FLOUNDER FISHING can get tough in the summer. Spring brings hungry fish a long journey into bays from the Gulf and fall has them feeding for the big migration out. In summer they settle in and disperse into bays, marshes and river systems with big fish getting especially challenging to find.
The following are 10 tips to help you bag big flounder and that might even help you win the STAR flounder division:
1. Current lines: The Intracoastal Canal and the river systems connecting to bays will have pronounced current lines where baitfish congregate. They are usually clear on one side and murkier on the other. If you find a current line with shad or shrimp, work it from the murky to clear side. Many times, big flounder will be on the edge of the murk.
2. Start Late: Dissolved oxygen levels are at the lowest level at daybreak. I believe this is why flounder fishing, particularly in the summer, tends to be slow early in the morning. By starting an hour or so after daylight, anglers can avoid the super slow early bite and focus the best efforts at a key time. Summer is the time of fish kills on the Gulf Coast, and the bulk of it has to do with low dissolved oxygen levels. This also has an impact on fish metabolism. I believe since flounder are relegated to the lower portion of the water column, they are more impacted by oxygen levels.
3. Follow the Shad: The river systems on the Upper Coast are inundated with large populations of shad (menhaden). Flounder in these systems will follow the menhaden. Fish that bite at point X one day, may be a half-mile away at point Y if the shad have moved. Very few anglers target these flounder, so you have a chance at catching big specimens.
4. Depth: The last big flounder I caught, I used a drop-shot rig, which is popular with bass anglers who fish deeper water. Baitfish were holding on a ledge in 14 feet of water, and I lowered down the drop shot to see what I might be able to catch there. It ended up being a flounder, and it was not the only one we caught in the same area in two days of fishing. Flounder will feed in deep water, but tend to concentrate around depth changes, so look for drop-offs and try the drop-shot rig.
5. Summer Highs: When tides are running extra high in the summer, I seek flounder along the main shorelines of bay systems. Attacking vast shorelines would be a waste of time and end up in frustration, so you need a strategy.
Instead of looking over eight miles of shoreline, narrow your search down to an eighth of a mile. You must eliminate water to successfully bag flounder. The first step I take while eliminating shoreline, is to once again look for stands of Roseau cane.
Roseau cane has an intricate system that is somewhat like a smaller version of mangrove. It gives menhaden a place to linger, hide and dodge larger predators.
6. Live Croaker: Croakers are available at many bait camps during the summer months. This is a phenomenal live bait for flounder especially when fished on a Carolina rig. Pick out the smallest croakers in the tank and avoid the extra big ones anglers often use for big trout.
7. Alligator Connection: When you see alligators with their heads positioned toward the bank a few feet away (several at a time), fish there. They are typically feeding on shad pushed against the bank, and often flounder are feeding with them. This can work anywhere, but you are most likely to encounter this in the Intracoastal Canal or a river system.
8. Chrome Sinkers: Flatfish fans in California use bright chrome sinkers to key in on flounder. They say the bright chrome draws fish in. Because flounder are visual, I believe this can offer an advantage in Gulf Coast waters.
9. Surf Jetties: There are small jetty systems in the surf at various points along the coast. Notable spots include the stretch between Cameron, Louisiana and the Texas state line on Hwy. 82 and the Galveston Seawall area. There are strong numbers of flounder in the surf, and they stack up at any kind of structure. Seek out these spots using live bait on popping corks or fish live bait rigged on football head jigs. Move along the edges of the rocks to score on big surf flatfish.
10. Sunken Barges: During summer months, flounder will stack up around sunken barges in the ship channel and along the Intracoastal Canal. Precision casts using a live bait with a popping cork into tiny pockets stacked with baitfish, can score on big flounder.
—story by CHESTER MOORE