3 Species of Flounder in Daytona Beach
For the vast majority of anglers, a Flounder is a Flounder but actually there are 3 different species of flounder inhabiting the inshore and offshore waters around Daytona Beach.
Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma)
The southern flounder is the most common species caught in Daytona Beach as well as the entire southeaster United States. The southern flounder is the most commercially valuable flounder caught in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Southern flounder are found along the coasts and continental shelf of North Carolina south to Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico to Texas and southward into northern Mexico. They are generally not found in South Florida below Cape Canaveral on the east coast or Tampa Bay on the west coast although they have been occasionally caught as far south as Jupiter Inlet (just north of Palm Beach) and the Caloosahatchee estuary (Fort Myers)
Southern flounder are light brown to dark brown brown to nearly black on their top side with numerous, scattered, dark and light spots and blotches. These spots are very diffuse and gradually disappear as the fish grows older. The bottom side is white or dusky.
The southern flounder is a “left side” flounder meaning they are facing left when lying before you with the eyes above the mouth.
Small southern flounder grow rapidly and may reach 12 inches in length by the end of their first year. Southern flounders reach maturity at an age of about two years with a length of about 16 inches.
Typical southern flounder catches range from 12 to 18 inches, but the fish can grow to as large as 33 inches.
The World record is 20 lbs 9 ozs.
Female southern flounders remain in brackish waters most of the year, only moving offshore to spawn in fall and winter. Most adult males remain offshore year round. However not all adult southern flounder migrate offshore to spawn. Adult flounder in the 5 to 6 pound range can be caught on Daytona Beach inshore fishing trips even in winter.
Summer Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus)
It is often difficult to tell the difference between a summer flounder and a southern flounder. Their living and feeding habits are identical and their appearance is very similar. In addition, most of their ranges overlap.
Summer flounder are found much further north than southern flounder, actually as far north as Noxa Scotia in Canada. (In the northeast and Canada they are often referred to as fluke or sole). Like the southern flounder, they can be found in the Gulf of Mexico but only as far west as Louisiana. Like the southern flounder, they are not generally found in South Florida.
The similarity to the southern flounder extends to their appearance but with one distinct difference. While the coloring is nearly identical to the southern flounder, there are typically 5 to 14 very distinct eyespots on the body. While the spots on a southern flounder are all blurry and diffuse, these additinal eyespots on a summer flounder have sharp circle outlines.
Like the southern flounder, the summer flounder is a “left side” flounder.
The summer flounder grows to virtually the same size and at the same rate of growth as the southern flounder. It also shares the same reproductive habits as the southern flounder, leaving the inshore waters to spawn offshore during the fall and winter. Like the southern flounder, some adults remain inshore year round and can be caught on Daytona Beach inshore fishing trips even in winter. (See southern flounder size details above)
The World record is 22 lbs 7 ozs.
Gulf Flounder (Paralichthys albiguttata)
The gulf flounder is the southern most of the three species listed here. It is somewhat smaller and far less common than either the southern or summer flounder. It is every bit as fun to catch and delicious to eat.
The gulf flounder, like the southern flounder can be found as far north as North Carolina. Unlike the southern and summer flounder, the gulf flounder can be found in South Florida. It’s range even extends into the southern Gulf of Mexico, into the Caribbean and even the Bahamas.
Gulf flounders are distinguished by three large dark eye spots arranged in a triangle on the upper pigmented side of their bodies. Two of the spots are seen in the center of the body and a third eyespot is seen closer to the tail. Like the southern and summer flounders there are numerous blurry spots scattered over a brown or dark upper side and the underside is white or dusky.
Like the southern and summer flounder, the gulf flounder is a “left side” flounder.
The gulf flounder can grow to 28 inches on length (versus 33” for southern and summer flounders) and may reach 5 or 6 pounds. Typical catches are up to 14” in length versus up to 18” for southern and summer flounder.
The World record is 6 lbs 4 ozs
Like the southern and summer flounder, gulf flounder leave the inshore waters to spawn offshore during the fall and winter but some adults may remain inshore year round.
A NOTE ABOUT WINTER FLOUNDER (Pseudopleuronectes americanus)
Ranging from the mouth of the St Lawrence River in Canada to as far south as Georgia, catching a winter flounder is a possibility here in Daytona Beach. Similar in appearance to the southern and summer flounder, the winter flounder has one very distinct physical feature: It is a “right side” flounder, meaning it faces right when lying flat in front of you, eyes above the mouth. In addition it spawns inshore during the winter months (hence its name), not offshore like southern, summer and gulf flounders! If you happen to catch one, get a picture!