Weird Lookin’ Fish

By Scott Lenox

Weird Lookin’ Fish

As I travel the outdoor trade show circuit telling people how cool it is to Fish in OC, there are certain fish that are talked about more than others.  The summer flounder, or “fluke” as it’s referred to north of Delaware, is definitely one such fish.

The summer flounder, scientific name paralichthys dentatus, is Ocean City’s most popular inshore species by a long shot, and for good reason.  They are readily available in Ocean City’s back bays, they are good fighters and they are delicious to eat.  Ocean City has several inshore party and charter boats that make a living taking people to fish for this delicious bottom feeder and I can tell you from experience that local fishermen anxiously await their arrival in the spring.

The summer flounder starts its life like most other fish, but as the fish develops, the body flattens out and one eye gradually moves to meet the other on the same side of the head.

Andrew Jacobs Vineyard Gazette

Flounder larvae Photo Andrew Jacobs Vineyard Gazette

This is not a random process, but one that is the same with all summer flounder.  Summer flounder are left-eyed flounder, meaning that with the mouth below the eyes they face to the left.  An example of a right-eyed flounder can be found in the winter flounder, or “sand dab”, which we also occasionally catch in Ocean City.  There are several differences between the two, the most obvious being that they face different directions, and the summer flounder has teeth, while the winter flounder does not.

Summer Flounder_ Currituck Sound_ 7-6-09_ NT winter-flounder

Summer flounder are ambush predators and have the ability to change the brown side of their body to match the bottom that they are lying on.

[#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon COOLPIX995 Focal Length: 8.2mm White Balance: Auto Digital Zoom Ratio: 1.00 2012/07/15 15:32:49 Exposure Mode: Shutter Priority AF Mode: AF-C Saturation comp: 0 JPEG (8-bit) Fine Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern Tone Comp: Auto Sharpening: Auto Image Size: 2048 x 1536 1/125 sec - F/2.6 Flash Sync Mode: Front Curtain Noise Reduction: OFF Color Exposure Comp.: 0 EV ConverterLens: None Sensitivity: Auto [#End of Shooting Data Section]

Summer flounder also have the ability to bury themselves so that just the head and eyes are exposed as they wait for a meal to pass by.  They are a highly predatory fish and eat mainly crustaceans and small fish like minnows, shiners, bunker, mullet, spot, squid, shrimp and small bluefish.  They are a carnivorous little devil too.  I have also cleaned several larger flounder with small flounder in the belly.

Generally speaking, summer flounder reach sexual maturity at around two years of age which is between 14 and 20 inches in length or somewhere between 1 and 3 pounds.  They can live for more than 20 years and to a weight of over 25 pounds.

The current Maryland state record flounder was actually caught in Ocean City, MD off of Assateague Island by Anthony Vicari.  The big doormat weighed 17 pounds and was caught on October 3 of 1974.  The current world record is held by Charles Nappi and was caught out of Montauk, NY back in September of 1975.  That bruiser weighed 22 pounds 7 ounces!  My biggest is 8 pounds even!


The recreational summer flounder season in Ocean City for 2016 will be open until December 31 with a size limit of 16″ and a creel limit of 4 per person.  I can’t wait to drop a minnow down for one of these weird lookin’ fish!

Here are a couple of doormat summer flounder that were caught this summer by the Morning Star and Angler party boats.

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