Flatfish: From Galveston To Corpus Christi

Flatfish: From Galveston To Corpus Christi

Spring's here -- and the Gulf Coast's flounder know it. To celebrate the occasion, the author has picked some fine spots for getting in on this action. (April 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

The spring flounder run is on, and some of the best fishing in Texas is available in the tea-colored waters of Galveston Bay down to the shallow, clear flats south of Corpus Christi. On this stretch of coastline, the major bay systems, channels and fish passes combine to give anglers excellent access to flounder migrating in from the Gulf.

The Galveston Bay complex is the most consistent producer of big flounder in Texas, particularly around Rollover Pass on East Galveston Bay.

During spring, migrations generally dictate the fishing at this popular hotspot. From late February though early April, each incoming tide will bring schools of flounder through the pass from the Gulf. Anglers armed with live mud minnows and finger mullet can intercept these fish by working the flats on the north side of the pass and in the pass itself.

"I'd probably rank Rollover Pass as the number one spot to catch flounder when the flounder start to migrate," said dedicated flounder angler Kevin Danielson of League City. "Rollover is a big pass, and the flounder leaving that side of the bay come through there in a big way.

"The key to Rollover is being able to wait out the fish, because sooner or later they will come -- and when they do, watch out! The action will be hot and heavy."

Danielson ranks the shoreline of Sea Wolf Park as the No. 2 migratory point, because it is another natural flounder travel route.

"A little-know fact about the Sea Wolf area is not to be afraid to fish in the deeper water for flounder. Some of the biggest ones never come up in the shallows and stay deep. If you can fish in the deep holes, you will catch big fish. Don't try to wade out to these holes, though -- because the current can quite literally kill you."

Nearby East Matagorda Bay is a real sleeper for flounder fishing, and the flatfish action should start turning on toward the end of the month.

The biggest numbers of fish start entering the bay first during the early part of March and continue through mid-April. In Matagorda, many big flounder stack up around the Intracoastal Waterway and in the Colorado River at this point.

I'd advise anglers to begin their mornings fishing out away from the big points and then to work slowly toward the bank as the sun rises toward the upper reaches of the sky. For some reason these fish tend to start deeper and move toward the bank as the day wears on.

Matagorda's flounder tend to work the shorelines in spring, so don't overlook them. Key shorelines are those with stands of roseau cane, which you should fish on high tides, as well as those with any kind of cut coming feeding toward the main body of the bay. Also: Don't overlook some of the marsh ponds that connect to the main body only by a small cut. One such spot is Boy Scout Lake -- which can be loaded with flounder.

The Upper Laguna Madre is an underrated destination, located as it is near Baffin Bay, which for many anglers is the Promised Land of trout fishing. Their neglect doesn't mean that the Upper Laguna Madre doesn't offer up some tremendous fishing opportunities. Capt. Don Hand gives Upper Laguna Madre a big thumbs-up as a potential hangout for big flounder during spring.

A surprisingly good method for flounder fishing in the area is to drift the shoreline fishing a live shrimp either freelined or under either an Alameda Rattling Float or a Mansfield Mauler rig. Most of the time this is used for trout, but it can yield quite a few flounder as well. Hand recommends that anglers key in on this area when the water's is very clear.

The area around the JFK Causeway is a good spot when the flatfish are making their migration in (and out) of the Gulf. A live mud minnow or finger mullet slowly dragged across the bottom is a sure way to hang into one of the area's saddleblanket-sized fish.

Whether seeking flounder or any other denizen of the Upper Laguna Madre, remember those tides. All tidal movements are not created equal and those in this area deserve special attention. Many anglers complain with some justice about the inaccuracy of printed and televised tide charts, so be mindful of that when you go fishing. Talk to local guides and bait-camp owners before you venture out.

Generally speaking, locating spring flounder is easy. Concentrate your first efforts in the mouths of cuts leading into bays from large marsh systems. Look for cuts that are wide enough and deep enough to flush lots of marsh water on tidal movements. Try the first couple of major points, eddies and the first "S" turn inside tributaries with moving water. Flounder typically haunt the edge line of such areas. Baitfish such as juvenile menhaden, which are not yet strong enough this time of year to fight the currents, tend to rest in the slack water.

It's very important not to overlook this predator/prey relationship during spring. Many anglers make the mistake of looking for larger baitfish like mullet and larger menhaden to find flounder, but that's not the way to go in the spring. During this time of year, they're after the menhaden.

Why is that so? Because flounder are opportunists that'll go after the easiest thing to catch -- and in the spring, that's menhaden.

Tides dictate the forms of flounder feeding: On a fast-falling tide, the flatfish move in close to the drainage in tight schools; when it's falling slowly, they might scatter out around the mouth of a specific drainage or up into the marsh. They'll do the same thing during the first hour or so of an incoming tide; then they will usually move into the cuts.

Another good area to probe for spring flounder extends along the main shorelines of bay systems. Attacking vast shorelines would be a waste of time. You'll end up in dogged frustration, so you have to have a strategy. Instead of looking over eight miles of shoreline, narrow your search down to an eighth of a mile. You must eliminate water to bag spring flounder successfully.

The first step I take in eliminating water in a strange ecosystem is to look for a shoreline that has stands of roseau cane, the intricate root system of which is somewhat like a smaller version of mangrove; it gives baitfish a place in which to linger, hide and dodge larger predators.

Another spot to consider is the surf, particularly structure like bowls and guts that for

m around rock jetties and piers.

Fishing a bowl involves working along the edges and paying special attention to the upper rims or spots at which the bowl makes a transition to a point. The center of a bowl can be great too, because these are often the deepest points, and in shallow surf sudden depth usually means fish.

Troughs -- "guts" -- are the long depressions or ditches running parallel to the shoreline and sandbars. Surf anglers often talk about fishing "between the sandbars," which refers to fishing the troughs in the surf. The sandbars can either be the bottom between the troughs or an actual "bar" formed by current.

In deeper water, flounder feed along the sloping sides of a trough, but in deeper surf, they feed in the center. Old-timers say that trout gravitate toward the sharpest edge of the trough.

Sandbars, as we explained earlier, parallel the shore for great distances. For surf-fishing for flounder, concentrate on the inner bars. Most surf-fishing experts agree that fish feed along the outer sloping front side of a bar, tending to gravitate toward the bottom, where the sloping front of the bar ends.

Learning to identify this "surf structure" will go a long way toward enabling anglers to fish the surf without much guesswork. If a beach has rock jetties, wrecks or old pier pilings on it, concentrate some of your efforts there. Live mud minnows or finger mullet is usually the best bait in the surf.

Spring is a great time for catching flounder on the Texas Coast whether you fish the back bays or the beach. Anglers aware of the techniques and hotspots listed here will find themselves armed with enough information to bring home a limit of these challenging and tasty fish.

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