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Floundering Around

flounderThe southern flounder, also known as paralichthys lethostigma, is the largest of more than twenty-five species of flatfishes found in Texas coastal waters. It is a treasured source of food and is also harvested for recreationally purposes. You can find them anywhere from North Carolina to the mouth of the Rio Grande and southward into Mexico. They are compressed laterally and spend most of their time lying and swimming along the bottom on their side.  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.

You can use a rod and reel to catch a flounder or they can be caught using a gig. Light tackle is all you need to catch flounder. Both artificial lures and natural bait can be used.  Flounder prefer live to dead bait. Live shrimp retrieved slowly along the bottom often produce excellent results. 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. The anglers wade quietly along the shallows looking for flounder. Once the flounder is within the light from the lantern, normally it will not move, affording the fisher a chance to “gig” the fish.

Although flounder can be taken by rod and reel in almost any portion of the bay, it is more often productive to fish around jetties or oyster reefs that extend from shore into the bay. Flounder do not swim continuously so they tend to accumulate in such places in their search for food. During the fall, when flounder are moving to the Gulf for spawning, the best catches are made in the channels and passes leading to the Gulf. During the spring, wading anglers work the edges of channels, such as the Intracoastal Waterway, as the fish are moving back into the bays. Since water clarity is very important to the success of any floundering trip, floundering should be done on calm nights. When fishing on windy nights, anglers should try to work small protected bays and shorelines.

Flounder as an entree at dinner is common in Texas. The flounder can be your dining pleasure or it can be a favorite pastime but there is no doubt, Texas is a good place to “flounder”.

Source: “Flounder Fishing Tips and Methods That Work.” About.com Saltwater Fishing. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

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