I target a lot of different fish everyday when fishing in the backwater. Snook, redfish, tarpon, trout, just to name a few, but rarely do I get to play with one of my true favorites, the flounder. I would have to say on average I really only catch them as bycatch while fishing for my normal targets about once or twice a week. I light up every time I see a good flounder come to the boat knowing what great table fare they always bring.
However, the days are getting a bit shorter, the nights a touch cooler, and the flounder numbers a bit higher! Every fall and part of early winter I seem to find a few more flounder everywhere in the bay, but can find them in thick numbers just off the beaches and a few miles offshore. I go from catching one or two a week as bycatch that are maybe 16 inches long, to catching six or eight in a spot that can be up to even eight pounds or so.
Most of the fish I find are 4-6 pound fish that are on their fall migration and just passing through. Live mullet or threadfin herring stuck straight to the bottom seems to be the best bait for me. They will take dead bait or an artificial, so if bait is tough just get something on the bottom with a hook in it and they will find it!
Don't have a boat? Fish a natural colored soft plastic jig slowly in the first or second trough just walking the beaches, and you will find a flounder or two this fall. Bump it off the bottom slowly just puffing the sand as you make your retrieve. Even better, catch a few live mullet right from the beach and simply weigh them to the bottom while you work on your tan!
When you are at the store picking up that sunburn cream, stop and pick up a few ingredients for that flounder you put on ice for this Snookin 'N Cookin recipe!
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Pan seared flounder with baby greens, candied walnuts and pear champagne vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette:
½ cup fine quality olive oil
3-4 tablespoons pear infused vinegar (or white vinegar of your choice)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed
¼ - ½ cup dry Brut style champagne
Combine all ingredients and whisk until emulsified and smooth.
For the baby greens salad:
Baby greens, Arugula, or lettuce of choice
½ cup firm red grapes cut in half
¼ cup julienne red onion
1 fresh seasonal pear of your choice (sliced last minute)¼ cup Gorgonzola or bluecheese
¼ cup fresh candied or toasted walnuts
Just before plating, toss the first three listed ingredients in a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette. Next, top salad with the last three ingredients listed.
For the flounder:
Flounder fillets, skin off (base recipe for three 6-7 ounce fillets)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Kosher or sea salt
Coarse black pepper
Touch of fresh squeezed lemon juice
Place a good quality sauté pan on just a touch above medium heat. Season the flounder filets with the salt and black pepper; lightly dust them with the flour. Add the olive oil to the hot pan and immediately place the fish filets in the pan. As soon as they begin to brown on the first side, add your butter and get ready to flip. Turn the fillets over once and turn the pan off. At this point squeeze a touch of fresh lemon juice and let the pan settle for about two minutes. Flounder cooks very quickly and becomes very dry quickly when overcooked.
For plate up, just place the fish directly over the pear, champagne dressed baby greens, add a touch more of the vinaigrette on the fish, and a piece of your favorite crusty French or other bread of choice. This is a quick, light, refreshing yet full flavor dish that will surely turn some heads at your next lunch or dinner party!
So, even if you don't have a boat, grab your rod, a beach chair and a cooler and get out there and catch the flavor of Southwest Florida!
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Seth and Astrid Hayes run Snookin 'N Cookin, a Naples-based fishing charter company that also offers private dinners and parties. They can be reached at either (239) 994-1593, (239) 994-3253, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at www.snookinncookin.com.