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May 31, 2008

Outdoors: Prime season for winter flounder fishing

The end of May and the beginning of June offer an incredible array of options for the active fisherperson.

There is trout and landlocked salmon fishing all over the northern three New England states. Here in Massachusetts there is trout and bass fishing for the freshwater folks, as well as shad, striper and groundfishing for those that love the ocean.

However, right now marks some of the best fishing of the year for one of the ocean's tastiest fish: the winter flounder.

Every winter these flat fish migrate in from the deeper ocean to spawn in the inshore waters along the Gulf of Maine and mid-Atlantic regions. Like many other migrating fish, they tend to return to the same area from which they were spawned to lay their eggs. They spawn at night in cool water in the 32 to 39 degree range.

The eggs need the right salinity and water temperature to hatch out. The larvae hatch out in 15 to 18 days after being spawned and live off the yolk for up to two weeks.

These young fish stay in their birth area for as much as a year while the adult fish migrate back out into deep water. These juveniles become another food source for just about every fish in the sea. They do not move about very much and are content to stay in one very small area until they are ready to migrate for the first time. The largest flounder generally migrate out to the deepest part of Georges Bank while the smaller ones stay in more shallow waters.

The adult flounder has a very small mouth and as a result feeds on small worms, invertebrates, shrimp, etc. This is why when you are fishing for them you need to use small but strong hooks. This is one of the few ocean creatures that feeds only during the day, making them favorites for recreational fishermen. They do this because they are primarily sight feeders. At night they simply disappear into the bottom by squiggling down into the sand or muddy bottom until just their eyes are showing. They then retract their eye turrets and go to sleep.

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