Flounder/Sole

Flounder/Sole

Pacfic Sanddab/Flounder, © Amadeo Bachar

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Pacific sanddab
Best
Low

MORE ABOUT PACIFIC SANDDAB

One of the smaller members of the flounder family, this popular West Coast flatfish reaches only 16 inches (41 cm) when fully grown. Pacific sanddabs live on sandy bottoms and feed on a variety of benthic organisms, including small fish, squid, octopus, shrimp, crabs, sea squirts and worms.

Commercial Sources

The United States is the main commercial source for Pacific sanddabs.

Capture Methods

Pacific sanddabs are caught with bottom trawls.

+-Dover sole
Best
Low

MORE ABOUT DOVER SOLE

Like the flounder, the Dover sole is a pancake-flat fish with both eyes on one side of its head, making it well adapted to living on the ocean bottom. Dover sole produces a protective slime that may spread to other fish when it’s caught in a net. It can grow to a maximum of 2.5 feet, or 76 cm.

Commercial Sources

Dover sole are found in the eastern North Pacific, from the Bering Sea to Baja California in Mexico.

The main source of dover sole is the United States.

Capture Methods

Dover sole come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include handlines and traps.

+-English sole
Best
Low

MORE ABOUT ENGLISH SOLE

Like the flounder, the English sole is a pancake-flat fish with both eyes on one side of its head. It dwells along sand and mud bottoms, and can grow to 1.5 feet, or 49 cm.

Commercial Sources

English sole are found in the eastern North Pacific, from the Bering Sea to central Baja California in Mexico.

Capture Methods

English sole come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with trawls.

+-Rex sole
Best
Low

MORE ABOUT REX SOLE

The rex sole is a flounderlike bottom-dwelling species with both eyes on one side of its head. Rex sole is slow-growing and can live up to 24 years while growing to a maximum of 2 feet, or 61 cm. Often it is captured as bycatch and discarded. Though sometimes used for fertilizer, it is also considered tasty.

Commercial Sources

Rex sole are found in the eastern North Pacific, from the Bering Sea to Baja California in Mexico.

The main source of rex sole is the United States.

Capture Methods

Rex sole come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with trawls.

+-Yellowfin sole
OK
Low

MORE ABOUT YELLOWFIN SOLE

Like the flounder, the yellowfin sole is a pancake-flat fish with both eyes on one side of its head, making it well adapted to living on the ocean bottom. Yellowfin sole can reach a maximum of 1.5 feet, or 46 cm.

Commercial Sources

Yellowfin sole are found in the North Pacific, from the Sea of Japan to Barkley Sound in Canada.

The main source of yellowfin sole is the United States.

Capture Methods

Yellowfin sole come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls and lines. Additional types of fishing gear include seines.

+-Summer flounder
OK
Low

MORE ABOUT SUMMER FLOUNDER

Also called fluke, the summer flounder is a pancake-flat fish, with both eyes on one side of the head, an adaptation to living and moving horizonally along the ocean bottom (and a good camouflage). Summer flounder, which can grow to nearly 3 feet (0.9 meter), prefer to burrow into sandy bottoms and live along coastal areas.

Commercial Sources

Summer flounder are found in the western North Atlantic, from Maine to northern Florida. They occur rarely in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The main source of summer flounder is the United States.

Capture Methods

Summer flounder come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include handlines, pound nets and gillnets.

+-Petrale sole
OK
Low

MORE ABOUT PETRALE SOLE

Like the flounder, the petrale sole is a pancake-flat fish with both eyes on one side of its head, making it well adapted to live on the ocean bottom. It grows to a maximum of 2 feet, or 61 cm. It is considered the premium Pacific coast sole.

Commercial Sources

Petrale sole are found in the eastern North Pacific, from the Bering Sea and Alaska to northern Baja California in Mexico.

The main source of petrale sole is the United States.

Capture Methods

Petrale sole come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with trawls.

+-American plaice
Improving
Low

MORE ABOUT AMERICAN PLAICE

A relative of sole and flounder, the plaice is a slender flat fish with a large mouth and the characteristic eyes on one side of its body. Like its relatives, it lives sideways flush with the ocean floor. It grows to 2.5 feet (76 cm) in length.

Commercial Sources

American Plaice are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they occur from Greenland to the coast of Murmansk on the Barents Sea in northern Europe. In the western Atlantic, they range from southern Labrador and western Greenland to Rhode Island.

The main sources of American plaice are Iceland, followed by the United States, the Russian Federation and Canada.

Capture Methods

American plaice come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets, seines and hooks-and-lines.

+-Winter flounder
Improving
Low

MORE ABOUT WINTER FLOUNDER

The winter flounder lives, as its name implies, in the cold northern waters of the western Atlantic. As with other flounder, its pancake-flat shape and color mutability provide it with a good camouflage against the bottom, where it feeds on insects and crustaceans. It grows up to over 2 feet (0.6 meter) in length.

Commercial Sources

Blackback flounder are found in the western North Atlantic, from Labrador to Georgia.

The main sources of blackback flounder are the United States and Canada.

Capture Methods

Blackback flounder come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets, dredges and pound nets.

+-Witch flounder
Improving
Low

MORE ABOUT WITCH FLOUNDER

Like all flatfish, 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.

Commercial Sources

Witch flounder are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they occur from Norway to northern Spain. In the western Atlantic, they are distributed from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Grand Banks in Canada to North Carolina.

The main sources of witch flounder are Spain and the United Kingdom, followed by the United States, Canada, Denmark and Iceland.

Capture Methods

Witch flounder come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets and seines.

+-Yellowtail flounder
Improving
Low

MORE ABOUT YELLOWTAIL FLOUNDER

The yellowtail flounder has a distinctive flat shape with both eyes on one side of the head. Its flatness and color mutability enable it to easily camouflage itself along the soft muddy and sandy bottoms where it lives in shallow waters. It grows up to 2 feet (61 cm) in length and has been reported to live up to 12 years.

Commercial Sources

Yellowtail flounder are found in the western North Atlantic, from southern Labrador to Chesapeake Bay.

The main sources of yellowtail flounder are Canada and the United States.

Capture Methods

Yellowtail flounder come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with bottom trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets and dredges.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Yellowfin sole Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
American plaice Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Summer flounder Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Winter flounder Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Witch flounder Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Yellowtail flounder Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Pacific sanddab Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Dover sole Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
English sole Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Petrale sole Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Rex sole Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Eco details: 
  • Since they live on or near the bottom, flounder and sole are usually caught by bottom trawls, which can result in bycatch and damage to bottom habitats.
  • True flounders are found in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In New England, flounders are now caught under an innovative new ‘sector’ management plan. Discards in the fishery have dramatically decreased, sector fishermen stayed under their catch limits for all groundfish species, and less gear was deployed compared to previous years.
  • True soles are found in the Pacific Ocean. On the West Coast, soles are now managed under an innovative new ‘catch share’ management plan. Bycatch is down 75%, and conservative catch quotas have limited the catch of overfished rockfish. Additionally, an innovation boom in gear design and fishing behavior has helped trawlers avoid bycatch hotspots and keep sensitive species out of nets.