The first flounder that grabbed my attention lived in the marsh on the outer edge of Sabine Lake.
Flopping in the shallow waters on the southwest side of 87, it had my Zebco 808 tested to the max and my heart pounding like a jackhammer. I unfortunately missed that fish that bit on of all things a baby hardhead that ended up in our box of frozen shrimp.
I say “unfortunately” but maybe it was fate. Ever since that incident some 30 years ago I have been chasing monster flounder and although I have caught some big ones, the really big one is still out there.
Actually, a few years ago I got to hold the fish of my dreams in my hands. It was a hatchery broodfish that weighed 13 pounds 10 ounces (bigger than the long-standing rod and reel record from Sabine Lake) and contributed to the production program at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI).
For anyone who wants to know what the potential of our flounder fishery, this particular fish showed it has huge potential. While the fish was unusually big, it was not some lab created mutation but a monster flounder among many big specimens at UTMSI that have been allowed to reach their maximum size. The right ingredients had to come together to make this happen and the single most crucial is allowing the fish to get this size.
On that same trip I went out with UTMSI biologist Jeff Kaiser and a very generous flounder boat guide who helps them catch fish for their lab. It was during November when no gigging is allowed and it was unusual to see the pass empty of gigging boats.
We literally saw hundreds of flounder in just a few spots that would have been killed and not allowed to pass through to the spawning grounds. What was even more impressive were the number of empty beds (some of which were scary big) of fish that had likely moved on to the Gulf that was just a few miles away.
Without the changes in regulations made that year, pretty much all of those fish would have died along with untold thousands of others in the same area.