Winter Flounder
Typical Size
8-11" (8-15 oz.)
Decent Size
12-14" (1-2 lbs.)
Nice Size
15-20" (2-4 lbs.)
24.8" (7 lbs. 9 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

3 lbs.
Genus/Species Pseudopleuronectes americanus
Common Names flounder, blackback, lemon sole, mud dab, flatfish
Hot Spots Quincy Bay, Hingham Harbor, Green Harbor
Best Time June-September
Best Baits seaworms, clam, squid, shrimp
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait
Winter flounder are true chameleons of the sea, changing their color and pattern to the bottom on which they live. Winter flounder are the most common and only right-eyed flounder the southshore fisherman will encounter. When found on mud bottoms they tend to be a drab gray and when found amongst kelp or seawood can be brilliantly red brown. Typically, however, they are light brown with lots of dark brown mottling and/or spots. The bottom side of the fish is usually a pure snow white, although sometimes the edges of the fins on the underside are tinged with yellow. The easisest way to identify a winter flounder is the small terminal mouth and fleshy lips.
Winter Flounder
Winter flounder are the most common of the flounders.

Winter flounder live inshore when young and move offshore when they are much older. There are also seasonal migrations north and south when waters become too cold or too warm, Winter flounder seem to prefer temperatures in the 50 to 65 degree range but can tolerate temperatures higher or lower. When the waters of New York and New Jersey warm up in the summertime, winter flounders seem to disappear only to reappear in the winter, hence the name. On the south shore of Massachusetts they are more common in the summer than the winter, occurring at depths of 1 to 50 feet. In the early spring, they can be caught in waters up to 200 feet but seem to move inshore quickly come April. Winter flounder seem to prefer sandy or mud bottoms near areas of structure. They are both scavengers and predators but tend not to chase baits like other flounders will. Their diet is varied, and consists of shrimp, sandworms, crabs, and even small fish and squid. However, as scavengers they may consume anything left over on the sea floor that offers some food value.

Winter flounder range from Nova Scotia down to North Carolia but undergo seasonal migrations in the more northerly and southerly reaches of this range. On the south shore of Massachusetts, they first move into the region typically around mid-April, influenced by both temperature and food supply. They tend to leave the area in sometime in October.

It is written that spawning takes place in early spring as they head from the offshore grounds to their inshore haunts. Larvae drift inshore, and move into coastal and estuarine areas. Young-of-year fish spend their time in the grassy marsh waters until the winter when they move slightly offshore to deeper water to avoid freezing.

Due to their small mouths and general habits, artificial lure fishing for winter flounder is nebulous. Everyone who targets winter flounder uses bait with the most popular being the seaworm. A simple flounder rig or a double hook spreader rig with a 2-6 ounce sinker attached, for holding the bottom in a current or while drifting, are the most popular methods used.

Winter flounder find food by way of scent, so chumming the water with crushed clam is a great way to get into numbers of winter flounder. Light saltwater tackle is the rule as these fish do not get that big. However, with the right gear, these fish make a nice accounting of themselves as they are being reeled in.

Fishing for winter flounder is an extremely important commercial and recreational fishery. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, there are a few charter boats who take passengers out on flounder trips, but the majority of the recreational flounder fishing is done from personal pleasure craft, from bridges and piers, or off the jetties. The meat of the flounder is white, flaky, and delicate. It can be fried, baked or broiled. Due to it's delicate flavor, it is important that flounder be fresh and that care be taken when handling the fish after capture.