The Difference Between Fluke and Flounder

The Difference Between Fluke and Flounder

Fluke and flounder are different species of flatfish. Fluke refers specifically to the summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), while flounder is a more general term referring to several species of flatfish, including winter flounder, Gulf flounder, and more.

Neither one will likely win a beauty contest anytime soon, but they are great to bring to the kitchen table. They’re surprisingly easy to file and have a nice, mild flavor. You can even eat them raw.

Are Fluke and Flounder the Same Thing?

Fluke and flounder are not the same thing; however, they are often confused due to their similar appearance. 

Is Summer Flounder Called Fluke?

Fluke specifically refers to the summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), which is a type of flatfish found in the North Atlantic Ocean along the east coast of North America (especially Massachusetts to North Carolina). On the other hand, flounder is a more general term used to describe various species of flatfish belonging to the family Pleuronectidae.

While both fluke and flounder are flatfish with a similar body shape, they belong to different genera and have some differences in their biology, habitat, and distribution. Fluke (summer flounder) is a specific species, while flounder is a broader category that includes different species such as winter flounder, Gulf flounder, plaice, and more.

It’s worth noting that regional naming conventions and fishing practices may vary, so the term “fluke” or “flounder” can sometimes be used interchangeably in certain areas. However, in a strict taxonomic sense, they are not the same thing.

Flounder Fish Species

The four fish species that are commonly referred to as flounder are:

  1. Gulf Flounder (Paralichthys albigutta): Gulf flounder is found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeastern coast of the United States. It has a brownish coloration with spots or blotches on its upper side.
  2. Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma): Southern flounder is native to the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic coast. It resembles other flounder species, with a brownish coloration and distinctive spots or blotches.
  3. Summer Flounder or Fluke (Paralichthys dentatus)Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is primarily found along the eastern coast of North America, from the Gulf of Maine down to Florida. It has an olive-brown or brown coloration on the upper side and a white underside.
  4. Winter Flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus): Winter flounder is found along the eastern coast of North America, ranging from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Georgia. It has a diamond-shaped body with a brownish coloration on the upper side and a pale underside.

These four species are indeed often referred to as flounders, and they share the general characteristics of flatfish.

However, it’s important to note that there are additional types of flounder found in different regions around the world, each with its own specific characteristics.

Fluke Vs. Flounder: The Differences

Geographic Distribution

Fluke (summer flounder) is predominantly found along the eastern coast of North America, ranging from the Gulf of Maine down to Florida.

Flounder species have a wider distribution in different parts of the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Habitat Preference

Fluke (summer flounder) is commonly found in nearshore coastal waters and estuaries with sandy or muddy ocean floors.

Flounder species have diverse habitat preferences and can be found in various environments, such as sandy or muddy bottoms, reefs, and rocky areas.

Is fluke or flounder bigger?

Fluke (summer flounder) tends to be larger compared to many flounder species. They can reach lengths of up to several feet and weigh several pounds.

Flounder species, depending on the specific species, are generally smaller in size.

Culinary Use

Fluke (summer flounder) and flounder species are both valued for their delicate, mild flavor and firm, white flesh. 

They are both fish you can prepare in various ways, such as grilling, baking, frying, or sautéing.

How Do You Identify a Fluke Fish?

Fluke fish have a flat body typical of flatfish. They are laterally compressed and both eyes are located on the left side of their body. (Note: other species of flounder can have both eyes on the right side of their head).

They typically have a brownish or olive-green color on the upper side; the underside (bottom side) of their body is usually white.

Fluke fish can vary in size, but they are generally larger than many other flatfish species. They can grow to lengths of several feet and weigh several pounds.

Fluke; source: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

What Kind of Fish Does Fluke Taste Like?

Fluke’s flavor is generally milder than stronger-flavored fish like salmon or mackerel. Some people compare the taste of fluke to other mild white fish such as sole, halibut, or cod.

The mild taste allows it to complement a wide range of seasonings, sauces, and accompaniments, making it a popular choice for seafood dishes.

How To Cook Fluke and Flounder

Fluke and flounder are both edible and commonly consumed. They are prized for their delicate flavor, tender texture, and versatility in cooking.

One of the best ways to prepare fluke or flounder fillets is by pan-frying them. This method allows you to achieve a crispy exterior while maintaining the delicate and tender flesh of the fish.

When it comes to serving fluke and flounder, they pair well with various accompaniments and sauces. They can be served with rice, roasted vegetables, or a fresh salad. Lemon wedges, tartar sauce, or a light butter sauce are common condiments that enhance the flavors of these fish.

Continue reading: Difference Between Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

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