One of my fondest summer memories is snorkeling the flats and channels of the Upper Laguna Madre with a Hawaiian sling, spearing flounder. This flat fish is the most mystical fish in the coastal bay system. Up until a few years ago little was known about exactly where the Summer Flounder spent its winters and the secrets about its feeding and breeding activities. After a long summer hunting the back bays, flounder move towards the gulf passes as cold fronts chill the bay. October, November, and December are their spawning times and they migrate in big numbers. In years past gigging them at night has been a Texas pastime.
Over harvest pushed TPW to reduce the limits and gigging seasons. Since this occurred, summer flounder populations have exploded. During the coldest of months January, February and March flounder populations can be found in the deepest of canals and channels in the bays. We now know that there are large populations of flounder that move out of the bays and winter in soft muddy bottoms within a mile or two from the coast. As spring rolls around, the first bull tides in, flounder are riding them back home to the sand pockets of the bay systems. “GOOD OL’ DAYS OF FLOUNDER FISHING” are here now.
Flounder are absolutely a schooling fish and are very aggressive. They are a very good visual predator as well as having a great ability to smell. Flounder feed mostly on small baitfish and shrimp. They position themselves in areas that funnel baitfish with the change of tide and current. Places to find them include docks and sea walls. Channel markers, sandy edges of channels, drainage sloughs off of shallow flats into canals, shorelines and anywhere that can group baitfish together. Flounder often hide along the down current side of poles and piers where small minnows and shrimp cling and gather for cover. Finding one flounder along one of these places, an angler should expect to find numerous more in similar if not exact locations.
Timing can be everything when flounder fishing. Tidal and lunar tables should be recognized, look for them to get in position as the water starts to move.
Being a visual predator, soft plastic baits can work very well on flounder, and gives the angler the advantage of diverse presentation without the hassle of bait and bait buckets. White, green, and red are by far their favorite colors. Curlytailed grubs and small swim baits are among their favorites. DOA LURES are the best choices. The curl-tail and paddle-tailed grubs are designed for flounder fishing. One old trick is to cut the underbelly of a hard head out in a diamond shape, and add it to the hook of your jig for smell and action.
Live bait is great and mud Minnie’s are the preferred choice. Small mullet and croakers work well too, but can be an expensive choice. Many live bait flounder fishermen say that one needs to wait as long as a full minute before you set the hook after one feels the bite. With the sideways mouth, flounder really are difficult to keep on the line. Small circle hooks are the best hook when using live bait. Sliding weights along the line, Carolina rigged, keep the bait along the bottom, but allow the fish to take the bait and swim off without feeling resistance.
The sweetest fish in the bay is the summer flounder for us and the other sea mammals. Dolphins love eating flounder, they bump them off the bottom trying to get them to swim up off the bottom. They are an odd fish that can captivate anglers and most of the time create a passion for a specific way of fishing for them. This summer I hope you learn more and more about the summer flounder and start pin pointing your fishing to target these very challenging bay fish.