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What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

January 1st, 2019

flounder nov What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers all around the Galveston Bay Complex are scratching their heads in disbelief of the fact that we did not appear to have a genuine flounder run during November.  Almost all of the experienced flounder fishermen are asking why the flat fish never made a concentrated run like they are supposed to during late autumn.

Was it a sign that the flounder stocks are dwindling or was it something else that interfered with the 2018 fall flounder run?

To begin with, let’s take a look at what traditionally takes place with flounder and their annual run to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, especially in years past.

At some point after mid-September, flounder sense winter is  not far away and start thinking about their move to the Gulf.  Two key factors contribute to this insight, those being shorter periods of sunlight or shorter days and the water temperatures cooling from the summertime readings.

When this first occurs Galveston Bay flounder begin to move, first out of the shallower back bays and lakes and then to the larger bays, especially East and West Bays.  From there they will head to the pathways to the Gulf, which include the Galveston Ship Channel, Bolivar Roads, Cold Pass, Rollover Pass and San Luis Pass.

In most years, November is when the migration reaches its peak, with flounder lining the shorelines of Pelican Island, all along upper Bolivar Peninsula and around all of the passes into the Gulf.

At that time it was “easy pickins” on flounder, as they were so concentrated that anglers could load large ice chests with the flat fish.

Several years ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set a special bag limit of two flounder per person per day for November and later extended it to mid-December.  Also flounder gigging was prohibited during November.

For at least three years now the annual run has fallen short of its expectations and this year it was hardly noticed, as few flounder were caught from the traditional hot spots.

The first thought is that the stocks have declined to the point that they are in trouble.  All indications are that this is not the problem.  All during the year, flounder were being taken in typical numbers and experienced flounder anglers reported the back bays and marshes being full of the flatfish.

What about our warmer than usual winters?  That has to be a big factor and from here I would like to pass on some comments from a few of the flounder pros.

One angler sent a note to the Reel Report in the Galveston County Daily News saying:

“Here is my reason for the poor flounder run. Try to forget what you think you know about flounder running in the fall. The flounder are not leaving the bays, they are entering the bays. They have to wait till the water temperature in the bay drops down enough to run off the scavenger fish that would eat all the eggs they are leaving in their spawn.”

Another reader sent in this note:

“Has anyone wondered if the lack of flounder can be tied to the dredging of the Galveston Ship Channel! The hopper dredge has been working 24/7 for several weeks now and rumors are they are scooping up barrels of flounder. Something seems off when dredging to deepen the channel is planned when a bottom fish has its migration.”

This note came from a biologist at a popular aquarium:

“Most everyone is complaining about the poor flounder run this year.  All sorts of reasons are cited; however, one thing that seems to be missed is that all flounder do not leave the bays during winter. One of the driving factors is food supply.  If the small fish and crustaceans are around, flounder are slow to leave and will tend to hang around as long as food is plentiful.”

Another reader said: “We may be missing the flounder run, as the warmer weather could be causing a delay in the migration to sometime in mid to late December.  If so, this would be at a time when not much fishing is taking place and possibly a major run would go unnoticed.”

Whatever your theory, the warmer winters over the past few years have to be a major factor.  Hopefully the stocks of flounder will continue to be in good shape during 2019 and beyond.

Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

November 1st, 2018

flounder map Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

By Brandon Rowan

WHERE TO FIND THEM

A: UPPER BAY

Flounder from upper Galveston Bay begin to exit areas like Clear Lake, Dickinson Bay and Moses Lake. Fish the shorelines outside these back lakes as flounder migrate towards the Gulf.

B: JONES BAY

Marsh dwelling flounder will exit through Highland Bayou and into Jones Bay. Fish marsh drains, shorelines and structure.

C: WEST BAY

Flounder exit the numerous coves and marshes and either head west to San Luis Pass or east to the Galveston Ship Channel. Fish the bayou mouths, marsh drains and shorelines as flounder make their exodus.

D: BOLIVAR

Flounder congregate near the structure and wells around Bolivar as they head to the pass.

E: TEXAS CITY DIKE

Flounder will hug the rocks and shorelines of this 5-mile-long levee during their migration. This is a great location for shore-bound anglers.

F: GALVESTON SHIP CHANNEL

During the peak of the flounder fun, fish stack up as they funnel through the channel. Any given shoreline or structure can hold flounder in the GSC.

G: GALVESTON JETTIES

This is your last shot at a saddle blanket before they enter the Gulf of Mexico. Fish big mullet and heavy jigs along the rocks during the outgoing tide.

big flounder 2018 Galveston Flounder Run: A Quick Guide

HOW TO CATCH THEM

THE BITE

Flounder are ambush predators, concealing themselves on the bay floor and striking when opportunity presents itself. There a couple telltale signs of a flounder strike. The most recognizable is the satisfying “thump” of a bite during your retrieve. Sometimes, the bite is more subtle and all of sudden you notice a dead weight on your line. And other times, a fish might strike viciously and move.

THE HOOKSET

The most important aspect of flounder fishing is patience!! Flounder often bite first to kill and wait before swallowing. Wait anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds before attempting to set the hook. Flounder have bony mouths and require a stout hookset. The no-stretch qualities of braided line are perfect for hooking flounder.

Down South Lure in Kickin’ Chicken, Gulp Shrimp in New Penny and H&H Grub in Glow/Chart.

BAITS AND LURES

Berkley Gulp baits are some of the best scented plastics for flounder, but any soft plastic on a quality jighead can get the job done. Scent is important and helps flounder hold on to the bait longer. Apply Pro-Cure gels to your unscented plastics, like Down South Lures, Chicken Boy Lures or Flounder Pounders.  You can also tip your jighead with a small piece of shrimp tail section.

Popular lures colors include pearl, pearl/chartreuse, strawberry/white, chicken on a chain, pink, chartreuse, new penny and many more.

Live shrimp, finger mullet and mud minnows are all popular, successful flounder baits.

It’s hard to go wrong with the real thing. The most popular live baits are finger mullet, live shrimp and mud minnows. Fish these on the bottom with a carolina rig: swivel,  weight (1/4 oz. to 1 oz. depending on water depth), a live bait or kahle hook and a 18” length of 15-20 lb mono or fluoro.

UNDERSTANDING THE FLOUNDER LIFE CYCLE

Life cycle of the Southern Flounder. Illustrations by Brandon Rowan.

Boyd’s One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners

January 1st, 2018

2017 was a year of big fish on the Texas City Dike. Boyd’s One Stop’s annual Flounder tournament finished up with the top three fish all weighing over 8 pounds! Congratulations to first place winner Jantzen Miller, second place Kevin Heiman and third place Nathan Chain.

jantzen miller Boyds One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners

1. Jantzen Miller 8.86 lbs, 25.5 inches.

kevin heiman Boyds One Stop Flounder Tournament Winners

2. Kevin Heiman 8.41 lbs, 24.5 inches.

3. Nathan Chain 8.34 lbs, 25 inches.

GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

October 31st, 2017

flounder fall GALVESTON FALL FISHING 2017

The flounder run is coming!

By Capt. Joe Kent

Years ago by November, fall fishing patterns would be well under way and the annual flounder and golden croaker migrations in full swing.  This is not the case now and anglers have moved the time table ahead as a result.

While growing up around the Galveston Bay Complex, saltwater anglers looked to Columbus Day in early October as the time when they could count on the onset of fall fishing patterns.  For a number of years now, fall weather patterns have not set in until much later, usually close to November.

Fall fishing patterns are triggered by the water temperature in the bays and it is not until the readings fall below 70 degrees that we can count on much in the way of autumn fishing.

Sunlight or presenting it a different way, shorter periods of daylight, also influence fish to move into their fall feeding style.  Fortunately, while weather patterns may change, periods of daylight do not, so that is one constant we can count on in the equation.

An example of how our weather pattern has changed comes with the special flounder regulations that were set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to protect flounder from over harvesting during their fall migration or as anglers call it the Fall Flounder Run.

The dates for the special regulations that cut the bag limit to two per day and outlawed flounder gigging were Nov. 1 through 30. Those dates were chosen because historically the flounder run was in its peak during November and by December 1, nearly over.

Quickly TPWD observed that the flounder migration lasted well into December and amended the rules to add the first two weeks of that month.

Mentioned earlier was the fact that Columbus Day was looked to as the kick-off of the fall fishing season and now that has changed.  If I were to choose a holiday that better represents the time when fall fishing is in full swing, it would be Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

Now, with that background, what is the outlook for this year’s fall fishing?

Let’s take a look at speckled trout first.  The record floods of late August and early September likely will continue to affect speckled trout fishing through at least the early part of November.  Trinity Bay and the upper reaches of Galveston Bay continue to have enormous amounts of fresh water pouring into them. Until that stops and salinity levels improve, don’t look for the prolific fall trout action for which those areas are famous.

On the other hand, East and West Bays should be hot spots once the water temperature cooperates.  Hordes of specks migrated out of the lower salinity areas to locations closer to the Gulf of Mexico and likely will remain until the “All Clear” signal is given to migrate north.

The fall flounder run is shaping up to be a good one this year, as a good crop of quality flat fish is in the bays and, once a few genuine cold fronts pass through, look for the passes to the Gulf to be wall to wall with both flounder and fishermen.

Redfish action has been outstanding all during this fall season.  Reds of all sizes have been caught in good numbers in the lower bays and surf.  Look for that to continue, as reds are not nearly as sensitive to salinity levels as other fish.  Once the water cools, look for the back bays and marshes to turn on.

The annual golden croaker run, which usually occurs about the time of the flounder run, has been a big disappointment in recent years.  During November large golden croaker known as bull croaker make their run to the Gulf of Mexico for spawning and are easy prey for anglers fishing near the passes into the Gulf.

While there has been some good action during the run, it has not measured up to that of 20 years ago and beyond.

In summary, it is going to take a couple of things to really trigger some hot fall fishing and those are getting the water temperature down into the 60s and eliminating the heavy flows of fresh water into the bays.

Once the water temperature drops look out!  The action will be hot and heavy.