SCIENTIFIC NAME: Paralichthys lethostigma
CHARACTERISTICS: The southern flounder is a moderately large fish with prominent eyes and a large mouth containing sharp canine teeth. The eyed side is generally light to dark brown with diffuse small spots and blotches, while the blind side is dusky or white. The large ocellated spots present on other species of flounder are much more diffuse in the southern flounder and generally disappear in adult individuals. See Jordan and Meek (1884) for original description.
ADULT SIZE: 10 to 30 in (254 to 762 mm). Up to 10 lb (4.5 kg). Though not identified by species, the state angling record (13 lb, 3 oz), caught in 1975, was probably a southern flounder.
DISTRIBUTION: Paralichthys lethostigma is distributed in Atlantic coastal waters from North Carolina to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas. This species is a common inhabitant of Alabama estuarine waters. Our collections of southern flounder in the lower Tombigbee River basin below Coffeeville Lock and Dam (river mile 116.6) and in the Alabama River below Claiborne Lock and Dam (river mile 117.5) are new inland records for this species in Alabama.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: The southern flounder generally prefers muddy bottoms throughout most of the estuary, but it can occur in channel and bay mouths and also frequents areas around piers, pilings, and rock jetties. Migrations to offshore spawning grounds begin in late fall at the onset of cold weather, and spawning is completed during winter months. This species is the perfect predator, lying in total camouflage on the bottom until unsuspecting prey wander within reach and are capture with lightning quick movements. Foods of this species include shrimp and fishes.
REMARKS: Flounders are caught by both anglers and commercial fishermen in south Alabama. Malvestuto et al. (1983) report that anglers landed 8,425 pounds of flounder, probably southern flounder, in the Mobile Delta and Mobile River in 1980 and 1981. An additional 1,414 pounds were landed by commercial fishermen during the same period.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Jordan described the southern flounder in 1884.
Paralichthys means parallel fish.
Lethostigma means forgotten spots, referring to the gradual disappearance of large spots.
This copyrighted information is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Another source of information would be Dr. Bob Shipp's Guide to the Fishes of Gulf of Mexico.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.