The three varieties of fish that are most sought after by the fisherman in Galveston Bay are the speckled trout, redfish, and flounder. They alone can be a year-round challenge for the saltwater sportsman. In popularity, the speckled trout would be first, with the redfish following in second, and the southern flounder a close third. Each fish has its distinct differences but share one thing in common; great table fare.
I personally enjoy catching flounder the most. I’ve caught them accidentally many times, and they’ve been almost impossible to land in the best of conditions. The most fisherman who targets this fish uses live bait, such as shrimp, finger mullet, mud minnows, and pinfish. Some will also throw plastic lures, such as shrimp tails and imitations of finger mullet. But the flounder is an opportunistic species and will also feed on the bottom and consume dead bait such as shrimp, squid, and small pieces of fish.
A stranger to saltwater fishing will find the flounder quite intimidating. He is definitely a strange looking creature. When born, the flounder looks like any other fish. He swims in the vertical position with an eye on each side of his head. But a strange oddity occurs thereafter. One eye migrates over his head, the pigmentation leaves on one side, and his body flattens. He no longer swims upright and spends the rest of his life in the horizontal position. Resembling a flattened football, with both eyes on the same side of his head, he spends much of his life sitting on the bottom waiting for his supper to pass overhead. He has the ability to change his color to blend in with the sandy or rocky bottom, perfectly camouflaged in the “stealth” mode. In one quick move, he opens his huge mouth and inhales the unsuspecting prey, only to settle back to the bottom and enjoy his meal.
The Texas City Dike is home, or at least a stopping point for flounder. It offers structure such as pier pilings, rocks, and protected coves for flounder to find his food. During fall, the flounder makes his annual pilgrimage to the Gulf of Mexico spawn. Tens of thousands leave the marsh and upper bay to make their way to the gulf. They are voracious eaters during that time, trying to fatten up for their trip. It’s during those months when the fisherman has the opportunity to catch flounder in greater size and number. Female flounder are the largest and can be caught upward to ten pounds in size during this time. Five-pound class female flounder are not unusual to be landed in the months of September through December. In March and April, the flounder return from the gulf. Once again, they are hungry and can be caught in good numbers. The flounder can be targeted year round making it a popular fish to catch in Galveston Bay.
There are a number of ways to present your bait to the flounder. The key to a successful fishing trip is to place the bait or lure in front of the flounder or have it pass him. A live shrimp or finger mullet suspended below a cork at the right depth is all that is needed to attract his attention. Determine the depth of the water that you are fishing in and adjust the cork accordingly. Sometimes a small “split shot” lead weight attached to the line near the hook is necessary to keep the frisky live bait toward the bottom. Flounder can also be caught fishing on the bottom with a slightly heavier weight. A slow retrieve can cover a large area, enabling you to possibly drag the bait near the waiting flounder. Patience is the key when the flounder takes the bait. It’s a good idea to wait for at least a minute from the time you feel him bump your line until you set the hook. This gives him time to completely swallow the bait. They have a tendency to hold the bait in their mouth and a premature tug on the line can result in a lost fish.
A dip net is essential to landing your catch. There is nothing more slippery than a flat fish, and grabbing one with your hands can be challenging, to say the least. Slowly bring the flounder head first into the net. Many flounder are lost when the net bumps the fish, causing him to panic and spit the hookIn my opinion, the flounder is numero uno when it comes to dining. He doesn’t have the oily taste that some saltwater fish possess. The meat is white, dense, and somewhat sweet. The flounder is easy to fillet or can be cooked whole, baked, broiled, or fried. The meat freezes well and can remain in the freezer for months. Personally, mine doesn't last that long.