Flounder: catch ‘em while they’re here

Flounder leave Mississippi’s inshore waters when it gets cold and move out to reefs in the Gulf. You can catch them in bunches in December.

Flounder are a year-round fish on the northern side of the Gulf of Mexico, but with opposite migration patterns than most shallow-water gamefish like speckled trout, redfish and sheepshead.

Those fish move shallow for the winter, heading inshore toward the beaches and bays, where they stay in for the cold months.

Flounder are just the opposite. They move offshore for the winter after being in the bays and backwaters during the hottest months. They leave in the winter and return in the summer.

I once even got into a school of them with Capt. Robert Earl McDaniel on the WhipaSnapa charter boat, in 100 feet of water fishing on the bottom for red snapper in April.

Weird, eh?

Until the first seriously cold blast of weather pushes them out, or in a warm December, the last month of the year can be a great time to catch a bunch before the flounder are gone and out of reach.

Knowing where to look is helpful.

“We catch them pretty good along the rocks behind Casino Row in Biloxi,” McDaniel said. “They built those rock jetties behind the casinos for breakers, I reckon, and if you can find a little break in there with current flowing through, then finding a flounder is pretty much a sure thing.”

O. T. Sutton, likewise, starts looking at places flounder might stage before moving on offshore.

“I like a big point on the edge of the marsh or a bay,” he said. “I like one that has a lot of current, a mix of hard and muddy bottom, and, of course, one with a lot of bait working.”

Sutton’s rig for flounder is one learned from an old timer in Slidell, La., who caught the fish consistently in the Rigolets area when the fish were leaving Lake Pontchartrain.

“He taught me his trick, and it involves a little crappie float to hold the shrimp right off the bottom,” he said. “It’s basically a Carolina rig, with either a 3/8- to 5/8-ounce barrel weight on braided line, then a swivel and two feet of fluorocarbon leader with a circle hook. I put a shrimp on it and it floats just above the bottom, right where a flounder will be looking with both eyes facing up.”

The same kind of rig works in bayous that form the highways that lead from the marsh to the Gulf.

“They will lie on the bottom in those bayous, sometimes in the middle and sometimes on the edges,” Sutton said. “It’s hit and miss but if you hit one, look for another, and then another and ….”

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About Bobby Cleveland 1352 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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