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What is a Flounder?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A flounder is a type of flatfish, found in most of the world's oceans. There are a number of varieties of this fish, but all of them share general characteristics which make them quite distinctive. People in a number of cultures eat these fish, and they are considered to be quite delicious. They are among the more bizarre fish species found in shallow water, and tend to fascinate people who stumble across them.

Like all flatfish, flounder have very flattened bodies. They begin life as small larvae with one eye on each side, but as the larvae mature one of the eyes migrates so that the fish has two eyes on one side. Many species of flounder have their eyes on the left, although some have them on the right. After the eye has migrated, the young fish begins to flatten, and the bottom part of the fish turns pale while the top part grows mottled and sandy colored, green, or sometimes blue. Some flounders are capable of changing coloration slightly for camouflage.

The flounder looks very strange, with both eyes squashed in together at the upper part of the head, a small jaw, and distinct dorsal and lower fins as well as a fanning tail. The body of the fish usually yields two fillets, both of which provide delicate pale meat which is delicious when cooked, although it should only be cooked briefly, and is best when prepared in a pan. The flesh will flake apart if grilled, and this preparation is not recommended.

Flounder eat plankton and other fish species, and will burrow into the ocean bottom to conceal themselves while they wait for prey. They are remarkably good at blending in with backgrounds, and are very successful predator species, as they are fast swimmers. They can be found in a wide range of climates, from warm tropical waters to cold Arctic regions, and are usually found close to shore in fairly shallow water.

After maturing at approximately two years of age, flounder migrate in the early fall to spawn. The larvae drift into estuaries where they mature into adult and become bottom dwellers.

World stocks of flounder appear to be stable, and the fish is not heavily commercially harvested. Many species are not harvested at all, due to size and boniness, while others are sustainably fished and do not appear to be suffering. They have maintained a very broad biological diversity, and enforced quotas on species have assisted with this.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By titans62 — On Sep 27, 2011

@Izzy78 - To be completely honest most fish taste pretty bland until spices are added to it. Although most fish have distinctive tastes, many do not have much of a taste until they are cooked and spices are added.

Some fish have to be cooked a certain way and the reason for this is because the fish will not taste inviting at all if it is not cooked a particular way in order to add flavor to it.

A flounder is no different than any other fish that is commercially gathered and it is a type of fish that has to have things added to it in order to make it taste more appealing to whoever is eating it. This does not at all mean that the fish is bad to cook, it just means that the fish is like many others and needs a little help when cooked. What I would like to see posted here is recipes for cooking flounder and maybe this could be compared to other fish so people can get an idea of what it tastes like as opposed to assuming that since it is a bottom dwelling fish and that it is going to taste bad.

By Izzy78 — On Sep 26, 2011

Since a flounder has evolved to the point that it is flat and has eyes on one side of its body it spends its time on the bottom on the ocean floor most of the time. Because of this fact the flounder would have to have a taste of the ocean floor involved with it.

I am not at all a cook but the cooking process may take out some of this taste and certain things can be added that can make the flounder taste better, but from my experience the flounder is not a very spectacular tasting fish and I feel that tilapia, which I feel is a rather bland tasting fish, is more inviting to eat than a flounder.

By stl156 — On Sep 26, 2011

@JimmyT - I would have to agree. I have never tasted flounder but I have tasted carp, which is a bottom feeder and it does not taste very appealing at all.

It could be possible that the flounder tastes different than a carp considering that a flounder is a salt water fish as opposed to the carp which is a fresh water fish, but I would think that they would have a similar taste because they are not known to spend their time openly swimming in the water, but sit at the bottom of the water.

By JimmyT — On Sep 25, 2011

I have always been enthralled by the uniqueness of the flounder. I have been attracted to the flounder mostly due to its unique shape, in that it is flat with eyes on the same side of its head. I have always seen the flounder as a unique type of fish, that although odd looking is perfectly suited in order to survive the many predators of the deep.

From a harvesting perspective I cannot imagine that the flounder tastes very good because it burrows deep into the ocean floor to conceal itself. I would think that the flounder would tastes like a carp because of this fact, which is not very good.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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