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Thoughts on flounder misidentification ? (a bigger problem than we think?)

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JerseyJeb

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So the more I stare at photos and videos of flounder the less sure I am at identifying them. They say you can ID by the spots but how often are you really getting a flounder that is cooperating and "colored up"  properly ? (When I look at government agencies and reputable fishing publications the spots on their flounder often don't match what the guides say). In addition, it's documented that flounder can have color abnormalities, further complicating things. Some say you can identify by the relation of the mouth to the eyes, but once again looking at flounder from reputable sources it doesn't match. Some say you can identify by counting the anal fin rays, maybe this works in lab setting but the number ranges are so close, not reliable from photograph or doing it in the field when you catch a fish. Even which "direction" the flounder is facing is not reliable, flounder of a given species have been caught and documented that are facing the wrong way.

 

That basically just leaves you with gill raker counts, which I doubt anyone fishing is doing as a practical matter, the ranges are also close as well, you have to hope the fish is in a unique range.

 

You might think, okay but why even a give a crap a flounder is a flounder ? Well it impacts fishing regulations, fishing tournaments, and fishing records.

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I think it’s possible yellowtail flounder are caught here in the NE, but mistaken as winter flounder. I can’t see experienced fishermen confusing either of those two flounders with fluke or windowpane/sundials. Although on the flip side, they do call fluke ‘flounder’ in the more southern reaches of their range. But that’s not so much confusion as much as it is a regional name thing. 

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20 mins ago, albacized said:

I think it’s possible yellowtail flounder are caught here in the NE, but mistaken as winter flounder. I can’t see experienced fishermen confusing either of those two flounders with fluke or windowpane/sundials. Although on the flip side, they do call fluke ‘flounder’ in the more southern reaches of their range. But that’s not so much confusion as much as it is a regional name thing. 

 

The big three that are very confusing is summer vs southern vs gulf. Summer and gulf have characteristic dark spot with white ring around it, southern do not. All three fish can have plain dark spots and white spots in different patterns. But fish are caught (or after they have been in a cooler a while) just look like brown flatfish with no real distinct spots visible. On a good colored fish the summer will have the 5 spot pattern towards the tail but of course fish are caught where the distinct spots are not textbook summer or gulf. 

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There is a simple way to identify Flounder from Fluke.. Fluke have a large mouth verses a small mouth on a Flounder. Fluke has it's eyes together to one side on the fishes head and Flounder has it's two eyes on both sides of its head..

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1 hour ago, sytheteacher said:

There is a simple way to identify Flounder from Fluke.. Fluke have a large mouth verses a small mouth on a Flounder. Fluke has it's eyes together to one side on the fishes head and Flounder has it's two eyes on both sides of its head..

I thought that’s what he was talking about too. But he’s talking about northern flounder (what we call fluke) vs the two flounders found in FL (southern and gulf flounders). While there is some variation in coloration and marking patterns, these three fish are essentially spitting images of each other - all with larger mouths w/ teeth

Edited by albacized
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Summer Flounder- "fluke":  if you turn it upright so that the fins on the side are at the top and bottom, and the eyes are above the mouth, you'll see that the eyes are on the left (left-eyed). The mouth is also relatively large. If you stick your pinky finger in the mouth it comes out bloody, because fluke have teeth. 

fluke.jpg

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Winter flounder: mouth is much smaller, and it's right-eyed (and those eyes stick right out of its head).  Also, the spots you were talking about are not as prominent on these guys. No teeth on them, either, since they eat marine invertebrates, rather than fish.

 

winter flounder.jpg

Edited by baldwin
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This is a windowpane flounder (on my student's hands, not mine!) It's pretty transparent. If you flip it, you'll see the internal organs. It's left-eyed, and the shape is more diamond-shaped than the others.

windowpane.jpg

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This is a hogchoker. He's right-eyed and almost rectangular. Look at the fins almost completely encircling his body, and he's got horizontal bars rather than spots. He can also stick to your hand pretty well. 

hogchoker.jpg

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3 hours ago, sytheteacher said:

There is a simple way to identify Flounder from Fluke.. Fluke have a large mouth verses a small mouth on a Flounder. Fluke has it's eyes together to one side on the fishes head and Flounder has it's two eyes on both sides of its head..

What the hell are Fluke? There are Flounder (aka Summer Flounder) and Windowpanes (aka Winter Flounder). The pictures shown depict the two species.

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