Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

Baited spoon fishing for flatties.

This morning I had the following email from Andrew Davidson asking about flounder fishing. Now I haven't done much flatty fishing for years but it really revived my enthusiasm for the idea of baited lures.

Hi Mike ,

Firstly I would like to say thanks for such an informative site, which has helped rekindle my interest in fishing after 20-odd years. (I'm blushing!) Secondly I was very interested in your articles on fishing for flounder with a baited spoon. I will soon be taking the family to Beadnell in Northumberland and I'm keen to give the method a bash around the small estuary in the bay (I don't know if there are any fish there but it looks a reasonable place to try!). As I am unable to find a copy of Garrad's book (Sea Angling with the Baited Spoon) I was hoping you could give me a few pointers towards how to make a few spinners for this purpose, such as how long a hooklength I should use , blade size , etc. If you could help me out with this it would be greatly appreciated .

Regards ,

Andrew Davidson

I replied to Andrew's email then I remembered writing a piece about spinning for flounders from a beach in the north-east of England (many years ago). To my shame I never really followed up the method although it obviously had lots of potential. Anyway, I shall be interested to see how Andrew fares on his holiday. I repeat the article just to fill in the picture ----

Have we attained the ultimate in shore fishing methods? Apart from casting a few metres farther out, and using slightly less conspicuous end gear than we did 20 years ago, how can we catch more? All right, there are chemically sharpened hooks, bait additives and lots more books and magazines full of advice. Why, then, are fish not queuing up to be caught? I’m always on the look out for new and deadly tactics (usually in vain). Despite this difficulty and alhough areas of experiment are restricted to the species available in my home area of south Dorset, results have been, at times, spectacular. Buoyant plugs, freelined baits for bass, and surface-fished maggot flies for mullet have given my pals and me many red-letter days. One summer a few years ago I concentrated on the use of baited spoons for thin-lipped mullet, and these picked up quite a few flounders, too.

BUT would these spinners work elsewhere? I had my chance to find out when I made my annual relative-visiting pilgrimage to the north-east coast. Local newspapers said that flounders were the only hope for shore anglers, and rods lined along the beach at Newbiggin confirmed that sport was not exactly electric. What better testing ground than that for my baited spoons? I visited ‘Steve’s Fishing Tackle’ in South Shields and brought a few ounces of ragworm they are not sold by the dozen, as down south! A chat with the blokes behind the counter gave the impression I had nothing to lose, so the following morning I set off with wife, sons, worms and all to Alnmouth (an estuary not that far from Beadnell where Andrew is going to do his fishing).

I had not been to the estuary of the River Aln for 25 years, but I remembered clearly the sand dunes covered in marram grass and the river channel winding down across the golden beach to the sea’s edge. It had not changed. The sun spilled down and my family went their separate ways, leaving the old man to his daft experiments. I set up the spinning rod with 8lb line and a size 5, silver-bladed and plastic bodied spoon, just as I would for mullet at home. No lead was needed, because I had the idea of fishing just fast enough to keep the blade turning. Two inches behind the spoon was a small treble, and above that a size 12 single hook to retain the bait

My first cast upstream and across was met by a double pluck definitely a bite. As I reeled in, the plucking continued, and the flashing spoon hove in to view with a little brownish kite shape in its wake. The seven centimetre flounder turned away only when I lifted its new toy from the water. Encouragement! Just what I needed!

I made my way along the river channel towards the sea, casting and retrieving every few paces. Several times, little flounders followed and chewed at the ragworm, even ripping it off the hook once or twice, but all came adrift. By now it was low water, and a couple of blokes brought their beach casting gear down for some flounder fishing in the sea outside the river mouth. Little waves were rolling into clear, shallow water over a sandy bottom. I waded out a few yards and carried on with the baited spoon. Ten minutes later, several more fish had tried, but failed, to hang themselves on the spoon.

There seemed to be nothing obviously wrong with the hook rig, but I changed the treble for a chemically sharpened Aberdeen. I saw straight away that this would assist baiting up. The hook was inserted in to the worm just behind its head and slid along until the small retaining hook could be nicked in to the tough head region. On the very next cast, the familiar pluck, pluck, pluck turned into a hooked flounder.

In the following two hours I landed eight fish and lost only three, unfortunately one of the escapees was the biggest of the bunch, about a pound. Those I beached were in the ounces category, and all went back in mint condition a process not difficult to achieve, as all were lip-hooked.

“So he only caught a few titchy flounders!” I can almost here the scathing remarks from you seasoned flattie-bashers, but don’t be too hasty. It was probably not coincidence that the two blokes fishing standard leger tactics failed to get even a single bite! I can see no reason why spinning should not work for flounders of all sizes (after all Garrad caught lots of BIG fish on his trolled spoons), and unhooking large fish will be even easier than dealing with the small ones (so no more gut-hooked flatties - a real bonus). This is most important in a conservation-conscious age. Also, spinning is an active method that allows you to search large areas of water and to attract fish from a distance. No doubt it could be a useful match tactic if anyone can withstand the inevitable ridicule as they try it out.

While I'm on the topic of flounders I recently had an interesting email from David Rushworth who fishes Morcambe Bay. David had caught what he thought was an odd flounder in the sense that it had some characteristics of a plaice (he'd also caught a plaice for comparison). The question was - could it be a hybrid between the two species? In short the answer was "Yes but it's not really possible (for me) to tell from the photographs". Plaice and flounder can hybridise and lots of hybrids have been produced by scientists.

It would be of some interest to know whether other sea anglers have caught possible hybrid flatties, although I wouldn't like to get into the same mess that coarse anglers have with roachxrudd and roachxbream - at the end of the day it doesn't really matter unless it indicates some sort of environmental disturbance which is altering the spawning habits of the species or if the fish is being claimed as some sort of record (I'm no great believer in these either).

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


Baited spoon for flatties.


Flounders often have orange spots, they also have prickly scales along the lateral line and margins.


Plaice are usually whiter and the skin is more transparent underneath.  It would have been nice to see a 'proper flounder' as well.  Note the 'hybrid' is the bigger fish.