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Flounders and Soles family species, their habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

The Flounders and Soles. Families Hippoglossidae, Paralichthyidae, Pleuronectidae, Bothidae, and Achiridae. There are two flounder families: the right-eyed Pleuronectidae family and the left-eyed Bothidae family. The flounder family is large subclass of saltwater fish, made up of many species of fish. In the United States, East Coast varieties include
Gray Sole (also called Witch Flounder), Winter Flounder (also called Blackback or Lemon Sole), American Plaice (also called Dab or Sand Dab), Yellowtail Flounder (also called Dab or Rusty Flounder), Summer Flounder (also called Fluke), and Southern Flounder. West Coast varieties include Petrale Sole, Sand Sole, English Sole, Rex Sole, Pacific Sand Dab, Dover Sole, and California Flounder.
    The flatfishes are a very homogenous tribe, so different from all other fishes by their flatness; less obvious is the fact that they do not lie on the belly but on one side, right or left. And their skull twists in the course of development so that the eye which was originally on the side that is fated to be underneath migrates around the head, until both the eyes finally come to lie close together, on the side that is uppermost as the fish lies on bottom. But the mouth retains its original position more nearly, so that it is often described as opening sidewise. The larval flounder swims on edge like any other fish; the migration of the eye takes place shortly before the fry take to the bottom.
    All of the flatfishes have a single long fin on each edge, one the dorsal and the other the anal; they also have well-developed ventral fins (at least on the eyed side) which are either on the right-hand edge or on the left-hand edge as the fish lies. Most of the Gulf of Maine species also have pectoral fins, one on the upper side as the fish lies on the bottom, the other on the lower side. The ventral fins are in front of the pectorals or in line with them; the abdominal cavity is very short, and some species are armed with a stout anal spine.
    Flatfishes (flounders, soles, halibuts) are described as being right-eyed or left-eyed. You can tell which side is which by locating the pelvic fins and the lower jaw: If they are on the left side of the fish when it is in its normal, eyes-up position, then the fish is a left-eyed flatfish; if they are on the right, it is a right-eyed species. Rarely, however, an individual that would normally be right-eyed has the eyes on the left side, or vice versa.
    All flatfish start out life looking like normal fish, but after a few weeks, one eye migrates to the other side of their head, their bodies flatten into an oval shape, one side turns dark and one side white, and they settle to the bottom of the sea floor. The meat from a flatfish typically varies in color: fillets from the bottom (white) side of the fish will be thinner and whiter, while fillets from the top (dark) side will be thicker and grayer. Even though many of them are called soles, all the flatfish fished commercially in the U.S. are really flounders.

To show the extent of the confusion:
Pacific Dover Sole, a flounder not the same as true English Dover Sole from the North Atlantic, is the most common flounder sold on the West Coast.
Yellowfin sole is a small flounder.
Arrowtooth flounder, which is found from California to Alaska, has a soft flesh and is often marketed as turbot, although it is not European turbot, the most expensive flatfish in the world.
Greenland turbot, which is caught in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, is not really a turbot either, but instead is a member of the halibut family. Outside of North America, it is called Greenland halibut or black halibut. To avoid marketing confusion with Pacific halibut, the halibut industry successfully lobbied to have the name of this flatfish changed to turbot.
California halibut is actually a left-eyed flounder.
Fluke is a common name for summer flounder, a popular East Coast flatfish that occurs from the southern Gulf of Maine to South Carolina. Because it is a closely related species, California halibut may also be called fluke on occasion. It’s enough to make someone flounder, or at least try one’s sole.

Diagnostic characters of the Family:
Most species with eyes on left side of head, reversals frequent in some species (right-eyed individuals nearly as common as left-eyed in some species occurring outside the Atlantic).
No spines present in fins, however spines sometimes present anterior to eyes in males.
Mouth is protractile, asymmetrical, lower jaw moderately prominent; teeth in jaws sometimes canine-like; no teeth on vomer.
Preopercle exposed, its posterior margin free and visible, not hidden by skin or scales.
Urinary papilla on ocular side (Paralichthys group) or blind side (Cyclopsetta group), not attached to first anal-fin ray.
Dorsal fin long, originating above, lateral to, or in front of upper eye.
Dorsal and anal fins not attached to caudal fin.
Lateral line is present and obvious on both sides of body; lateral line with (Paralichthys group) or without (Cyclopsetta group) high arch over pectoral fin; lateral line present (Paralichthys group) or faint or absent (Cyclopsetta group) below lower eye on blind side.
Some species of the Cyclopsetta group (some species of Syacium, Citharichthys, and Etropus) show sexual dimorphism especially in the position of the eyes, which in males have a greater separation than in females, also in interorbital width, longer length of the pectoral fin on the ocular side, longer length of the anterior dorsal-fin rays, and coloration.
    Both pectoral fins present (except right pectoral fin lost in adults of Monolene).
Both pelvic fins present, with 5 or 6 rays (6 rays in most species); pelvic fin on ocular side larger than blind-side counterpart in some species of group; base of pelvic fin of ocular side on midventral line (Cyclopsetta group), or pelvic fins symmetrically or nearly symmetrically placed on either side of midventral line (Paralichthys group).
Caudal fin with 17 or 18 rays, 10 to 13 rays branched (usually 11 or 13, rarely 10 or 12) is free from dorsal and anal fins.
Flounder Family Species diagram
Eye side is light to dark brown to whitish, often with spots, blotches, or ring-like markings; blind side usually pale (dark bars on blind side of adult males of Engyophrys senta); although ambicoloration (eyed-side coloration replicated on blind side) may occasionally occur.

They usually inhabit shallow, soft sediments on the continental shelf to a depth of about 200 m. Some species are found in greater depths to about 500 m or more. Sand flounders are bottom-dwelling predators, usually burrowing partially or almost entirely in sand or soft mud. They are capable of a rapid change in coloration which allows them to match their background almost perfectly. Most appear to feed on or near the bottom, but some of the larger species will rise off the bottom to capture prey. Most occur in shallow water, although some species also occur at slope depths. Most flounders from Paralichthys group are good food fishes, except some too small species. Fishing methods for flounders are trawling, seining, and hook-and-line.


    Most of these fish have sweet, delicate white flesh that chefs and consumers everywhere enjoy: low fat, fine-textured meat and mild flavor. The flounder is very low in fat, and has a very fine texture and delicate flavor. Flounder is available whole, but more usually as fillets. It can be prepared in any way that respects its fine texture: sautéed, baked, broiled, poached or steamed.

Southern Flounder

    The southern (or armless) flounders, Paralichthys lethostigma, are a small family of flounders found in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. It 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.

Winter Flounder / Lemon Sole

    The Winter Flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus, also known as Black Back, Lemon Sole, Blackback, Georges Bank Flounder, Sole; Flatfish, Rough Flounder, Mud Dab, Black Flounder, is a flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae. They are native to coastal waters of the western north Atlantic coast, from southern Labrador, Canada to South Carolina and Georgia, United States; it is most abundant from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Chesapeake Bay, the most common near-shore flounder in the shallow-waters from Newfoundland down through Massachusetts Bay. It spends the summer off shore in deeper waters, and winters in shallow coastal estuaries rivers and bays. It grows up to 64 cm in length and 3.6 kg in weight.

Summer Flounder

    Summer flounder, often called Fluke, is the largest and most prized of the flounders. It has both eyes are on the left side and compressed, oblong body, commonly brown or gray with a white underbelly, and ranges from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. Summer flounder are able to blend into their background by adapting to the texture and color of the substrate. It undergoes a unique maturation from egg to adult flounder in which one eye migrates to the opposite side of the head. It reaches maximum length of 1.2 m, and the average-sized fish weighs 6.8 kg. It is harvested largely offshore. Harvest takes place year round with peak season between June and August. As the summer gets into full swing, Summer Flounder (Fluke) find their way into the harbors.

Witch Flounder / Grey Sole

    The Witch flounder has a distinctive flat shape with both eyes on one side of its head and swims horizontally. Its flatness and color mutability enable it to easily camouflage itself along the soft muddy and sandy bottoms where it lives. Witch flounder are found in fairly deep waters in the Atlantic Ocean in the Northern Hemisphere. They grow up to nearly 2 feet (60 cm) in length and have been reported to live up to 25 years.

Gulf Flounder

    The Gulf flounder is a member of the Bothidae family of left-eyed flounder, is one of the smaller fish in a family and an excellent table fish. The average fish is under 2 pounds weight and length 6 to 10 inches. Light brown above, with the scales usually more or less outlined with darker brown; brownish white below. Gulf flounder spend the warmer months in coastal embayments and sometimes in nearshore shelf waters, and migrate offshore during the fall as waters cool.

Peacock Flounder

    Peacock flounders can grow to a length of about 18 inches (45 cm) but usually are about 14 inches (35 cm) long. They change their color and the pattern on the skin to exactly match the sea floor. One of the flounder’s eyes focuses on the color and pattern of the ground. If this eye is covered by send, the flounder can’t modify its skin to match. Each eye can move independently, seeing forward and back at the same time. The eyes of peacock flounders are on the left side of the head. There is a wide space between the eyes, and the lower eye is farther forward than the upper eye.

American Plaice

    The American plaice, also called Canadian plaice and dab, is a member of the flounder family, which is found on both sides of the Atlantic. The fish can be various shades of reddish- to gray-brown and has a low fat, fine-textured flesh with a mild, sweet flavor. The American plaice can get as large as 12 pounds but is usually marketed in the 2- to 3-pound range.
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