The following video depicts more young winter flounders than you can easily count. It’s a common sight in the shallow bays of Long Island at this time of year as the newly settled juveniles forage on abundant invertebrates in our nutrient-rich waters. The winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus, is a staple on menus in the northeastern US and is ubiquitous in the marine waters of New York.
Unfortunately, despite our best conservation efforts, legal-size flounders seem to be in decline. The reasons for this are not well understood. One of the most puzzling things about the flounder situation is that they appear to have very good larval recruitment as evidenced here. However, second season juveniles (one-year-olds) are nearly non-existent in the population. One likely explanation is that rebounding populations of some of their most important predators: summer flounder, black seabass, and striped bass might be getting in the way. Stomach content analyses of these species demonstrate that juvenile winter flounders are an important component in their respective diets. Apparently, their remarkable camouflage only goes so far in protecting them from predation.
Presently, New York State conservation regulations allow for keeping winter flounder only between April 1 and May 31, with a daily catch limit of 2 fish and a minimum size of 12 inches.