Winter flounder are a small-mouthed flatfish that lives on sandy or gravely seafloors in estuaries and along the continental shelf from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina. Most common north of Delaware Bay, these bottom-dwellers are oval-shaped and with a fairly straight lateral line leading to a rounded tail. They are named after the fact that they migrate to inshore bays and estuaries during winter months.
Winter flounder’s colour varies with their habitat from reddish brown and olive green to dark slate and almost black. Their underside is white with fins tinged with pink, red or yellow. They grow up to two feet and have both eyes on their right side. This flatfish is very popular due to his lean meat, delicate flavour and fine texture.
Winter flounder grow up to more than two feet in length and reach 15 to 18 years of age. In the winter and spring, they migrate to shallow inshore waters to spawn. Females lay from 500,000 to 1.5 million eggs along sandy seafloor at night about 40 times throughout the spawning season. The larvae settle on the bottom where they transform into juveniles. When they hatch, the flounder’s eyes are symmetrical with one on each side of its head. As the fish grows, it takes on its flattened shape and the left eye slowly drifts over to the right side of its head next to the other eye. With their small mouths, winter flounder feed during the day on small invertebrates, clams, worms and shrimp.
This fishery uses a large cone-shaped net that is dragged along the seafloor to catch fish. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push two "otter boards" outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path.