Fishing & Boating News

PSSST! The Paralichthys lethostigma are running!

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

?Psssst! ?The Autumn flounder run is on
Photo by Ed Snyder
These two anglers heard the whispering call
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Sep. 29, 2010 - Bolivar Pensinsula, TX) Unhurried at first, a few here, a couple there, they begin easing from the cooling waters on the flats into the deeper depths of the channels. Like ghosts they come, silently gliding from out of their summer haunts of grassy bayous and mud-flats, assembling in considerable numbers before moving "en masse" towards the Gulf. Discovered by fishermen at first with probing hooks and minnows, the fall flounder run is soon exposed then quietly sounded to other likewise anglers with whispers of "Psssst! "The Autumn flounder run is on, which soon reverberates from the few to the many as, "HEY! THE FLOUNDER ARE RUNNING!! "No other saltwater species of inshore fish commands such fanatical responses from such dedicated anglers than the flounder. A weird looking flat fish with dark body harboring both eyes on its darkened upper side, with a sightless sandy white bottom, and ratchet like jaw loaded with razor sharp teeth on its business end. The southern flounder, ugly as it may seem, is as beautiful as it is, for those who regard them as treasures from the sea. Whether baked with shrimp, crab, boudin, or lobster stuffing, poached, broached, fried, grilled, or sushi'd, these "bizarre" looking critters are at the top of the food chain when it comes to restaurant entr?e choices. But why order from a seafood menu when you can prepare your own home style flounder feasts -PLUS- have lots of fun catching them!Flounder tackle can be simple or high tech, from cane poles and fly-rods rigged with crappie jigs, to cork and grub Zebco's, to spinning rigs with Cajun jigs, or bait casters slip-rigged with live minnows. Best baits are always live mud-minnows or finger mullet, but live or dead shrimp will fill the limits as well, as will artificial baits such as twister-jigs, lil fishy's, grubs, sassy shads, spoons, or touts. Presently, the Texas Fisheries Dept; lists a 14 inch minimum size limit for flounder with a 5 flounder per day creel limit. But during the month of November, TP&W will have a special conservation limit of two 14inch flounder per day creel. November is when the large breeder females head from the bays into the Gulf for spawning. This special regulation is meant to help preserve the species, improve their numbers, and provide future Texas anglers the joy of catching.

Normal fall run flounder will average 12 to 17 inches with 20 inch -PLUS- 6 to 8 pound doormat flounder or those mega-flounder of 28 inch/10 lb class saddle blankets. The Texas State Flounder record presently stands at 13 pounds, a 28 inch saddle blanket caught in 1976 from Sabine Lake. Twenty five species of flounder reside in Texas waters, but the largest, and most popular is the southern flounder.

Top baits & techs for catching flounder are live mud minnows or finger mullet lip-hooked to slip-rigs (Carolina Rigs) with 8 trebles or 6 Aberdeen hooks. One tidbit of fishing info for new flounder anglers would be to impale a small piece of chartreuse/glitter soft plastic bait (Berkley Power Bait) just above your minnow, which really seems to attract flounder bites at a faster rate.

Artificial baits, such as chartreuse crappie jigs or small silver spoons, are also HOT items when tipped with strips of flounder belly. This is known as a Cajun rig and when slowly dragged or "massaged" along the edges of sandbars, oyster reef drains, or channel-flat edges which, at times, can be deadlier than live bait rigs. Fly fishing for flounder with 2 inch soft plastic sandworms, shrimp like streamers, or tube baits will provide not only excellent catching results, but some really exciting fishing action as well. And I mean to tellya, if you ever hook a 2-lb flounder on a 5 weight fly rod you'll have all the EXTREME action you can handle.As flounder always swim against the currents check for incoming tides for daytime rips. But night-time also offers good limits of flatfish fished under lights. When fishing inside the passes keep your baited lines to within 10' of the bulkheads when tides are ripping through as the flounder will hug the bottom along the bulkhead or bank structure. During slack or ebb tides cast out towards the sandbar along the cuts and allow your baits to "massage" (work slowly) the edges of the sandbars. This is where the larger flounder usually gang up to ambush schools of baitfish passing by."This is a tricky fishery, stated one flatfish angler, sometimes they'll bite hard, letting you know they're hungry, and other times they'll soft bite your bait and just 'kinda-sorta' hold and suck on it for awhile before finally swallowing and moving off. What you need to do when this happens is to 'slowly' raise your rod until you can feel a light tug on the other end. If this happens just drop your rod back and wait for the flounder to swallow your bait before it starts to move off. When setting the hook do it lightly as the flounder have paper mouths and can rip off your hook very easily. And even after you've set your hook well it's still not 100% that it's a flounder as blue claw crabs will also be mauling your bait. But, what the heck, if the crab is big enough just add it to your 'bon appetite!'"Prime fall flounder fishing spots start from Sabine Lake near Port Arthur, Rollover Pass on the Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake drains, or Galveston Bay flats between Kemah and Seabrook. The flats that surround Pelican Island near Sea Wolf Park, and "my favorite" San Luis Pass on both the Galveston Island side to the Freeport side on the other side of the bridge. Three "El-Premo" spots are the Brazoria County RV Park located on the Cold Pass and Christmas Tree Bay side of the San Luis Bridge, Texas City Dike, or Rollover Pass, located in the Gilchrist area of the Bolivar Peninsula. Primetime here will be October -thru- November, with some really big saddle blanket flounder caught in November and December, and "at times" even January.The best way to prepare flounder for the supper table is to stuff them with shrimp, oyster, crab, lobster, or my favorite, Boudin, then broiled or grilled to a golden brown. Flounder filets rolled in cornmeal, Cajun fish fry, or tempura, then deep-fried to a crispy brown will provide an exceptional seafood feast when served with coleslaw, hush-puppies, and your favorite ice cold beverage. Another good way is to season with Chris' gourmet steak seasoning, then either saute' in a non-stick skillet with a tablespoon of virgin olive oil until crispy brown, or grill over hot pecan coals until medium well. Then serve with a German slaw, garlic bread, and a chilled white wine. ..mmmm... Nuff-Said! The Autumn flounder run on the upper Texas coast starts from late September into mid December. Their daily limits are 5 flounder at 14inches minimum, but please adhere to the special November rule of only two flounder a day, so as to provide your offspring the same pleasures from the treasures.

The following info on flounder may surprise and interest you;

Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma)
All flatfishes, including southern flounder, are compressed laterally and spend most of their life lying and swimming along the bottom on their side. In the case of southern flounder, the left side is always the "up" side; in other species, the opposite is true. Small flounder grow rapidly reaching 12 inches by the end of their first year. Males seldom exceed 12 inches, but females grow larger often reaching 25 inches. The flounder is wonderfully adapted for its way of life. Both eyes in adults are on the "up" side of the head and the pigmentation of the upper side of the body can be varied to match the surrounding environment. A small body cavity and the absence of air bladder aid the flounder in maintaining its position on the bottom. Adult southern flounder leave the bays during the fall for spawning in the Gulf of Mexico. They spawn for the first time when two years old at depths of 50 to 100 feet. The eggs are buoyant. After hatching, the larval fish swim in an upright position and the eyes are located on opposite sides of the head. As the young fish grows, the right eye begins to "migrate" to the left side of the head. When body length of about one-half inch has been attained, the eye migration is complete and the fish assumes its left-side-up position for life. The young fish enter the bays during late winter and early spring. At this time they are about one-half inch in length and seek shallow grassy areas near the Gulf passes. As growth continues, some will move farther into bays. Some will enter coastal rivers and bayous. Juvenile flounder feed mainly on crustaceans, but as they grow fish become more important in their diet. Adult flounder enter shallow water at night where they lie, often partially buried, and wait for prey. Empty depressions where flounder have lain are called "beds." Although most of the adults leave the bays and enter the Gulf for spawning during the winter, some remain behind and spend winter in the bays. Those in the Gulf will reenter the bays in the spring. The spring influx is gradual and does not occur with large concentrations that characterize the fall emigration.

Although many are taken by rod and reel, "floundering" or gigging offers the best challenge for this species. The flounder is vulnerable to this technique because it often enters the shallows at night to feed. Both the skills of the angler and the hunter are called for here. Floundering is best during the migration from October to December. Hundreds of lanterns can often be seen in and around the pass areas during this period, as the fishers wade through the shallows in search of fish. Stingrays also frequent the shallows at night. They are flat and can sometimes be mistaken for a flounder or stepped on by the unwary. The inexperienced flounder fisher should make certain of what he has gigged before retrieving it.

The southern flounder is the largest of more than 25 species of flatfishes found in Texas coastal waters. It is highly prized as both food and a recreationally harvested fish and accounts for more than 95 percent of the flounder harvest in the state. Southern flounder can be found from North Carolina to the mouth of the Rio Grande and southward into Mexico.

PSSST! The Paralichthys lethostigma are running!
When the flounder are running the limits are full
Photo by Ed Snyder
Hefty flounder for the lady angler
Photo by Ed Snyder