Run And Gun Flounder In the Tidal Creeks

Find bait in the tidal creek mouths, and you will find flounder. Here are seven GPS locations.

Ron Brooks | September 1, 2007

Charles McGill of Middleburg, Fla. with the main ingredient for a fried flounder dinner in hand.

This has been a banner year for flounder along the Georgia coast. Catches have been big in both size and numbers, and the bite is still running strong.

Charles McGill of Middleburg, Fla. and I made a trip to the coast looking for some flounder in August and found a number of locations where almost anyone can go to find cooperative flatfish.

Flounder are what I like to call “in and out” migratory fish. That term serves two migrations. In the fall, as water temperatures begin to drop, they migrate out of the inlets to deeper water along the coast. They can be found 40 to 50 miles offshore during cold, winter weather. In the spring, as the water warms, they migrate back into the inlets and sounds. The summer months are spent following baitfish in and out of the many creeks and sloughs inside the barrier islands.

All summer long, flounder practice the second migration I spoke about. As the tide moves into the creeks and marshes, they move in with it, once again following the baitfish. When the tide begins to move out and the water starts dropping, they move out to the mouths of the creeks or sloughs and position themselves to ambush baitfish that also move with the tide.

I mention tide stages here because Georgia tides can run as much as 7 to 8 feet between high- and low-water levels depending on the moon stage. Full and new moons pull the strongest tides, and the depth difference will be at its peak. Some creeks that seem deep on a high tide may leave you stranded on a low tide. The best way to prevent being stranded is to enter these creeks on a low tide. If you can get in the creek on a low tide, you can then fish that same creek from high to low on another trip without fear of being stranded.

Many creeks and sloughs along the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW) are full of baitfish right now, and that means that flounder are ambushing them as they move.

Knowing that flounder are ambush feeders, you can prepare yourself to be more successful catching them. Knowing where they are currently ambushing bait puts fish in your ice chest!

Flounder will almost always lie on the bottom with their head facing into the current. They lie there covered with sand or silt with just their two eyes sticking up. As bait approaches, they lurch up, striking the bait. If the water is shallow enough, their strike will look like a surface-fish feeding.

Flatfish rarely move to the left or right very far to chase bait. Their target area is usually about a foot on either side of them and anything straight above them. Lots of people looking for flounder make a single cast to a likely area, and when they don’t get a bite, they move on. They may have missed the flounder by 2 feet, and the flounder chose not to move that far to feed. This is a mistake that a lot of anglers make.

Flounder are ambush feeders, lying in wait for baitfish to come by. For that reason, your odds are better if your bait covers a lot of water and you try a number of locations.

When you work a likely area, you need to cast far upstream, or up-current. If you are fishing a float, you need to allow the float to come back to you, covering a section of bottom. Then cast upstream again, this time left or right of where you cast the first time. You need to allow your bait to drift over every square foot of bottom if at all possible.

If you are casting an artificial bait, you need to do the same thing. Make a number of casts and work the bait back to you, making sure you cover every bit of the bottom.

Using a bottom rig with a live shrimp, mud minnow or finger mullet, you need to cover the same area. Most anglers using bottom rigs like to let the bait simply sit on the bottom. You may catch a few flounder that way, but moving the bait is far more productive. Cast upstream, and slowly drag your sinker along the bottom. This does two things. First, it stirs the bottom and often kicks up small crustaceans that can attract a flounder, and second, it allows you to cover the entire bottom of a particular area.

Favorites for flatfish: (left to right) a root-beer colored Saltwater Assassin swim tail, a mud minnow on a jig head, and the ever-reliable live shrimp.

Flounder also like to position themselves out of the main current. They may wait behind a piling, on the backside of the current. There they wait for their meal to drift or swim by and get caught up in the small eddy caused by the piling. Along any rock jetty or concrete pier, they will do the same thing.

We covered an area about 30 miles in length on this trip, trying to cover as many likely locations as possible. While we found quite a number of locations where we found fish, we also bypassed just as many because of time constraints. There are only so many hours in a day, but these locations will give you a good idea of places to catch flounder.

Location No. 1 on the map: Beach Creek N 30° 43.646 W 081° 28.614 — The first place we fished was Beach Creek. This deep creek exits Cumberland Island on the southwest corner and runs through a salt marsh with several outflows and sloughs. The tide was half high and outgoing as we idled all the way to the head of the creek.

We began fishing with artificials, using one of my favorites for flounder, a jig head with a Saltwater Assassin plastic tail in a root-beer-and-white color. We worked the jigs in an up-and- down motion, allowing it to reach and sometimes touch the bottom. We worked it fast enough to allow the swim-tail action to take effect, but not so fast as to run past a waiting flounder. As we moved out with the tide, I used the trolling motor to keep us positioned at the mouth of each slough long enough to make several casts and cover the entire bottom. Some sloughs in this creek can be covered in just two casts. Others are large enough to demand four or five casts.

About halfway out on our drift with the current, we had caught three flounder. My partner took the artificial tail off his jig and hooked on a mud minnow. These minnows are very hardy, and we hook them through the lips. This allows them to swim relatively freely as the jig moves along and over the bottom. In short order, he hooked up with a nice 15-inch fish.

We could have worked this creek all day. The tide never gets so low that the creek is unnavigable, so we could have caught more fish on the incoming tide that were moving back into the creek, following the baitfish.

You may find some boats anchored in this creek, fishing on the bottom. They will catch one or two wayward flounder, but moving and working the slough mouths are the keys.

Location No. 2: Delaroche Creek N 30° 43.646 – W 081° 29.801 — This creek begins at marker 57 in the ICW. The main creek is deep, and you are safe there at all tide stages. At the back of this creek, there are several sloughs that make their way back into the salt marsh.

Once again, we idled as far back to the head of the creek as we could with- out digging mud. Then we fished the current back out, catching four more flatfish on the way. Again, this creek can be fished all day because of the main channel depth. On a low tide when the sloughs are dry, flounder will position themselves along the edge of the main creek. It’s a good idea to “beat the bank” on that low tide.

Our baits were pretty much the same all day long. One of us fished with a root-beer jig while the other fished with a mud minnow or live shrimp. There are shrimp in the creeks right now, so they also will be good flounder bait.

In addition to the many creeks marked on a chart, there are sloughs that have been carved out by rushing tides that are not marked. Don’t miss  even one of these small openings. They can all hold a fish.

Location No. 3 Hawkins Creek N 30° 54.070 – W 081° 26.857 — Hawkins Creek takes off to the east off of Brickhill River. It meanders back into the marsh, and while it appears to be relatively shallow, there are deep holes on the outside bends of the creek.

This is a creek where you need to be fishing from high tide down to about half low. This one will leave you stranded as the water runs out. But, it holds fish, and while we only caught one flounder, we also caught two small red drum.

Location No. 4: Mud Creek N 30° 54.070 – W 081° 28.012 — Just to the northwest of Hawkins Creek, Mud Creek heads south from the confluence of the Cumberland and Brickhill rivers. There are numerous smaller creeks that are ideal locations to fish on an outgoing tide.

This is another creek that is safe on any tide. Fish the mouths of all the smaller creeks on an outgoing tide.

Location No. 5: Floyd Creek N 30° 55.431 – W 081° 28.102 — Floyd Creek runs between the Cumberland and Satilla rivers. It runs close to the mainland and has a few docks. Along with the mouths of numerous smaller feeder creeks, don’t miss working these dock pilings.

If you venture into some of the feeder creeks in Floyd, you need to be aware that most of them won’t float a boat at low tide. They will, however hold flounder, so plan to fish these on a high outgoing to half way down.

Location No. 6: Umbrella Creek N 31° 00.929 – W 081° 27.806 — There is a feeder creek that takes off to the north at this location, on the north bank of the Umbrella. This is a creek that drains the salt marsh as the tide rolls
out, and it will hold fish at times.

I have caught flounder previously at the mouth of this creek and back in the creek on a high tide. The key was that there were baitfish in the creek. The day Charles and I fished the bait- fish weren’t in this creek, and we didn’t find any flounder — or other fish for that matter, but don’t pass this one up. If the baitfish are present around the mouth, then fish should be back in the creek. This is another one to stay away from toward low tide.

Location No. 7: Cedar Creek N 31° 06.159 – W 081° 28.591 — On our final spot of the day before running back to St. Marys, we headed up the ICW past Jekyll Island, turned west into the Brunswick River and stopped at the mouth of Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek cuts through the salt marsh and under the Jekyll Island causeway to Jointer Creek.

This creek has numerous small feeder creeks that are dry at low tide, but will be 3 to 4 feet deep at high tide. By the time we got to this creek, the tide was already coming back in, so we were able to look for baitfish heading back into the smaller feeder creeks.

We found some baitfish and caught a flounder and some small  seatrout, all of them at the mouths of feeder creeks.

The Bottom Line — At all the locations we fished, we looked for several keys. First, we needed a creek that had sloughs and feeder creeks. We passed on several creeks that had steep sides and no way back into the marsh. These were the creeks that held fewer baitfish as well.

Baitfish are the other key. Fish, including flounder, follow their food. All of these locations should provide you with flounder, but on another day, they may not hold any fish. The trick is to fish the creeks that have baitfish working at the mouth. You can see the baitfish working, whether it is a small school of glass minnows or a bigger school of mullet. Just watch the water.

After a few minutes, if you have not observed any activity, move to another creek. We listed seven on our 30-mile trip. We probably passed up 20 more as we tried to cover as much territory as possible in one day.

The flounder are there today, and they should be in those same locations right up until the water begins to cool in October and November. Run and gun, and hit the mouths of the creeks to be successful.

It should come as no surprise when your bait gets taken by a redfish or seatrout rather than a flounder.

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