Outdoor Corner: Floundering Around

Lyle Johnson
There it is, the finished product. The big flounder Deborah caught that was stuffed with a home made crab stuffing with sliced lemon baked to perfection by the angler who caught it.

The southern flounder is just about one of my favorite fish to eat of the many we have to choose from in South Louisiana. My introduction to the flat fish is not quite what most folks experience.

Hurricane Betsy ravaged Louisiana in September of 1965 when I was twelve years old. The eye passed right over Gonzales. The town was KO'd by the big storm, no electricity, no water, you know the drill. Our family had all eight of us kids along with mom and dad. A decision was made to head to my paw-paw Marchand's camp on Chinquapin canal.

Us kids couldn't believe our fortune. School was closed and we were headed to the camp. Life couldn't be better as far as we were concerned, but the decision was a practical one for our folks.

There was propane to cook with at the camp and an artesian flow well across the canal that flowed 24-hours-a-day. Bottled water wasn't even thought of back then. So we had it made in the shade even though we had no electricity.

Along with the hurricane came flood waters, and the fish began to swim on top trying to get some oxygen to breathe. We saw every species, even some flounder. We were a long way from salt water so that was pretty strange. It would be six more years before I saw one again.

My brother Cliff, myself and a good friend Dale "Jackson" Babin were bass fishing in Blind River. We had been catching some bass using a bait called a Thin Fin. It mimicked a shad and it was working well on the points as the bass were schooling in the summer.

Cliff was working his lure as usual when he got a strike and proceeded to play the fish. As it got near the boat, Jackson looked in the water, then looked at me and shouted, "It's an X-ray!" He meant to say sting ray but got a little tongue-tied. I looked down and said, "I think that’s a flounder. I think it's good to eat, get it in the boat."

We all looked at the fish flopping around on the floor of our bateau for what seemed an eternity. We didn't know just to grab it with its two eyes on the same side of the head and being flat and all. But we finally got it in the ice chest and started back fishing. As fortune would have it, we caught two more flounder that day.

For the next few years we caught several flounder every summer while bass fishing, most of them on plastic worms. We got good at cooking them (mostly baking) and eating them as well. Like I said earlier, it's one of my favorite fish to eat.

Not too far down the road on my foray into salt water fishing, I got re-acquainted with the flat fish on a more regular basis. Like most other anglers we often caught flounder by accident, not design, while in pursuit of redfish and speckled trout.

Flounder will hit many of the same baits or lures used for catching specked trout, redfish, and other fish. Instead of catching flounder to compliment our target fish (redfish and specs) we began to figure out a little bit on where to find them. On a rising tide they like to get as close to the shore as they can. Their flatness allows for them to get really shallow.

Flounder are masters of camouflage and their horizontal make-up allows them to bury themselves in the sand or mud. They blend perfectly while buried in the sand or mud, waiting for anything to swim close enough to feed on. They dart instantly from their hiding spots to devour baitfish or passing shrimp with impressive speed for such a strangely shaped fish.

The cuts and sandy points along the Louisiana Gulf Coast are flounder central, especially during October and November. Flounder move out of the current and onto the sand flats to feed on the bait moved around on the flats by the natural ebb and flow of the tide. Oyster reefs are also another key spot for them to hang around. On a high tide there is usually plenty of water depth for them to locate between the oyster bed and the shore.

Flounder can actually be fished all year round, but they're easier to catch in the fall, between September and November, when they migrate toward the ocean. They spawn during the spring and summer, and when they're large enough, they swim to the ocean to spend the winter there before coming back.

There is another way to catch flounder that used to be really popular that has somewhat fallen by the wayside. This activity takes place at night and a strong light along with a gig. The gig is sort of like a two or three pronged pitch fork.

You can do it by yourself but it's much more fun with a couple of companions for the social value but mostly for the extra eyes. A Coleman lantern used to be the light of choice back in the day and would still work fine, but just about any light would do.

Because of their ability to bury in the sand to hide from unsuspecting prey, this makes them really hard to spot. A calm night so there are no ripples on the water to limit your vision and clear water is a must for this activity. An incoming tide is the best as well since they like to get really shallow.

If you've never tried this method it will probably take a little while for you actually spot them. You'll probably scare some of them off before getting used to just what they look like. Oh yeah, there is another fish that looks a little like a flounder you might have to pay attention to, a sting ray. You don't have to worry about Jaws, the water is way too shallow.

Ten flounder is your limit and the minimum length requirement is 10 inches. Broiled or baked is the go to recipe but fried flounder is off the charts as well. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5:00 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information. 225 695-9074

CCA Louisiana S.T.A.R. Fishing Rodeo: May 25 thru Sept 2 summer-long CCA Louisiana saltwater fishing event. Tagged Redfish, Offshore, Inshore, Ladies & Children's divisions. Registration required. Must be CCA member. Website: ccastar.com.

Golden Meadow/Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo: July 4 thru 6 Registration is $35. Each ticket includes one entry into the rodeo, fishing towel, rodeo book, boiled shrimp dinner, and a chance to win over $15,000 in rodeo awards and door prizes. Go to www.gmfourchontarponrodeo.com for all the info.

NBAA South La Bass Mafia Tournament: July 13 Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Two-angler teams. Entry fee $100. Annual membership $40. Third in 8-tournament series. Email: Darren Anders: darrenanders309@gmail.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net