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What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

January 1st, 2019

flounder nov What Happened to the 2018 Flounder Run?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers all around the Galveston Bay Complex are scratching their heads in disbelief of the fact that we did not appear to have a genuine flounder run during November.  Almost all of the experienced flounder fishermen are asking why the flat fish never made a concentrated run like they are supposed to during late autumn.

Was it a sign that the flounder stocks are dwindling or was it something else that interfered with the 2018 fall flounder run?

To begin with, let’s take a look at what traditionally takes place with flounder and their annual run to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, especially in years past.

At some point after mid-September, flounder sense winter is  not far away and start thinking about their move to the Gulf.  Two key factors contribute to this insight, those being shorter periods of sunlight or shorter days and the water temperatures cooling from the summertime readings.

When this first occurs Galveston Bay flounder begin to move, first out of the shallower back bays and lakes and then to the larger bays, especially East and West Bays.  From there they will head to the pathways to the Gulf, which include the Galveston Ship Channel, Bolivar Roads, Cold Pass, Rollover Pass and San Luis Pass.

In most years, November is when the migration reaches its peak, with flounder lining the shorelines of Pelican Island, all along upper Bolivar Peninsula and around all of the passes into the Gulf.

At that time it was “easy pickins” on flounder, as they were so concentrated that anglers could load large ice chests with the flat fish.

Several years ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department set a special bag limit of two flounder per person per day for November and later extended it to mid-December.  Also flounder gigging was prohibited during November.

For at least three years now the annual run has fallen short of its expectations and this year it was hardly noticed, as few flounder were caught from the traditional hot spots.

The first thought is that the stocks have declined to the point that they are in trouble.  All indications are that this is not the problem.  All during the year, flounder were being taken in typical numbers and experienced flounder anglers reported the back bays and marshes being full of the flatfish.

What about our warmer than usual winters?  That has to be a big factor and from here I would like to pass on some comments from a few of the flounder pros.

One angler sent a note to the Reel Report in the Galveston County Daily News saying:

“Here is my reason for the poor flounder run. Try to forget what you think you know about flounder running in the fall. The flounder are not leaving the bays, they are entering the bays. They have to wait till the water temperature in the bay drops down enough to run off the scavenger fish that would eat all the eggs they are leaving in their spawn.”

Another reader sent in this note:

“Has anyone wondered if the lack of flounder can be tied to the dredging of the Galveston Ship Channel! The hopper dredge has been working 24/7 for several weeks now and rumors are they are scooping up barrels of flounder. Something seems off when dredging to deepen the channel is planned when a bottom fish has its migration.”

This note came from a biologist at a popular aquarium:

“Most everyone is complaining about the poor flounder run this year.  All sorts of reasons are cited; however, one thing that seems to be missed is that all flounder do not leave the bays during winter. One of the driving factors is food supply.  If the small fish and crustaceans are around, flounder are slow to leave and will tend to hang around as long as food is plentiful.”

Another reader said: “We may be missing the flounder run, as the warmer weather could be causing a delay in the migration to sometime in mid to late December.  If so, this would be at a time when not much fishing is taking place and possibly a major run would go unnoticed.”

Whatever your theory, the warmer winters over the past few years have to be a major factor.  Hopefully the stocks of flounder will continue to be in good shape during 2019 and beyond.

Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

October 4th, 2017

Advice from Phil and Joe Ortiz of Flounder Pounder Lures

By Capt. Joe Kent

ortiz Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

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.

pounderlure Flounder Fishing Tips From Flounder Pounder Lures

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?

ortiz2

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