The teal told the story.
As I heard about small flocks of blue wing teal starting to arrive in the marshes on the Upper Coast, I knew it was time to get serious about catching flounder.
The best flounder fishing of the year is about a two-week window of November when large numbers are pushing toward the Gulf to migrate. The second best time is when the fall migration begins—actually, before fall.
During my extensive study of southern flounder, I have come across some specific timings and techniques that will give you a big advantage. We are on the cusp of one right now.
I call it the “first push”.
Migrations do not happen instantaneously. Instead they occur in stages and the first stage of flounder migration takes place in late August and early September. When the first cool fronts blow through bringing in blue wing teal in large numbers, you can bet flounder are biting.
In my experience, flounder in the distant reaches of marshes start to move into the main channels of bayous and start staging toward the mouth. With each front comes more fish. If you play your cards right, it is a wonderful time to score on big ones.
This is when the first tiny cold fronts come through, dropping the temperature from the upper 90s to the upper 70s for a day or two. This bite lasts about two weeks and can get a boost if another small front comes through.
The day before a cold front usually features southerly winds and low pressure. If you can find protected water, these are great days to fish. The days of a front are slow typically because of high pressure, which is our next step. Two days after a front is usually the premium time to fish during the fall period.
Barometric pressure is probably the least understood aspect of flounder fishing, and it is one I am continually exploring in relation to fishing around fronts. High pressure puts a strain on fish and typically makes them bit finicky and sometimes not at all. Pressure that is falling or is on a downward trend means a strong bite.
That is why the day immediately following fronts is beautiful (clear skies with high pressure), but the fishing is subpar. Some suggest pressure over 30.20 is too high. If it gets below 29.80, things can get a little shaky. If it is above 30 and falling you have ideal conditions. If you are fishing high-pressure days, use light line, small lures and be ready for a soft bite.
The reason the chance of catching a big fish is increased during this small window is very little pressure on the fish. The big ones that have been hiding away in various locales are moving in to key locations. You have a shot at catching them before other anglers do.
Just remember to watch for tiny cool fronts blowing through and pay special attention to the teal migration.
Although shrimp, croaker and other baitfish are all important component of a flounder’s diet, menhaden, often called pogies or shad in Texas, are the prey source where I focus most of my flounder fishing efforts during this crucial period.
At times the results are stunning.
Five years ago, my father, Chester Moore, Sr. and I watched flounder literally jumping out of the water feeding on menhaden as millions congregated in the Sabine Lake cut during the storm tides spawned by Hurricane Alex.
Another time I caught more than a dozen flounder in a spot the size of my desk because it was inundated with menhaden.
Why are these fish so desired by flounder?
It all boils down to opportunity. Of all of Texas’s bay-dwelling sport fish, flounder are the most opportunistic.
Owing to their flat design, these fish are best suited as ambush predators, and menhaden are easy to ambush.
These fish spawn numerous times from late fall through spring. This produces numerous classes of juveniles that gather in schools, which sometimes number in the millions. These tiny fish often cannot swim well, so they are blown against leeward shorelines. This was the case with the example at the beginning of this story.
Anyone who has attended my flounder seminars or one of my Flatfish University events has heard me talk about the importance of finding eddies (areas of slack water) in the bayous winding into our bays and along ship channels.
The reason is the tiny menhaden we most frequently encounter in the spring cannot negotiate strong tides well and will often congregate in eddies.
Flounder, being the consummate ambush predator, gather there as well and feed aggressively. The first spots I target are bayous, sloughs and other drains where I find concentrations of menhaden. The first thing I look for is eddies.
When these tides are running extra high, I seek flounder along the main shorelines of bay systems.
Attacking vast shorelines would be a waste of time that end in dogged frustration, so you must have a strategy.
Instead of looking over eight miles of shoreline, narrow your search down to an eighth of a mile. You must eliminate water to successfully bag spring flounder. The first step I take while eliminating, is look for a shoreline that has stands of roseau cane.
Roseau cane has an intricate system that is somewhat like a smaller version of mangrove. It gives menhaden a place to linger, hide and dodge larger predators. It is best to fish these areas during the first couple of hours of a falling tide. As the water recedes, the menhaden are removed from their cover and the predator/prey dynamic begins.
There is something about menhaden they cannot resist, and the angler that learns this will usually catch the most flounder.
Anglers willing to seek flounder during this “first push” of the migration can score big before most anglers are even thinking flatfish.