Mid-Coast Bays: March 2007

Mid-Coast Bays: March 2007
David Anderson with a nice baking-size flounder he lured with a Texas Assassin.

The weather since the first of this year has definitely not been what I consider ideal for fishing excursions. Too many days of constant rain, very little sunshine, and cold temperatures has left me with more time on my hands than I care to mention. Fortunately for those that have to have their "angling fix" better weather conditions are right around the corner.

March is the month that many anglers look forward to every year and it is also the beginning of my busy season. The more the sun shines the more my phone rings with eager customers hoping to get in some quality fishing time. This month also marks the time of year when you will see water temperatures stabilizing for longer periods of time. Fish become better acclimated to their surroundings, allowing them to feed for longer periods. And while many anglers choose to take advantage of this scenario in hopes of snagging the almighty trophy trout, I opt to cast for a different species flounder.

Numbers of flounder travel to the deeper waters of the gulf in the fall to spawn and then return to the bays in the spring once the shallows have started to warm back up. Now I know March is a little early to expect to catch numbers of flatties since the water temps can still be a little on the cool side, and most of the flounder will still be in the deeper waters, but I am looking to target the more challenging resident flounder. Not all flounder migrate to the gulf waters, for whatever reason some seem to stay here, and these are the ones I consider the resident portion of the population.

Flounder are very fond of hanging in and around deeper cuts and channels where they have easy access to back lakes or open bays and can be anywhere from 2 to 5 foot deep. You should look for cuts that offer shallow flats on either side enabling the flounder to move out of the cuts to gorge themselves on moonlit nights or warm up in the shallows during the day.

After selecting an area that best fits the description above make sure to study the tide charts. An incoming or outgoing tide is a must when trying to fish for flounder. If you don't have tidal flow where you are at you might as well find something else to do until the current starts to move.

Now that you have chosen your location and determined the best time for good tide flow, you will need to choose what tools you will use in order to lure in your catch. Flounder tend to be a little picky when it comes to their table fare so I usually stick with the lures and natural bait that I have found to produce the most hookups for me over the years.

Personally I prefer to use artificial lures when I am fishing for the flatfish simply because I don't care to mess with the ins and outs of bait. However, I have used natural baits many times in the past and know many people are curious about this technique; so let's start there.

Mud minnows are known to be a mainstay in a flounder's diet but these fat little guys are not always readily available. Not only are these minnows tough to find some days, they can also elude a cast net with great ease; so instead of using up time chasing them down I opt to use a more easily obtainable bait called dead shrimp.

I choose to attach the shrimp to a 1/0 Mustad wide gap hook by threading the body of the shrimp onto the hook starting at the tail and running it completely up the shank until the entire bait has covered the hook. My hook is connected to a 30lb leader approximately 8 inches in length with a small swivel connecting the leader to the main line. Above this swivel I use a oz slip weight and sometimes will opt for a heavier weight if the tide is too strong not allowing the bait to drop to the bottom.

Now for lures, I have enjoyed success with the Salt Water Assassin 4-inch Sea Shad attached to a 1/8oz jighead. My best colors have been the Texas roach, strawberry/white and the purple canary.

Another artificial bait I have recently included in my arsenal and has recently become my most favorite is the Berkley Gulp 4" Minnow Grub in red and the pumpkinseed. This lure combines the action of a soft plastic with the scent of dead shrimp. I came across this bait one day last year when I was surfing the Berkley web site. It comes in three different sizes and several colors, but after ordering many I have narrowed it down to the best producers mentioned above.

I heartily suggest that once you open the bag the lures come in, place the whole package in another re-sealable plastic bag or container. The original package can leak if not sealed perfectly and while the flounder love the scent of this bait you won't get too many compliments from your buddies if the juices leak out on you.

Whether I am using lures or natural bait the retrieval technique is the same. Make sure to position yourself on the side of the channel where the tide is flowing towards you. Begin by casting your offering to the middle of the channel then allow the bait to drop to the bottom. Retrieve your line slowly dragging it along the bottom of the channel and giving it a short twitch every so often.

The bite of a flounder can be very subtle almost, as if you have hung up on a small piece of shell or maybe even some grass. It is important at this point to avoid the instinctive hookset. Instead slowly raise your rod tip as if you were teasing a kitten. This is usually when the flounder will try to swallow your offering, allowing you to get a good hook set.

Don't get discouraged if you don't hook up within the first few casts. It can take many casts and several drags along the bottom of the cut before you get the first tug; be patient. If you have thoroughly worked one cut with no luck, move on to another. Some days I may have to try 2 to 3 cuts before I hit a pot of gold.

Flounder can be difficult to collect by hand once you have reeled it to you so I highly recommend carrying a net with you if you intend to keep a few for dinner. One more tool that is a must is a good pair of pliers. Flounder boast some of the sharpest pearly whites I have ever seen and tend to get lockjaw once they have been captured making it very difficult to unhook them. The last thing you will want to do is struggle against a flounder's mouth with bare hands.

If you have never cooked flounder before and need some help, try looking through the past issues of Texas Saltwater Fishing. Pam Johnson has posted many great recipes for the flat fish and you should try every one of them. I am convinced the wonderful flavor of the flounder will send you back out there, casting for more.