Come late November most flounder are headed toward the spawning grounds of the Gulf of Mexico, and anglers have moved on to duck hunting or seeking redfish.
The key word here is “most” because some flounder stick around during winter especially in Upper Coast bays.
“You can catch some flounder in the late fall and early winter if know where to look,” said Capt. Shane Chesson.
Chesson said anglers should target mud flats adjacent to the Intracoastal Canal in East and West Galveston Bay on warm, sunny winter afternoons when the tides are running high.
“The black mud in the shallow water retains heat and gets the fish on the flats,” Chesson said.
They do not move around much when the water is warm so with their metabolism low, they typically stay on the flat’s side of the drop off and this serves two purposes. First, it fits their lazy nature. They do not have to move far.
Second, when the tides are rising or falling, it gives the flounder a place to intercept baitfish going to and from the deep. Tides are the number one crucial issue in flounder fishing because they almost totally rely on them to bring baitfish to them. In these areas, it is no different.
Numerous guides target trout in these areas in the winter and each of them said they have incidentally caught flounder all over the flats, but did say they caught the most near the drop-offs and also bonding to any structure on the mud such as small oyster reefs.
Stick with slow-moving lures in these areas such as the Corky, which is what a great many anglers use for trout there. Also, consider the Gulp! Shrimp, which is a good lure to move across the bottom at a snail’s pace. Shrimp are an important part of a flounder’s diet during the winter and is an overlooked food source to target.
The Houston Light and Power (HL&P) outfall canal in Trinity Bay can be productive for winter flounder. “The HL&P Canal is just a downright great place to fish for anything in the winter, and it will hold some flounder,” Chesson said.
Baitfish congregate here during cold spells, making it a sort of buffet for a host of flounder that winter in the bays. Flounder often sit down-current and can be found in eddies that form near drop offs. Small baitfish cannot negotiate current very well and they often are stuck in eddies. Flounder will stack up in these eddies and gulp up the shad, shrimp and whatever else ends up there.
Something to keep in mind is that even small flows from a single drainpipe can draw fish. They may not hold massive schools of fish for long periods, but even a slight change for the positive in water temperature can make a difference in cold weather. It is very important to look for the little things in these spots since very often that is all it takes to attract game fish. When fishing at HL&P any kind of structure or flow-producing warm water is worth trying.
If you can get your hands on live mud minnows, they are great this time of year for these warm water flounder. In addition, any shad or minnow imitation fished on a 1/8-ounce jig head in glow or chartreuse can be killer.
Another option for anglers this month is the holdover flounder that hang around Rollover Pass. Most of them have already left to spawn in the Gulf but there are enough holdovers to make things interesting for anglers wanting to catch flatfish.
In this area, fishing live mud minnows or finger mullet on a Carolina rig along the edges of the ship channel is the best move. Some anglers are starting to wise up to the fact that they can set out several rods with live bait so that they can get more action as more flounder move through their area. Look for outgoing tides to provide the best bites, especially after a cold front passes through.
For “holdover” flounder look in some of the same locations you would during the rest of year especially along shorelines.
If the tide is high, working over the unique systems created by stands of Roseau cane can put fish in the boat. Many anglers concentrate solely on the mouths of these bayous and more often than not, they catch fish, but by going into the cuts and looking for cane stands, they can step into a whole other realm of flounder fishing.
Roseau cane has a very intricate rooting system, not unlike mangrove, which provides baitfish protection from predators. On high tides, the shad will seek refuge among the jungle of roots, and the flounder wait patiently just a few feet away waiting for the inevitable escapee.
Pitch a soft plastic curl-tailed grub tipped with shrimp or a Gulp! Swimming Mullet down a bank of cane on a high tide and you might find the saddle blanket fish you’ve been looking for. People have got to remember that flounder are lazy fish. If they can get what they need by just lying there and gulping up stuff, they’re going to do it.
Many a bass tournament has been won by fishing “new” structure, when a lake or river floods. Working a spinner or worm on this normally dry ground can produce a good number of bass. Translate this technique over to flounder fishing and you might just surprise yourself.
If the floods we’ve been experiencing on the coast continue into fall don’t be hesitant to throw your lure in the flooded marsh or right along the edge of it. Watch for tails flopping in the shallows. If you see some shad come cruising along in a few inches of water and something hit at them, more than likely, it’s a flounder. Throw your bait at the edge of the shore and slowly drag it in. These moving flounder are feeding and will gladly gulp down your bait.
—story by TF&G STAFF