L ooking for a way to catch fish and beat the summer heat? How about some flounder gigging?
While most people are home in bed, the die-hard flounder angler is just getting started. Captain James Parbst is a dedicated flounder gigging guide and fisherman. He is so good at it that when not guiding other anglers, he gigs commercially for Groomer’s Seafood in Corpus Christi.
“We always get a limit; sometimes it might take a little bit longer.”
My first experience with nighttime flounder gigging happened many years ago when my family and I were new to the Texas coast. I had a fishing buddy who wanted to indoctrinate me into gigging.
We left the launch ramp in the San Antonio Bay area when the sun had already set on the horizon, and it was getting dark. He said we were starting a little later than planned, but no problem. He knew where we were going.
He didn’t have any electronic guidance systems on board his boat. He was navigating on dead reckoning, and soon we found out we were lost. We did locate some islands where we decided to walk the shallow shoreline water.
I was in the water with lantern and gig, making sure to slide my feet on the bottom, looking for the outline of a flounder. What I remember most about our trip was the mosquitoes gigging me even with the strongest repellent spray applied over every inch of available open skin.
Captain Parbst said a dark July night can add up to a great flounder adventure along the banks of Aransas and Corpus Christi bays.
“Some nights we will work a bank and you won’t see anything for hours,” said Parbst. “Then you’ll start seeing them. Go back to the exact same bank the following night, and they are there at sunset, just no specific pattern. They have their spots and locations where they will normally show up, but other than that, as far as time-wise, there is no pattern to them. They will show up sooner or later.”
Parbst’s normal floundering trips start about 9 p.m. “Normally we will have a three or four fish limit by midnight,” he said. “At times if we are missing fish, it can be two or three o’clock in the morning. My boat doesn’t come in until we have a limit, or the anglers say they’re tired, and want to come back in.”
One of his favorite spots in the winter months in Port A is the area around Mustang Point, but in July you need to get back along the flats, such as the Shamrock area and Wilson Cut.
Fishing for flounder, there are two ways to do it. There’s the old way where you get out of the boat with a light and start shuffling along the banks, with gig ready—what I was doing—or Captain Parbst’s way.
“I have a custom rigged-out boat, looks like an oversized Jon boat with a bunch of bright lights on the front,” he said. On the front there’s a broad deck on which he stands and steers the boat. On the back is a big air motor with a giant prop.
“The reason for the big air motor on the back is because we will be in water that is real shallow, 4-5 inches of water,” he said. The air motor can take us places that are hard to or impossible to get to. When we see a flounder lit up on the bottom, we just lean over the rail and gig ’em. We cover a lot of ground.”
“You might get you a couple while walking, but you are not going to smoke out a limit on foot.”
Flounder vs. Stingrays:
“If you’re walking the bank, don’t forget the stingray shuffle,” Parbst said.
The “stingray shuffle” for those who have never heard the term is simply shuffling your feet instead of making steps. Stepping on a stingray usually equals getting stuck. Bumping one while shuffling typically scares them away.
Clear water is a must. If the water is dirty start looking for another location. Parbst said another popular place for floundering is up along Hwy. 361 between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas. It’s a good walking bottom. “It’ll usually have sand, shell,” he said. “Leave the muddy bottoms alone. If you run into tall grass you might as well get out of there. Flounder will not lie in tall grass.”
When you find a flounder, he is just going to be lying there waiting for you. “You can come within an 1/8 of an inch if you don’t touch him,” Parbst said. “When you get that gig placed perfectly above him, right behind the head, right behind the gill plate, you just thrust the gig. If you gig him in the tail section, eighty percent of the time he’s going to flop off the gig.”
Skeeters???—“I don’t see a lot of them when fishing from my boat because the propeller on the engine takes care of the mosquitoes I run into,” he said. “The only time I have trouble with mosquitoes is when I get back to the fish cleaning tables.”
Oh yeah, back to my flounder adventure. When the sun finally came up, we found out we were exactly where my buddy wanted us to be, but we never found the flounder. I did break off a huge speckled trout while wading the banks in the morning, casting soft plastics for trout. My flounder trip wasn’t a complete bust. I did have a fish story to tell.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]