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Catching Flounder

Catching Flounder using a spear or gigging, net, or fishing line is a fun and an easy way to get some excellent eating fish. It’s hard to beat a freshly caught flounder, just roll in some flour and fry with butter and add a bit of lemon. Cleaning flounder is pretty simple just make a little cut under the gill and scoop out the guts, remove the gills, and it’s ready for the pan, no scaling no filleting just fry the whole fish head and all.  We have a few commercial flatfish species. 

The most common flounders for the recreational fishers are the yellow-belly, sand flounder and the lemon sole. My favourite way to catch flounder is by spear or gigging. Walking in the shallows at night with the lamp as your only guide is pretty cool. Not only do you get to spear some excellent eating fish but you get to so see so many other creepies and crawlies not to mention stingray, eels, and other fish. I first started catching flounder at a young age with my dad. We spent many a night silently wading through the shallows hunting these amazing fish.

Once you see a flounder when out spearing it becomes addictive, you can’t get enough

. It doesn't matter how many flounder you spear each one is an experience; I never get sick of spearing flounder. We have done a lot of night fishing and when my boys were younger they used to take off just with a torch and spear to chase the flounder. The bonus of using the spear is you can choose the fish you take. Catching flounder with nets you don’t have a choice of what you catch. I used to like the boys heading off with their lights and spears because not only did they go after flounder but they like to spear the big paddle crabs which are excellent eating as well. 



Flounder move in with the tide and usually you start at low tide and you use the slow incoming tide to your advantage ambushing the flounder as they come in to feed on small crabs, shrimp, whitebait, sea-worms and whatever else they can catch. Flounder are partial to sea-worms so if your find a worm bed go there when the tide is right then you will get all the flounder you want. Flounder can grow up to 45cm and anything over 35cm is a good flounder, anything smaller then that its debatable weather to keep it.

The bonus of catching flounder it’s exciting for the kids

and when using nets, dragging is a lot of fun you get to cool off in the sea while dragging the net. I'm not a big fan of dragging nets but the boys loved it I think they spent more time swimming then dragging nets. Drag netting off the beach is a simple process. One person on each end of the net dragging the net along the shallow mudflats. Another method of catching flounder is set netting, this can be done by setting the net at full tide by walking out as deep as you can go, then set the net by using poles at each end and having the appropriate floats and weights ensuring the net is secure. The method is the same process when using a dingy, using the dingy at least you stay dry. But out of all these methods of catching flounder you can’t beat hunting them with a spear or gigging. It’s a hunting method that goes back to the beginning of time when man first hunted to feed his family. Being out a dark clear night in the middle of huge mudflats makes you feel like your all alone. All you have is your light, spear and you’re completely surrounded by water to be honest there is no feeling like it, the flounder are a bonus. 

When out with your light and spear it’s hard not to have a go at all the other fish that are available. Crabs, Eels, other fish and of course the Stingray. I recommend not to spear any Stingray you see just let them go on their way. Once I was out with my father and I couldn't resist lunging my spear into a stingray, which was a big mistake. 

The stingray obviously didn't take too kindly, that a boy had the cheek to spear it. All hell broke loose, there was a huge cloud of dust, heaps of splashing and a boy not knowing what the hell was going on, My father ran back grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and threw me as far as he could. I went flying through the air and landed with a big splash. I had lost my light, spear and got soaking wet, and even worse my father wasn't happy. He came over to me and I thought I was going to get it. He pulled me up out of the water looked at me and burst out laughing. He said he’s seen some stupid antics in his time and mine was up there with the best of them. He called me an idiot and he carried on Catching Flounder. I had to follow like a drowned rat. That was my lesson not to do it again. So don’t do anything silly when out floundering or that matter any type of fishing. The sea can be a dangerous place not only because of the water, but some of the fish and other creatures can be harmful as well. 

Back in the day my dad used to use a Kerosene Tilly lamp. These lamps work well for flounder but you always had to be careful they were quite fragile and if you dropped them in the water then that’s it no more flounder. Now they have the Flounder lights that work under water. I first saw one of these over 20 years ago, a friend of mine had made one, and he used hollow metal tubing so the wires could run through it. At the bottom of the tubing he had welded a screw on jar lid. All he did was attach the wires to a bulb then attached a clear glass jar to the lid he had welded and that was it. He used motor bike batteries to power it. The batteries were secured in a pouch attached to a belt around his waist. It was far more effective for catching flounder then the old Tilly lamp. Now day’s the under water flounder lights are readily available. Flounder can be caught throughout the year, although they are at their most plentiful in spring, summer and autumn. They are a bountiful local resource and are a popular recreational fish throughout the country. If you want to take a kid out fishing then take them out catching flounder and using the spear or gigging as they call it, they will never forget.

Some Flounder Facts


  • Flounder reproduction occurs offshore in late winter and spring when the fish spawn in water 25 to 35 metres deep.
  • In New Zealand most flatfish are short lived and reach legal size around two years old, few survive more than five years. Female flounders live longer and reach a larger size than the males.
  • All flatfish hatch offshore as a normal looking fish that swims vertically in the water column. The fingerling flounder gulp randomly for plankton until they are between 5 to 10mm long.
  • Flounder is during the larval stage when the left eye migrates around to the right side of the fish. This process takes around six to ten weeks and when complete the baby flounder settle on the bottom as a recognisable flatfish.
  • Keeping your catch as fresh as possible by removing the gills as soon as possible after catching increases the shelf life in the fridge and improves the taste.

Safety is always a priority when planning any fishing trip. Catching flounder is no different. I was lucky growing up, I got to Hunt, Fish and Catch eels, and it’s because my father was experienced we got to do all things without any major dramas. There is so much information on the net its easy to find out crucial information about whatever you choose to do and even better find someone who is experienced and learn from them. 


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