Monday, July 09, 2001
Flounder Gigging Port O'Conner
By Capt. Kris "Double K" Kelley
Never been floundering? Me either. While some are consumed with the flatfish, their allure has never attacked me. Since Capt. James Cunningham signed on as a “Team Coastal” guide, the bug started to get me. James is a commercial Flounderman, although inactive due to his day time fishing activities. Listening to him describe his love of Flounder gigging pushed me over the edge and I had to give this sport a try.
I made a deal with myself a long time ago that the only way I would ever go floundering would be with someone that “had it going on” and James is in that category. The big mystery to most of us is the movement of these fish and the “when to go”, i.e., full moon, waning moon, etc. He’s got all the answers and when he said “let’s load up and go, I was ready”.
Entertaining young Coty and his friend Micheal, Capt. James and I made way for the Aransas Refuge shoreline right at dark. Moon rise was reported to be 10:56pm in Victoria. According to James, the best gigging occurs on that portion of night that has no moon. Thus, the dark of the moon is prime time. If the moon rises early but sets at some point during the night, the best gigging would take place after the moon sets. If the moon rises later in the evening, then the best gigging would take place before the moon rises.
We stepped out of the boat at about 9:20pm. James charged ahead to find the area that would be holding the fish. Acccording to James, Flounder will hold on a particular zone along a shoreline. They will also “all” lay on the same type bottom. As we walked along, James called the boys over and we went from ZERO to THREE in a hurry. James said “all of the fish are on the beach”. He also pointed to some sparse green moss/grass. He said “they don’t want any part of this stuff, so don’t waste your time looking in areas with this type grass”.
My first three fish were all on the move. I never thought that throwing the Javelin in high school would help with anything later in life. However, I proved deadly with the gig. As me and the boys got a little confidence, we all split off. The boys moved slowly and managed to stick 6 fish to 22” with several 18-21’s. I ran into an “over confidence” zone and went a good while without sticking my fourth fish, moving too fast and stepping on several. As I paused for a breather, I looked down and not three inches from my left foot was the outline of a flounder. The fish was buried in the sand but I caught a glimpse of it’s white jaw, STICK.
Moving slower, I noticed a number of “beds”. Beds are sand impressions where Flounder have been laying. Some are fresher than others. The closer the impression looks like a Flounder, the fresher the bed. Seeing a number of these perfect impressions, I slowed and hunted harder in a small area. This led to pay dirt and four more fish hit the stringer. Regrouping, James mentioned that even though the moon had risen, he said that “the fish are still hitting the beach because the tide is coming in”. Sure enough, when we broke apart, I noticed several Sting Rays moving onto the sand. I figured the Flounder would be doing the same. Sure enough, the fish ran to the beach and we all got busy.
The boys had a great time, and the two 12 year olds nearly limited out with 15 solid Flounder between them. Capt. James and I both limited and we brought a total of 35 head of Flounder to the boards for cleaning. I tell you, this was a lot of fun and I’m hooked already. I can’t say I’ve walked that far in awhile, so I’m a little “stove up” despite the rock hard sand bottom and “cream puff” conditions. Check out the pictures on the web page at http://www.coastalwaterfowl.com and go to the Trophy Room.
Keep in mind, I’m no expert on Flounder gigging, I leave that to James. However, here are some things I used to think about Floundering that are wrong:
1) Don’t Flounder on a Full Moon, 4 days after begins the “Floundering Zone”. Then, schedule your trip to begin before the moon rise or after the moon sets. Obviously, gigging during the dark of the moon would be best.
2) Gigging Sting Rays – this always seems to be a concern of people. Capt. James said if you can tell the difference between a football and a basketball, then you’ll have no problems with this. Sting Rays are going to be present but they are very visible if you are in the “skinny water” you need to be in. I saw several last night and all of them were very obvious. As always, however, exercise caution in water of poor visibility.
3) You need to Flounder from a boat, WRONG. James supported his family for years stalking these fish on foot. His feelings are that the fish get in water so skinny, that during typical summer tides, the Floundering type boat has a tough time getting ON the fish. This was obvious last night as many of our fish were gigged in water less than 3” deep. Stalking the fish on foot was AWESOME and I’m sure responsible for our success.
I think Capt. James would rather have an incoming tide and the dark of the moon as a “first choice”. Tide plays a big part in gigging, but I don’t have all the answers. As with last night, the incoming tide carried our success more than an hour into the “kiss of death” moon rise. Once the tide slacked, the fish left the beach and it was essentially over.
Check the fishing pages for Moon Rise/Set Data and then plan accordingly. James indicates that you can gig during a moon. However, it is going to be a slow ugly grind. Keep in mind, if the moon is rising earlier, hit the water before dark and stake out some good water on shorelines as a place to start. As darkness falls, get busy and look for it to slow as the moon rises. If the moon is rising early and setting late, this calls for a later departure from the ramp. Get to your water and start gigging while the moon is still up. However, look for it to get real busy after the moon sets. Check the tide. James judges the tide by watching the movement of the mud he stirs as he walks. Obviously, if the stir is moving toward the beach, the tide is coming in and vice versa. If the stir isn’t moving, the tide may have gone slack. If you have been on an incoming tide, things are going to get very slow as the tide begins to fall. If you have been working on a falling tide, your best gigging may be in front of you as the tide begins to come in.
Zig zag in and out from the shoreline as if you were working a topwater looking for Trout. Straight line distance down the beach means less than working in and out toward the shoreline. According to James, the fish will all seem to hit the same zone on the same structure, i.e., the edge of a sand bar; right on the beach; on scattered shell; on mud/clay; on sand, etc. If the fish are on sand, they’ll all be on sand. If they are on mud/clay , they will all be on mud/clay. If they are all holding on scattered shell, they will all be on shell and etc. This may be an oversimplification, but this ain’t rocket science and I’m no Flounderman, you get the picture.
“WHEN TO GO”
Floundering will be on until just before the full moon on August 4th. If you have ever wanted to go Floundering or if you are looking for an excellent alternative to “popcorn” Trout under the lights, give us a call or e-mail. Floundering with an expert is truly a unique experience and one that I can’t believe I waited so long to try. If you would like to meet Capt. James Cunningham, check out the “Coastal Guides” page on our website. Go to “Team Coastal Overview” and then click on “Coastal Guides”. Feel free to e-mail James with any questions you may have.
Check out Smartshield Sunscreen available at most any Academy. Their claim to fame is that it won’t kill your bait. I was a little hesitant in trusting this claim at first. However, I’ve been covered with the sun block and have yet to see any bait problems beyond normal. They have a wide range of products from gels to sprays and “after sun” care products that I have found very useful. Personally, on the boat, I like the spray on sunscreen. I pull off my Costa’s, close my eyes and let her rip. Do this before you leave the ramp, however. I discovered applying it on the water will create quite a slick from the over spray. Nothing draws unwelcome visitors faster than a mock Trout slick.
NOW IS THE TIME TO CONSIDER AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER DATES. The “Blue-winged Rockets” of the north are right around the corner in September along with some awesome fishing.
Check out the PICTURES from parties THURSDAY, FRIDAY, AND SATURDAY on the website at http://www.coastalwaterfowl.com! . Go to the Trophy Room page and then to the photo gallery. TAKE A SECOND TO SIGN UP ON OUR E-MAIL LIST for the latest in the Coastal beat.
Capt. Kris Kelley