Ken Chaumont opened up a bag of lures and pulled out a new soft-plastic bait that I hadn’t seen before. He held it up.
“This is a flounder-catching magnet,” he said. “It’s the short version of a 5-inch Stanley Wedge Tail. Here — try it.”
We were fishing at the mouth of a cut with a hard incoming tide. It was early April, and the flounder bite on Galveston Bay had just perked up. I rigged the 2-inch-long lure on a 1/4-ounce jighead and made a cast to the shoreline.
“Just bump it along bottom and you can feel the tail vibration,” said Chaumont. “In murky water that vibrating tail is the key to being successful on flounder migrating into the bays from the Gulf.”
On the third cast I was slowly working the Wedge Tail 2 feet deep in the current when I felt a sudden thunk: definitely a flounder bite. I set the hook, and a big Southern flounder was flapping on the surface.
“Get the net — this is a big one!” I yelled.
Chaumont scooped the fat 3-pounder up in the net. That was the first of many to hit the ice that day. The “flatties” were holding off of one little point at the mouth of a cut just off a major pass leading into the bay.
Flounder fishing is really popular during the spring. As the flatfish migrate from the Gulf to the bay, they can be caught in big numbers. In fact, it’s about the only time of year that you can actually expect to catch a 10-flounder limit.
April is generally when the first warm tides of spring prompt a major movement of flounder from the Gulf to the bays. And one of the most popular areas to find and catch some of those tasty flounder is on the Galveston Bay system. Two of the most popular areas are East and West Galveston Bays.
Rollover Pass feeds into East Galveston Bay. It’s a major hotspot for migrating flounder each spring. On West Galveston Bay the No. 1 hotspot is San Luis Pass. Both are big producers of flounder year ’round, but they shine best during the spring run. Both are open to the public and free to fish 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Rollover Pass is located at about the middle of Bolivar Peninsula. It’s several hundred yards in length and offers anglers the chance to fish from the bank, wade or even work it from a kayak or other small boat.
The section of the pass that connects to the Gulf of Mexico is bounded on each side by a concrete wall. It’s handicapped-friendly, and offers a relaxed and comfortable fishing environment. On any given day during the spring you can find anglers fishing from lawn chairs along those concrete walls.
On the bay side of the pass you’ll find anglers wading or fishing out of kayaks. What a lot of anglers do is park at the pass and wade into the Back Bay.
Waders make the best catches of flounder while fishing lures and live baits along the edge of the channel drop. What you want to do is wade out on the flat, usually about 2 to 3 feet deep, and cast to the area where the flat drops off into the pass channel. Lots of flounder will hold along that drop. On high tides you might want to work baits along the flat several feet off the channel drop.
Anglers fishing between the walls of the pass will usually be fishing live baits such as mud minnows, finger mullet and shrimp. The best way to fish between the walls is to cast your bait out and let it wash downstream with the current. That’s a good way to cover lots of water — and you’ll usually catch more flounder, too.
At San Luis Pass you’ll find a wide-open bay on the north side of the bridge and the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico on the south side of the bridge. The options here are to fish off the San Luis Pass Pier, wade the flats, or work the many guts and the open water from a boat.
Wading the flats and guts on the bay side of the pass is a hoot. I’m talking about some wide-open water. You can just about wade out of sight of land. Waders have the best option for catching the most fish. They can thoroughly fish the flats along the drops, where flounder will be holding on high tides. On falling tides they can work the guts off the flats.
Wading the Gulf side of the pass is an option, but it’s a dangerous one. The currents at San Luis Pass can literally suck your feet right out from under you. Many anglers have drowned there. The best option is to wade the bay side of the pass. If you’ll be wading the Gulf side, always wear a life jacket.
Another option is bank fishing. This is a very comfortable way catch flounder in April at San Luis Pass. You can set out a few rod holders, cast out some live baits, and kick back in a comfortable chair.
If you prefer to keep your feet high and dry, just head for the San Luis Pass Pier, located on the west side of the pass. April is a prime time to be pier fishing the pass. It’s the time of year when lots of flounder stage on the flats around the pier prior to heading into West Galveston Bay. The pier is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One of the best times to fish the pier is during a falling tide.
There is a boat ramp on the west side of the pass. You can launch any size boat there. Boat anglers usually anchor along the drops in the pass. If you have a depthfinder, you can ease along and see the small humps of sand and drops in the deeper water on the Gulf side of the pass. That’s where flounder will stack up.
The shorelines inside both West and East Galveston Bays will hold flounder on high spring tides. That’s when waders and boaters can ease along the banks and find numbers of slab-sized flounder. The points along the flooded shorelines are usually best.
The mouths of cuts leading into the marsh on these bays will also hold flounder.
Live baits are usually best for flounder, however during the spring migration run from the Gulf to the bays they are usually a little more hungry and aggressive.
The most popular live baits are mud minnows, shrimp and finger mullet. Mud minnows are usually available at bait camps surrounding Galveston’s Bays. The baits are sold by the dozen. It’s usually best to buy several dozen.
If shrimp are available you can find them at local bait camps, as well. It’s usually best to buy at least a quart.
Live finger mullet can be purchased at bait camps, too. They can usually be caught in the passes and along the shorelines of the bays with a cast net.
Size does matter when using live baits for flounder. A 2- to 3-inch-long bait is best.
The most popular live bait rigs are easy to build. Run your fishing line through a 1/4-ounce barrel weight and tie the tag end off to a small swivel. Take an 18-inch section of 20-pound-test leader material and tie one end to the swivel and the other to a No. 1 Kale hook. That’s it. Attach a live bait, cast it out, and you’re good to go.
The best artificial baits are soft-plastic tails that can be rigged on 1/4-ounce leadhead jigs. The most productive tails are anywhere from 2 to 3 inches long. Some of the most popular tails are Old Bayside and Wedge Tail. Best colors are shad, glow/ chartreuse or pumpkin/chartreuse.
Tipping the tail of a jig with a small piece of shrimp is a great way to improve your catches of Southern flounder. Fresh table shrimp is the best way to go. And the tail section will have the most scent.
Pinch off the tail section, peel it and skewer it on the jig hook. About every five casts you’ll need to replace the shrimp. It’s a trick that some of the best flounder fishing pros have used for years.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
For guided flounder-fishing trips at Galveston and on Sabine Lake, call Texas Ultimate Fishing Guides at (409) 782-6796.