By Capt. Joe Kent
Phil Ortiz with a big Galveston flounder.
November is by far the best month for flounder fishing along the upper Texas Coast. It stands out so much that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set special rules for that month that include a reduction in the daily bag limit from five to two and the limitation of hook and line (rod and reel) as the only means of catching flatfish. With that restriction, flounder gigging is prohibited during November.
The main reason for the great fishing in November is the annual flounder migration to the Gulf of Mexico reaching its peak and flounder stacking up in such numbers around the passageways to the Gulf that they are easy picking for anglers.
Prior to the changes in the rules, anglers had a daily bag limit of 10 with a two-day possession limit. This allowed the gigging crowd to take 10 before midnight and another 10 per person after the clock struck 12 a.m.
When the two-day limit was eliminated and the bag limit reduced to five per day, along with the November rules, flounder stocks began to rebound.
With the flatfish now back to good numbers, let’s take a look at some tips from an expert on how, where and when to fish for flounder.
Phil Ortiz, inventor and manufacturer of the popular Flounder Pounder artificial bait, is one of the noted experts on flounder and flounder fishing. Ortiz has fished commercially for flounder and for over 20 years has devoted his time to producing one of the most prolific flounder baits on the market, the Flounder Pounder.
Recently, I interviewed Ortiz along with his brother Joe who assists him in manufacturing the baits. We started out with what I considered the most important question and proceeded from there.
Kent: What would you say is the most important single factor in fishing for flounder?
Ortiz: When the periods of sunlight fall, meaning shorter days, signals go off in flounder to start moving. The shorter days translate into cooler water and give rise to frontal systems making their way to the coast. This has a snowballing effect in that the fronts move the water out of the marshes and back bays thus telling flounder to prepare for their move.
Kent: Now that we see the flounder beginning to move, what are other factors that affect fishing?
Ortiz: The next most important is atmospheric pressure. A drop in pressure alerts flounder that change is on the way and the movement begins.
Kent: What about tides and moon?
Ortiz: Tidal flow, whether incoming or outgoing, is 99% necessary. The moon phases are not as important; however, the better action will be during major and minor periods.
Kent: What about the actual fishing? What color is your favorite and how do you fish for flounder?
Ortiz: Color makes no difference; in fact the bait itself is not that important. It is all in the presentation. I once hooked a cigarette butt to one of my jigs and caught flounder by making the bait resemble a running shad.
Kent: I recall you telling me that noise, if anything, helps flounder fishing. Is that still true?
Ortiz: Absolutely. Think about it, flounder lie on the bottom and any loud noise nearby will spook bait into running away. During the exit, the spooked bait will run past an awaiting flatfish and an easy meal results.
Kent: Is November the best month to catch that big “saddle blanket” flounder?
Phil with another flatfish fooled by the Flounder Pounder.
Ortiz: There are a lot of large flounder caught during November; however, my experience has shown June through August to be the best time.
Kent: It is pretty well known that the smaller male flounder make an appearance first during the flounder run. Why is that?
Ortiz: It is because they move slower than the larger females.
Kent: In closing, do you have any advice or recommendations to pass on to other fishermen?
Ortiz: Yes, I encourage fishermen to support regulations to increase the minimum size for flounder to 17 inches. Why? Because most of the males are under 17 inches and it takes approximately four to six males to fertilize the eggs of one female. Before recent research on this topic, it was thought that a one to one ratio was satisfactory. Today we know otherwise.
For more on Flounder Pounder Lures, please visit www.flounderpounder.net