The Texas southern flounder retains is mystique.
The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. –Mark Twain
As one of the Texas Triune, the southern flounder has been in decline since redfish and speckled trout were declared gamefish in the eighties.
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The story of the Texas southern flounder has been one of peril, survival and victory. At one point, it actually looked as though they would cease to exist. This was due to the additional fishing pressure put on during the rise in popularity of the three most popular gamefish in the state.
At that time, the population of flounder in Texas began to take a nosedive. There was a point when the Laguna Madre Texas Parks & Wildlife Department gill net survey count was zero. It was not until 2008 that this near loss was officially halted.
Around that time, a radical game changer was implemented, resulting in a consistent increase of flounder catches by Texas anglers, year after year.
Largely due to the efforts of Chester Moore, the first to call for a southern flounder restocking program, we have a very successful one now being run by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
When we spoke to Chester Moore he said “The staff at Sea Center Texas and the Coastal Conservation Association were and are key to the Flounder Restocking Program, without them it wouldn’t exist. I sort of got the ball rolling in the public realm and they have executed a major conservation movement on flounder.”
Since that time, many new regulations have been passed to protect redfish, trout and flounder, and they are now showing increases in spawners and adults since those regulations were implemented. Since 2008, the TPWD surveys show increased catches all over the state. As Twain so eloquently put it in his famous quote, this fish will live to see another day.
This delicious coastal treasure can be found from Maine all the way down to Texas. They reside in the bays, inlets, creeks and estuaries during summer laying eggs, feeding and hiding from predators. In Texas, they begin getting prepared for the trip out to the near shore habitats of the Gulf of Mexico, where they spawn.
This migration begins around October, right after the first cold snap, and lasts until December. Males leave first, followed by the females.
The best time to catch flounder is during this fall run. The best place to find them is in the channels and passes leading there, such as Rollover Pass in Port Bolivar. Flounder may be caught with rod and reels, but gigging them at night is what many fisherman prefer.
These fish are bottom feeders, and since the flounder’s mouth is sideways and they swims sideways, it takes skill to catch one.
When you see Texas anglers braving the miserable cold, bunched up together near inlets and passes leading to the Gulf, you know the flounder run is on. Old timers will tell you the flounder runs of yesteryear were far greater than those of today. But with the successes this fish has seen lately, flounder runs may just reestablish their legendary status in Texas once again.