The top of a flounder — the dark, pigmented side that has two eyes (which are separately movable) is actually the fish’s left or right side, depending on the species. When lying hidden just under sediment — with only its peepers protruding — flounder ambush unsuspecting prey with the speed and ferocity of a coiled cobra. Four subspecies of flounder can be encountered near the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf shorelines, with some overlapping:
(Paralichthys albigutta) range from North Carolina to Texas. This is a left-eyed flounder, meaning both eyes are always on the left side. Males typically reach no more than 14 inches; after their first year of life, they remain offshore. Females can grow to 18 inches. IGFA all-tackle record: 7 pounds, 2 ounces, from Bogue Sound, North Carolina, in 2011.
(Paralichthys dentatus), often referred to as fluke, are a lefteyed species, abundant from Massachusetts to North Carolina. They can reach 26 pounds and live as long as 20 years. IGFA all-tackle record: 22 pounds, 7 ounces, from Montauk, New York, in 1975.
(Paralichthys lethostigma) range from North Carolina to Texas and south into Mexican waters (minus much of South Florida). Also a left-eyed species, females reach 28 inches in length and males up to 14 inches. As with Gulf flounder, males head offshore after a year. IGFA all-tackle record: 20 pounds, 9 ounces, from Nassau Sound, Florida, in 1983.
(Pleuronectes americanus) range from Maine to Georgia. Often nicknamed blackbacks or lemon sole, these right-eyed flounders seldom exceed 23 inches and 6 pounds. IGFA all-tackle record: 7 pounds, from Fire Island, New York, in 1986.