Try flounder gigging with the whole family
I love to eat. Based on my svelte 290-pound physique you wouldn’t know it, but I do.
One of my favorite dishes is a whole flounder broiled to delicious goodness with lump crabmeat stuffed in a slit along the backbone.
This delicacy is available at numerous restaurants along the coast, but the cost is a bit extravagant — upwards of $30 per plate at some locations.
Needless to say I don’t do that very often.
All hope is not lost, though. Flounder and crab swim along our shores and are ready for the taking, if you’re willing to go after them.
Some people fish for flounder with rods and reels, while some prefer to wade or cruise the shallows in boats and gig them.
Any way you chose to pursue flounder is fun and can be a great outing for the family.
Fishing for flounder can be done day or night, but gigging takes place at night. The cool thing about gigging is that while one person is gigging flounder someone else in the party can be scooping up blue crab in a dip net. Kids and wives who don’t want to stab something make great crab dippers. Make sure you bring a bucket for the crabs to keep the claws out of pinching range.
David Chamberlain of Paddle Punks Quality Kayaking and Fishing Equipment and Accessories is a flounder gigger extraordinaire.
He and his partner, Glenn Clark, have perfected the art of flounder gigging with a light they make here along the coast.
“We still don’t do a lot of rod fishing for flounder,” Chamberlain said. “We like to use our spear poles and drop the lights in the water.
“Recently, we’ve started using our lights off the boat; stand on the front with the trolling motor and just go around through the bayous.”
Chamberlain said a longer gig — 8 to 10 feet — is helpful for use on a boat because you’re higher off the water. He uses a trident-type gig with a wooden handle purchased at Hurley Hardware. That’s the only place he’s been able to find a handle over 6 feet long; they have handles up to 10 feet long.
For wading, the pair uses spears designed for divers. Clark likes to use a modified Hawaiian sling spear and double-barbed tip.
“It easily captures the flounder,“ he said. “The barbs extend out, allowing me to pull the flounder out of the water without having to reach in to make sure the fish doesn’t come off the end of the gig.
“It also allows me to easily remove the flounder for less damage to the meat.”
While Clark and Chamberlain use different types of gigs depending on whether they’re wading or in a boat, one thing that remains a constant is the type of light. Chamberlain experimented with various types of lights but never found one that fit the bill.
Clark built a submersible, battery-operated, all-PVC, handheld rig that features two LED bulbs for hours of plentiful light. The light has a shoulder strap to make it easy to carry and keep your hands free when it’s time to deal with a flounder.
“It’s a complete floundering package, minus the gig,” Clark said. “It even comes with a fully charged battery, charger and a couple of backpack options for carrying the battery.”
They found the warm, white light put out by the Cree LED light illuminates the bottom better than other lights they tried.
Chamberlain said they’ve started going before dark so they can make a few casts for reds and specks to add to the cooler.
Once the sun sets, flounder start slowly moving into the shallows, so they put the rods and reels down and pick up their floundering equipment.
Chamberlain and Clark often gig flounder in ankle-deep water, so start shallow and work your way out.
A flounder will swim 20 to 30 feet and stop, attempting to camouflage itself by fluttering and burying up in the sand or silt on the bottom. When the flounder moves on, it leaves an imprint or “track” on the bottom.
“What we like to do,” Chamberlain said, “is to find the tracks, since we illuminate them so well with our lights. You can tell if it’s a new one or an old one and what direction they’re going. If they’re facing in and it’s a pretty fresh track, you can almost follow it right up to the flounder — if you go 10 or 15 feet and see another track, you know he is maybe three of four more tracks out.”
When tracks are facing in and getting closer together, be sure to scan 180 degrees as you approach the beach; a flounder might not make a beeline for the beach, but might move to the right or left as it gets shallower.
If you’re following fresh tracks, odds are the flounder will appear as a brown high spot on the bottom. If the tracks are older and not as well defined, the flounder might have had time to camouflage itself, so you might only see a faint outline or just its eyes.
When a flounder is spotted, ease up on it smooth and slow but fast enough so the flounder doesn’t have time to follow its instinct and move. Be careful not to stomp or splash, because that will spook the flounder.
When you get within arm’s reach, go straight down with your gig just behind the gills. Hold the flounder firmly against the bottom for a few seconds to allow it to stop wiggling and make it easier to handle when you put it in your fish bag or on a stringer.
If it’s a large fish, don’t hesitate to put your foot on it to keep it from getting away before settling down.
Floundering season is upon us and there’ll be plenty of them swimming along our beaches for the taking. Arm yourself with a good gig and a Flounder Light and hit the beach.
Oh, and take some bug spray, too, because the mosquitoes might be swarming.
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