The beauty of fishing is that you don’t know what’s on the other end of the line until you reel it in.
Most of the time a fisherman can narrow their expectations to a few species of fish expected to be found in whatever body of water they’re fishing.
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that Wayne Nall was certainly not expecting to catch a flounder while fishing for bass more than 200 miles away from the nearest body of salt water. He was fishing on the Ocmulgee River near the border of Telfair and Coffee counties in South Georgia.
Many species of saltwater fish are known to travel hundreds of miles up freshwater rivers to spawn. Species like Salmon, striper, and steelhead are all known to do it. Flounder, however, are not. This makes the catch particularly perplexing.
We’ve been catching some good ones with the river staying full this year. Then the fish didn’t come up, and I said, ‘Something isn’t right here.’
When I got it up and it came by the boat close enough, I saw that messed up brown color, and I thought it was a flathead catfish. I was half right. Turns out I had a big flatfish.”
Flounder are commonly found at the mouth of brackish rivers that feed into saltwater, and they thrive at ocean depths of up to 100 feet and congregate around shipwrecks, reefs, and other underwater structure. They’re also capable of living in pure freshwater, and researchers have explored stocking them in freshwater impoundments.
Bert Deener, the Southeast Georgia Fisheries Supervisor for the state’s Wildlife Resources Division says finding flounder in freshwater is not unheard of, but it’s rare to see them so far up river.
“We get reports of upriver flounder every year — some years more than others — but no real pattern of dry versus wet years.
While they typically live in saltwater, it is not uncommon for them to take a vacation up one of our Georgia rivers.
The Altamaha system is their preferred vacation destination. I’ve personally electro-fished flounder 20 to 30 miles upstream of saltwater during our standardized sampling, but have had reports of flounder being caught, usually by bass anglers farther upstream.
This Ocmulgee River flounder had a little more energy than most and is the farthest upstream I’ve heard of in my over 20-year career.”
No word on whether or not the fisherman kept the fish, but if you find yourself hungry with a flounder on your line then consider firing up this garlic parmesan flounder recipe from Fish Hook.