Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 41; No. 4 - FALL 2017 - Page 6

byby David A. Brown EASTERN GULF Flounder Fun C apt. Geoff Page spends a lot of time fishing with his wife Diane, so he knows she can flat out catch ‘em. But he heard his better half complain that her jig had snagged the shallow grass, he encouraged her to “reel, reel!” The reason for Page’s animation — flounder; at least, that was his educated guess. Diane’s jig popped free so we never got positive confirmation. However, the captain’s explanation of a common shallow water scenario will probably have many eastern Gulf anglers nodding with familiarity. “Those flounder just lay there in the sandy holes and when they bite something, they settle right back down to the bottom,” Page said. “That’s why people miss a lot of flounder bites — they don’t know they have a fish on. “What’ll happen is your bait stops and your line comes tight, but it doesn’t move, like a redfish or a trout. That’s when you have to set the hook hard to make sure you get the flounder hooked well, and then keep the pressure on him all the way to the boat.” Five minutes after Diane’s opportunity, my jig experienced a similar stoppage; like it suddenly hit a brick wall. Heeding Page’s advice, I quickly reeled tight and set the hook with a sharp, upward snap. Sure enough, a plump flounder yielded to my steady pressure, much to the captain’s validating delight. The sneakiest of coastal predators, flounder are perfectly designed and cleverly camouflaged for a life of snatching prey that often wanders within inches of a danger unseen. These briny assassins can slip in and slip out of areas other fish wouldn’t dare venture, yet their’s is a highly adaptable nature that allows them to hunt practically anywhere in the coastal zone. One of the most distinctive fish in southeastern coastal waters, the flounder’s flat design efficiently serves their preference for ambush feeding. Eyes sit high on the head, right next to that laterally-oriented mouth that allows the fish to grab prey without increasing its vertical profile. They’ll grab just about any baitfish or small crustacean that crosses their radar, but a flounder just isn’t going to chase down a meal. That means they have to pick their hangouts wisely. Here are the likely areas for eastern Gulf engagement. BLADES AND HOLES A lot of eastern Gulf flounder fall under the ignominious, if not inaccurate, heading of “bycatch.” Not that they’re unwanted, mind you; rather, they’re an unexpected bonus for anglers targeting seagrass for speckled trout, redfish and snook. From lush, green meadows with well-defined potholes, to “broken bottom” with random splotching of grass and sand; this is ideal flounder territory. Just as Mrs. Page experienced, a line comes tight with a distinct lack of motion and the unwitting angler assumes it’s a grass snag. Popping the rod tip usually frees the line, but it’s a safe bet that many of those grass snaggings were actually flounder that spit your bait. The classic scenario finds flounder using the edge of a pothole, or a sandy strip amid broken bottom, as its ambush point. That’s why savvy anglers have learned to work the entire area, especially those sand/grass borders by working shad or curly tail jigs, as well as soft jerkbaits through the hot zone. This is often a target-rich environment, but don’t rush the (Continued on page 18.) Flounder are often caught by fishing hard and plastic lures over sandy areas and potholes in the grass. Photos by author. 6 G U L F C O A S T F I S H E R M A N W W W. G U L F F I S H I N G. C O M