As most saltwater anglers already know, there is an annual flounder run that occurs usually in October and early November. What gets much less attention is the spring flounder run that is beginning about now. For a reason that is unknown to me, the springtime fish are not as large on the average as are the fall fish. I know that they do not shrink during the wintertime lull. Not to be misleading, there will be some outsize flukes taken during the spring run, but there will also be a good number of them that will either just barely reach the legal Texas length of 14 inches or more likely just under that. None of that matters if locating and catching flat fish is your goal.
Flounder are not considered to be strong swimmers. They spend their adult life lying on their side mostly waiting in ambush for their prey to come near enough to attack. Even so, whenever one of them is hooked, they will turn into very worthy adversaries. That’s especially the case when it weighs over a couple pounds. Those seeming dossal fish will turn into wild cats when they are hooked.
During the fall months, the flounder seem to move out into deeper water areas as the tides fall. The times before that migration offer some hot and heavy fishing action. Once that major run is passed, the fish seem to vanish. In fact, many of the dedicated flounder anglers have a number of fishless trips. Of course, there are usually plenty of redfish and some speckled trout around to fill the gap. That will also be the case in the spring. I have mentioned this so that you will be ready to take them on when and if the hard fighters decide to show up.
During the springtime flounder run, much like during the fall, it would be a no-brainer to know where to begin going after flounder. Moving water is always a good bet. I’ve found that the incoming early springtime tidal flow will move the fish onto feeding areas. I’ve also found that the incoming tide is a better one for them. Whenever the water has moved in far enough to reach the vegetation or structure that was not in the water before, then expect the flukes to be somewhere nearby. That would make it necessary to position yourself so that you can cast your lure or bait right up to the edge of the grass or structure. Then after the cast, allow the offering to drop straight down before slowly retrieving it. Keep in mind that the fish will likely be bedded on the up-tide side of whatever you choose to use as a target. It’s always good to position yourself so that you cannot only cast into the shallows, but also into deeper water. There are times when the early spring flounder will stack up along the ledge between the deep and shallow water. By checking the water temperature, it will be possible to fish in the warmer water. Even a couple degrees warmer can be where the action is.
Deciding whether to use live bait or lures is, as always, angler’s choice. Both of these are effective at times, but it’s difficult to beat the live bait. The lures are designed to mimic the live bait, and there is no doubt that they work well on most occasions.
Live mud minnows, finger mullet or live shrimp will take the flatfish. The problem with the shrimp is that practically everything that swims will eat them. Replacing them or unhooking undesirable fish such as hardhead catfish can be time consuming. It’s best to spend more time fishing and less time doing those things. One of the tips that has been passed along by Capt. Darren Guernsey is to not use small live bait if larger fish are your quarry. Small baitfish do a good job, but the smaller, mostly illegal flounder will readily take them. Here, again, unhooking, releasing and re-baiting will take up fishing time.
It seems that lures such as lead-head jigs with flexible plastics added to them are the choice of most flounder fisherman. Those that are in the know will add a piece of fresh or fresh frozen shrimp to the hook. Even though the lure does a good job, the shrimp will increase the strikes. If shrimp are not available, I have done well with small pieces of filleted baitfish. Cut croaker or shad seem to be the better choices for the add-ons.
It is now time for the spring flounder action, so don’t miss out on it.