I t’s a bit ironic that some of the best flounder fishing on the Lower Laguna Madre occurs in September. The bay is much less crowded with many anglers focusing on their children’s back to school activities and, with older kids, high school football.
The thing is, some big bruising flatties are out there waiting to sack a lure or bait for the fisherman willing to ignore football on Saturday or Sunday to go after them.
Of course, you could also go during a weekday, but you must either be retired, playing hooky, or *ahem* unemployed. It takes some knowhow, a little patience, but the stalwart angler can find some nice flatties to take home for a nice stuffed flounder dinner.
Port Mansfield is a good destination for the dedicated flat fisherman. There are plenty of spots a short run across Lower Laguna Madre in the East Cut. The guts that feed into the back bays attract flounder on both the incoming and outgoing tides.
The fish settle on thin drop-offs along the pass on an outgoing tide, then work their way into the inside edges on an incoming tide. The easiest way to for Mansfield flatties is to work live bait or a soft plastic along the edges. A live shrimp or mullet is an ideal bait. Fish them on a spit-shot or fishfinder rig and a 1/0 short-shanked or treble hook (although the latter can be problematic if you throat-hook an undersized flounder).
If you are going to hop a shrimp or shad tail (a 3-inch curlytail grub is a great choice), use a ¼ ounce football-style jighead and hop the bait. This is akin to fishing for bass with a jig/pig combo. Hop with the rod tip up until you feel the resistance of a pick-up. Lower the rod tip, reel in the slack, and set the hook—hard. If you miss, start over. Nothing to it, right?
If flounder aren’t taking your bottom-hugging lures, don’t be afraid to start working your plastic a little faster. One thing I’ve learned from Chester Moore is that flounder aren’t just ambush predators. They can also be active hunters and will follow prey and chase it down. On more than one occasion, I’ve started to speed up my retrieve to pull my lure for another cast, only to have it zapped by a feisty and sassy flounder.
The channels that lead into the back of Cullen Bay hold flounder around the edges in through the fall until the first major cold front of the year. Fishing for them is very straightforward. Use a fish-finder (Carolina) rig with a ¼ ounce sinker and a live shrimp or finger mullet on a #1/0 short-shanked single hook (the Owner SSW in blood red, for example).
If you’d rather fish with lures, then try a 3-inch Gulp! Shrimp in New Penny or Pearl pinned to the same ¼ ounce football jighead and bounced along the bottom. If flounder are there—and they should be—they’ll nail it with gusto.
Moving south, an underutilized flounder area is the channel into South Bay. Most ignore the gateway for the riches on the other side, but they miss out on the treasure that abounds.
On a flood tide, the narrow flats on either side (especially the ones on the south side) hold plenty of flounder to keep you happy. This is an especially effective area to fish at night under a full moon. The only problem is to pay attention to the tides, or you may be stuck for a while on the ebb.
The same outgoing tide that could leave you high and dry also provides an excellent fishing opportunity. During a full moon, the strong falling tide drains the flats into the channels, and flounder join other gamefish along the flats/channel edges to feed on the bait that is dumped into the channel. Swim your bait off the edges and into the drop-offs and let it sink below other feeding fish.
The mainland shoreline on the island at the intersection of the Brownsville Ship Channel and the Port Isabel Channel (also known as the Y) is another good flounder hole. A trolling motor allows you to fish this area the most effectively.
Work parallel to the drop-off and cast your bait or lure towards shore and work back to the boat slowly. Again, either live baits on a Carolina rig or soft plastics are the trick. Don’t be surprised to latch onto some trout and the occasional redfish. These fish tend to share space with flounder.
A classic, but unused technique for working these shoreline edges is an eel-style jerkbait such as the MirrOlure Lil John. The icicle-shaped lure has a much more subtle action than some of the larger, more popular eel-style tails on the market, and flounder seem to respond to them quite aggressively.
You can swim the baits on a 1/8-ounce round head or, if the fish are being a touch finicky, a bottom-bouncing head. Cast the rig up to the shallows, and bounce it back to you. When you feel the heavy “thump!” set the hook hard. I’ve also been experimenting with the Kelly Wiggler Ball Shad in Pink Flamingo, and I’ve been encouraged with the results.
If live shrimp are hard to come by, try a 3-inch Gulp! Shrimp or Kelly Wigglers Shrip as alternatives to real meat. Flounder don’t seem to be very discriminating when they’re on the feed. Adherents to the DOA brand will find that the CAL Minnow is a deadly weapon during flounder missions.
Don’t overlook flounder when you are on Lower Laguna Madre. They make a welcome addition to the autumn get-togethers that you usually invite specks and redfish to.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]