notorious bottom feeders. By drift fishing you get to cover a lot of bottom and go to the fish, rather than waiting for them to come to your baits.
If at anchor, a good and traditional method is to put down a chum bag of a combination of ground-up clam shells and ground up waste fish. The chum bags can be hung directly off your boat or hooked to your anchor line. It's important to weight these chum bags to keep them on bottom.
Terminal gear is simple and can be just a long-shank flounder hook or a multiple hook rig that allows for changing sinker weights. In Boston Harbor the Zobo-Rig is gaining a huge following for simplifying your terminal gear.
"Flounder rods and reels can be just about any style but it's important that the rods should have some sensitivity as a flounder bite is not that detectable.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.