Finding Louisiana Flatfish

Finding Louisiana Flatfish

The cuts and sandy points along our Gulf coast are Flounder Central this month. Our experts tell you exactly where to catch these fish in October.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

I still remember sitting at Jeff and Mary Poe's home in Lake Charles, on the shores of Lake Calcasieu, and wondering how I could possibly manage to eat all of the delicious-looking stuffed flounder that covered my entire plate.

Mary Poe had split the flatfish in the middle to create a pocket that she'd filled with a shrimp-and-crabmeat mixture; then, after sprinkling it with paprika and basting it with lemon juice and butter, she baked it until the flesh was flaky and white. The flounder was dauntingly huge, but selflessly determined to spare the cook's feelings, I waded into it with a will. Absolutely delectable!

Even today my mouth still waters when I think about that flounder and its tasty stuffing, cooked to perfection. When I complete this article, I hope to go fishing, and to try catching a limit of those flatfish to enjoy. These suggestions will aid you in catching flounder this fall.

THE VENICE REGION

Andy Mnichowski, affectionately called "Minnow Bucket" by his friends, fishes the Empire/Venice area near the mouth of the river. "Almost any cut you find in this region can have flounder in it," he asserted. "Some of my favorite places to fish are the first and second spillways, Joe's Bayou and Pass-à-Loutre. Look for sandbars that have dropoffs from 1 to 2 feet that come about 30 yards from the bank. You won't catch as many flounder where you find a sharp dropoff of about 6 feet."

The flounder move out of the current and onto the sand flats to feed on the bait moved around on the flats by the natural flow of the Mississippi River. Mnichowski recommends that anglers search for an eddy hole, where the water washes around a point and creates an eddy.

"At the first and second spillways, I have sat in one spot and caught and released as many as 50 or 60 flounder in a day of fishing, only keeping the bigger fish," he said. "I really believe the first and second spillways are the most productive places in our area to get large numbers of good-sized flounder." These are just above the head of the South Pass of Pass-à-Loutre.

In the fall you'll find the river fairly clean there and can spot the sand flats clearly. When you pinpoint a sand flat that goes out further in the river than does other sand flats, it's time to ply the waters for flatfish. "Get out on the point of that sand flat, and let your bait sweep around to the backside of the point where the flounder will be holding," Mnichowski offered.

To catch the flounder, Mnichowski uses either a 3/16- or a 1/4-ounce Booyah jighead. He prefers the black-and-chartreuse or an avocado Booyah Samurai Shad with a chartreuse tail. He fishes the jig slowly on the bottom using 17-pound-test Excalibur Silver Thread line. He'll tip his jig with a little piece of shrimp to give flounder a scent that they can home in on, particularly if the water's stained.

According to Mnichowski, many anglers encounter problems when fishing for flounder because they have a difficult time feeling them when they strike. "Most of the time a flounder will barely tap the jig as it sucks in the jig," he remarked. "When a flounder takes the jig, I set the hook quickly because by the time I feel that fish, it's already got the jig in its mouth." He cautions, though, that sometimes, when you fish very slowly, you won't even feel a tap; instead, the sensation is that of the line getting heavy.

In the fall months, Mnichowski can produce 2- to 7-pound flounder for his fishing clients. "October and November are the prime times of the year to fish for flounder in my area," he said. "The average flounder will weigh 3 pounds, and taking a 4- or 5-pound flounder is quite common. Really and truly, any cut you can pinpoint from the Venice Marina to the South Pass can yield flounder at this time of the year."

Besides hanging around on sand flats, flounder hold also on rocks in the mouths of canals and ditches. Mnichowski prefers to fish for flounder on an incoming rather than an outgoing tide. "Often a falling tide will pull dirty water out of the marsh," he noted. "But with an incoming tide, you get more water out of the Gulf of Mexico, which is usually cleaner water. I'm convinced the flounder can see the bait better in that clean water."

When you fish for flounder in the fall in these areas, other fish like speckled trout and redfish also may eat your bait. Very rarely will you go on a flounder-fishing trip at this time of the year and just come home with flounder. However, most anglers don't gripe too much about having a limit of speckled trout and redfish along with their limit of 10 flounder per fisherman.

"In an average day of fishing, two people easily can catch a mixed bag of flounder, reds and speckled trout -- possibly 60 fish total -- and only keep the bigger fish for each of their limits," said Mnichowski

To learn more about Mnichowski and his flounder-fishing tactics, contact him at Fish-On Charters at (504) 514-4099.

LAKE CALCASIEU FLOUNDER

Captain Kirk Stansel, of Hackberry Rod and Gun in Hackberry, fishes for flounder each fall at Lake Calcasieu. October signals the beginning of the fall flounder run at Lake Calcasieu, during which these fish migrate from the lake to the Gulf of Mexico, using the ship channel running through Calcasieu as their highway. Often you'll discover flounder on the shoreline in the fall when the weather's warm, but when the weather cools off, the flounder will move off to the deep water along the channel.

"My favorite places to fish for flounder in October are buoy marker 69, buoy marker 64, the two cuts that go into West Cove, West Pass, the ferry at Cameron on the west side around some of the structure, Old River, and Monkey Island," Stansel offered. "I'm looking for small points of land that stick out into the channel and create eddies. Most of the time, the flounder will be holding in the eddy areas."

Stansel prefers to fish for flounder in the fall with live shrimp and live cocahoe minnows; he uses either a No. 1 or a No. 1/0 hook on 12-pound-test line, and tries to use the lightest lead that the current will allow him to fish with and still get his bait to the bottom. If he can, he'll use a split shot on the line instead of the usual slip-sinker. Stansel favors a barrel swivel below the split shot and 1 to 2 feet of leader coming off the barrel swivel to the hook. Unlike Mnichowski, Stansel prefers fishing a falling tide; he's partial to casting upcurrent to bring his bait to the flounder.

"I like to fish directly off a point, cast to the bank, a

nd then let the current sweep my bait off the bottom of the point and the eddy," Stansel said. "Most of the flounder here at Lake Calcasieu will run 12 to 14 inches each, up to 4 to 5 pounds each. Often you'll catch your limit of flounder. Some days you can catch and release flounder all day long."

In addition to live bait, Stansel also fishes jigs with plastic grubs. "I like the small Sea Shad made by Bass Assassin and tipped with a piece of shrimp. I like the Bass Assassin with the paddletail the best."

Stansel chooses Calcasieu Brew, an avocado color with hints of chartreuse as his favorite color for flounder. Too, he enjoys fishing with the Stanley Wedgetails in the glow color with chartreuse tails, particularly in slightly stained water. He also chooses black with a chartreuse tail as another favorite color.

"We also catch a lot of flounder when we're drift-fishing for trout in October and November," he said. "However, when we're flounder fishing, instead of swimming our baits or hopping them off the bottom, we'll drag the baits along the bottom in areas where we find trout. To catch flounder, you have to fish much slower than you generally do."

For more information about Kirk Stansel and the other fine guides at Hackberry Rod and Gun, call 1-888-762-3391, or go online to

www.hackberryrodandgun.com.

Jeff Poe, of Big Lake Guide Service in Lake Charles, also guides on Lake Calcasieu. "I like to fish the cuts coming out of the marsh," he said. "There are two good cuts between Hebert's Marina and the weirs, which are fences and dams that raise or divert the water. The weirs I like to fish include the Lambert Bayou weir, the weir at No Name Bayou, the Grand Bayou weir, the Mangrove Bayou weir, the Bois Connine weir, and also the ship channel. I like to fish the weirs because they're water-control structures. The mouths of those weirs are where you'll find bait concentrated and numbers of flounder."

Poe tempts the flatfish with Mann's 1/4-ounce Stingray Grub along with live mud minnows and live shrimp; he also fishes Carolina-rigged 2- to 3-inch-long live pogies. These he fishes on 12-pound-test Mossy Oak Fishing Line. He casts upcurrent, making short twitches with his rod tip to entice flounder to come up off the bottom.

"When the water flow brings the bait out of the weirs, the effect is much like ringing a dinner bell for a bunch of hungry cowboys," Poe explained. "Even though there's quite a bit of fishing around those weirs, they're still the most-productive places to fish for flounder."

The average size of flounder you'll catch will average 1- to 2-pounds each, but you'll catch the biggest flounder of the year in the fall. Poe has caught an 8-pound flounder out of this area.

To contact Poe at Big Lake Guide Service, call (337) 598-3268, or visit his Web site, the address for which is

www.biglakeguideservice.com.

COCODRIE

Captain Joe Schouest of Chauvin catches flounder regularly in the fall of the year along the barrier islands in the pockets and coves, in the oyster beds and on the backsides of the islands. He names the Last Islands, Trinity Bayou and any of the cuts and bays with oyster beds as his favorite places to fish for flounder. He also catches the fish around Terrebonne Island, Timbalier Island and Lake Barre. "Too, I catch flounder at the mouth of almost any little marsh cut where the baitfish are coming out of the marsh riding a current," he said.

Schouest mainly fishes with live shrimp or mud minnows, but he takes a number of flounder on plastic baits as well. "I like to fish (grubs) in either chartreuse or sparkle-beetle colors on a 1/4-ounce jighead and 15- to 17-pound-test line," he offered. "One trick to remember when you're flounder fishing in October or November is that the colder the water is, the slower you fish your bait. I just drag my bait on the bottom like you will a plastic worm when fishing for bass -- without hopping or jumping it -- at this time of the year."

Although the average flounder in this section of the state will weigh 2 to 3 pounds each, anglers also catch 3- to 4-pound flounder frequently. Said Schouest, "Limits of flounder can be caught on many days during that time of the year, and I have caught and released as high as 50 to 60 flounder a day."

But Schouest won't bet his fishing reputation on catching a limit of flounder every day he fishes in the fall. Generally he and his fishing parties will catch a mixed bag of speckled trout, flounder, redfish, black drum, and sheep head when fishing inshore in the fall. You'll find highly productive marsh fishing around Lake Boudreaux and Lake Mechant.

Call Coco Marina at 1-800-648-2626, or visit on the Web at

www.cocomarina.com.

When you fish almost anywhere in Louisiana in October and November, you'll have a high likelihood of taking flounder, specks and redfish, because the places you'll fish to get flounder also have the potential for limits of speckled trout and redfish. The specks and the reds will hold higher in the water than will the flounder, although they also may feed on the bottom. Therefore if you're targeting flounder, look to fish deeper and slower to be successful.

Plan to load up your cooler in October and November so you can enjoy dinners of stuffed flounder flanked by cole slaw, hushpuppies, baked potatoes and homemade cocktail and tartar sauces. If this kind of dinner sounds good to you, put this magazine down, hook up your boat, and head to the suggested locations. You'll more than likely discover flounder waiting on you there!

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