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Texas Flounder Regulations Proving Successful

May 17th, 2016

kent flounder Texas Flounder Regulations Proving Successful

Garrett Blumenshine with a 20-inch flounder he caught using a Berkley Gulp! Pearl White Shrimp.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers around the Galveston Bay Complex have reported excellent catches of flounder this past winter and the action is getting better as the water warms and days get longer. This is a refreshing change from not too long ago when sportsmen were concerned about the drop off in catches.

Prior to the turn of the century, our flounder stocks were showing serious decline in both numbers and quality of fish. Liberal bag limits and no season restrictions were taking their toll on one of the most popular saltwater fish.
A bold and unpopular move on the part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department several years ago has proven to be just what the stocks of flounder needed. Before we take a look at the changes that took place, let’s go back and see what was happening before the enactment.

flounder conner Texas Flounder Regulations Proving Successful

Max Conner, age 14, of Galveston with a chunky flounder.

Flounder have always been one of the top choices of a large number of fishermen all along the Gulf Coast. Flounder gigging especially was a popular way to bring good quantities of meat to the table in a short time span.
Prior to the changes, anglers could go out gigging after dark and take a day’s limit of 10 flounder before midnight and afterwards take another day’s limit of 10 as the possession limit was a two-day bag limit.

While mostly flounder giggers were the ones to reap the benefit of the liberal daily limits, pole and line fishermen would at times find concentrations of flounder stacked up around passes and also take advantage of the quantities.
Arguably, the most popular and productive time to fish for flounder, whether by conventional rod and reel or by gigging, was during the annual migration in the fall. During this time the flat fish stack up in huge numbers along the pathways to the Gulf of Mexico and are easy targets.

This is when I first noticed a problem. Prior to the 1990’s, quality flounder would be easy to catch at my favorite spots along the Galveston Ship Channel, but toward the end of the 80’s and early 90’s it became more difficult for the average angler to catch more than just a few flounder. During that era the size was also noticeably smaller as well.
Sportsmen were becoming well aware of the problem and so was the staff at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

As mentioned earlier, in a bold move the TPWD recommended an overhaul of the regulations. The changes, which were not popular with a large number of anglers, included reducing the of anglers, included reducing the daily bag limit from 10 to five and eliminating the two-day possession limit. Flounder gigging would be prohibited during the month of November and at the same time the daily bag limit was further reduced to two per person during November.

floundergrowthchart

Fortunately for all anglers, the original thought of eliminating flounder fishing all together during November was compromised with the two-fish limits. The only size and bag limit regulation that remained was the 14-inch minimum size. So, after everyone cooled down following such as dramatic change, how is this all turning out?

First, during November, most fishermen, regardless of experience level, are now able to go out and take two flounder. Prior to the changes, there were a lot of empty stringers as the fish were scattered.

Now, let’s discuss what I consider the most noticeable effects. This past winter, there were more flounder caught during the winter months than I can ever recall. Some anglers say it is because we had a warm winter and the fish never migrated. We have had a number of warm winters in the recent past and we did not see this take place.

This spring we are getting reports from both the flounder gigging sportsmen and rod and reel anglers of large numbers of quality flounder in the bays. Occasionally reports coming in to the Galveston Daily News during March and April resembled November reports from the flounder run.

All I can say is that it points to the results of the overhaul in flounder regulations several years ago. Thanks to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for making the move!

Flounder Gigging Tips

May 1st, 2016

texasfloundergigging Flounder Gigging Tips

By Brandon Rowan

Judging by this Spring, it appears we may have a banner year for flounder on our hands. I made multiple flounder gigging outings in March and April to Galveston’s West Bay and found more, and larger flounder than I have in the past five years. I believe this is thanks to the recent regulations enacted during November and December when these fish are most vulnerable. There were plenty big beds spotted and several fish found their way to my stringer. Find and gig the flatfish with these tips:

giggingtides Flounder Gigging Tips

Which Tide?

Traditional wisdom says to gig right after a low tide but I often find a lot of fish during the outgoing tide, a few hours before its lowest point. Flounder move to the flats to intercept bait pushed from shorelines and drains. Fish gigged during this time were full of newly hatched shad. Be warned though, visibility can be trickier if the outgoing tide is particularly strong. It can be very hard to see beneath the moving water if you use a lantern as your light source, which brings me to my next point.

PVC gigging lights

The gigging light on top was made with a mr16 LED bulb sealed in the PVC with a lexan lens and is powered by eight AA rechargeable batteries. The light on the bottom was made with a superbrightleds.com 10 watt IP68 marine light and is powered by a Tenergy 14.8v Li-Ion battery pack.

Light Em’ Up

Work toward building a submersible LED light out of PVC. Ripples on the bay’s surface will not disturb your visibility as badly compared to a lantern. You can purchase a pre-made gigging light but the web is full of plans and ideas for building your own. This 2cool thread in particular has some great information.

These light builds aren’t difficult and can be completed with a soldering iron, silicone sealant, light source, battery, PVC cement, PVC saw and of course, PVC. Lexan is required as a lens if you are waterproofing an LED module but there are several waterproof IP68 options out there like the 20 watt Eclipse from Oznium.com or this 2″ marine spotlight from Superbrightleds.com. Many connect their lights to an exterior 12v battery worn in a backpack or fanny pack but I prefer to connect to a rechargeable battery pack housed within the PVC.

Flounder are camouflage experts

Where Are They?

The south shoreline of Galveston’s West Bay has miles of suitable gigging territory. You’ll find flounder in a variety of different habitats and at different depths. I’ve gigged flounder in just inches of water, as well as knee-deep water. Pay attention when you come near a shell point. Flounder will hug close to the sides and backs of these. The shorelines along or outside a marsh drain are also great. Flounder stack up in these areas to feed on bait escaping the flow of the outgoing tide. Sandy flats between shell pads and reefs are also worth searching. Marshy areas near grass are also productive but can be tougher to navigate on foot due to soft mud bottoms. Be ready if you spot abundant baitfish, beds or even undersized flounder as there could be legal flounder close by.

Remember, the minimum length for flounder in Texas is 14 inches with a bag limit of five fish. It’s best to leave a flounder alone if it looks too close to this length. Better safe than sorry.

full moon

Don’t Be Afraid of the Moon

Many hesitate to gig under a full moon but don’t let that discourage you. I gigged four fish, up to 20 inches, in an hour’s time one night during April’s full moon. Wind speed (a light SE for West Bay) and tide should be the most important factors in selecting a night to gig. Use this link to check the tides in Texas, this link to see the marine forecast for the upper coast and this link to see current wind speed on Galveston Island.

Shell is Comfortable?

I gigged two good sized flounder this Spring laying directly on shell pads. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this and it probably won’t be the last. In fact, I once missed a personal best fish by hurrying past a heavy shell area while walking the flats. By the time I realized I was looking at a 24+ inch fish she was spooked off by my less-than-stealthy approach. Keep an eye out for this and push that gig down hard.