FLOUNDERS ARE A HIT AND MISS proposition on the Lower Laguna Madre this year. The tasty flatfish can be maddenly scarce to find, and sometimes you can limit out with fat three-pound doormats in a morning.
November is an underrated season for flounders since most sportsmen are out on their deer leases looking for Ol’ Mossyhorn. The anglers who decide to head out into LLM are usually targeting the schools of redfish that form and roam the flats during back-to-school season.
Flounders also begin to stage during fall then move to the edges of guts and channels to feed actively in anticipation of winter. Some captains such as Jimmy Martinez (956-551-9581, [email protected]) prefer to fish for flounders in the fall.
Anglers who pick up their mail in Port Mansfield won’t burn too much gas looking for flounders. You’ll find plenty of spots just a short run across Lower Laguna Madre in the East Cut. The side channels that feed into the back bays attract flounders on 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.
Watch for the light-colored strip of mud that marks the gut from one of these little bays, and work live bait or a soft plastic along the edges. A live shrimp or mullet is an ideal bait. Fish them on a split-shot or fishfinder rig and a 1/0 short-shanked (such as a Daichi Flounder or Khale hook).
If you are going to hop a shrimp or shad tail, use a ¼ ounce football 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 tell-tail “thump” or mushy 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?
The channels that lead into the back of Cullen Bay hold flounders around the edges in November. Fishing for them is very straightforward. Use the same sort of live bait rigs that you would for Mansfield flounders. If you’d rather fish with lures, then the same Deadly Dudley or similar shrimp tail works.
There are times, however, when flounders are short striking conventional plastics. In that case, try a three-inch Gulp! Shrimp in New Penny or Pearl pinned to a ¼ ounce jighead and bounce it along the bottom. Even the snarkiest of flounders would be hard-pressed to ignore it.
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 here.
On a flood tide, the narrow flats on either side (especially the ones on the south side) hold plenty of flounders 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.
If you target South Bay flounders with live bait, take a different approach. Rather than the fish-finder rig, use a free-shrimp rig with a #3 split shot sinker. Pitch your bait onto the flats adjacent to the channel and ease it onto the drop-off.
Finger mullet is also a very good bait. It will attract some jarring strikes from the flatties and any redfish that might be nosing about and looking for mischief.
The mainland shoreline on the island that splits 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 toward shore and work back to the boat slowly. Again, live bait on a Carolina rig or soft plastics is the trick. Don’t be surprised to latch onto some trout and the occasional redfish. These fish tend to share space with flounders.
A classic, but unused technique for working these shoreline edges is the classic bucktail jig. A ¼ ounce pink bucktail, such as the one produced by Berkley, with a Gulp! Shrimp to sweeten the deal, is one of the most effective combos I’ve ever used for flounders.
Live shrimp are equally effective. Break the horn off the shrimp so that it will ride straight on the hook. Then pass the jighook through the bug’s head from bottom to top (as usual, avoid the black spot on the shrimp’s head, or you’ll kill it instantly).
If you want to add scent, snip the tailfan off. Cast the rig up to the shallows, and bounce it back to you. When you feel a heavy “thump!” set the hook hard. I’ve been experimenting with the hot pink Gulp! Curlytail minnow, and I’ve been encouraged with the results.
If live shrimp are hard to come by, try a three-inch Gulp! Shrimp or Deadly Dudley as an alternative to real meat. Flounders 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 flounders when you are on Lower Laguna Madre in September. They make a welcome addition to the fall festivals that you usually invite specks and redfish too.
Location: Lower Laguna Madre
Hot Spot: Mansfield North Jetties
Species: Redfish, shark.
Techniques: Use live or cut mullet fished on the bottom near the rocks.
Email Calixto Gonzales at [email protected]