Common Name(s): Winter flounder, blackback, lemon sole
Scientific Name: Pseudopleuronectes americanus
Winter flounder can alter their body color to blend
in with the bottom they are resting on, making it
tough for prey and predators to see them.
~Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey~
- When they first hatch, winter flounder are like most other fish, with an eye on both sides of the head; however, as they develop, the left eye will migrate across the top of its head to the right side of its head. The fish then lays flat on the sea floor and will have both eyes facing upwards. Since both eyes are on the right side of the body, the winter flounder is called a right-eyed flatfish.
- Unlike most fish that spawn in nearshore waters during the spring, the winter flounder comes inshore to spawn during the winter. In order to survive the shallow waters during the winter, the flounder produces a specialized anti-freeze protein in their body.
Where Are They Found?
Winter flounder range from Labrador, Canada down to Georgia. When the water is cold, the winter flounder will move inshore into shallow coastal water of estuaries and bays for spawning. When the water begins to warm up, flounders will migrate offshore into deeper, cooler waters for the summer. Juvenile flounders will remain in these inshore areas until they are around two years of age. They are found mostly in sandy or muddy bottoms and near eelgrass beds.
How Big Can They Get?
Winter flounder can grow as big as 25 inches (64cm), and can weigh up to 8 pounds (3.6kg). The average weight of a flounder that is caught, typically ranges between 1-3 pounds. The biggest fish taken in New York waters was 7 pounds 3.5 ounces taken in 1997.
What Do They Eat?
The diet of a winter flounder is typical of fish that live along the bottom. They feed on shrimps, amphipods, sandworms, and smaller fish. One of the flounders favorite meals is the siphon tip of the hard clam. Sandworms are typically used as bait when fishing.