Every summer along the Gulf Coast we move into what many call the ‘misery months.’ That’s when the temperatures get so hot, that to catch a few fish, we may have to endure the scorching heat. Well, for some outdoor enthusiasts, they just switch gears and go nocturnal. After the sun goes down and the temperatures recede, many anglers hit the waters to go flounder gigging. With a light breeze as Mother Nature’s air conditioner, flounder gigger’s are content to enjoy a nice leisurely stroll along the beach in search of the tasty flatfish. Whether on foot or by boat, if you’re in the flounder feeding areas, you should be able to put a few on ice.
If you have never ventured out after dark on Mobile Bay or Mississippi Sound, aided by illumination of the bottom along the shorelines, you have missed a wonderful experience.
Hundreds of creatures will be exposed by the lights, making the experience a great one for youngsters or newcomers. Small finfish, crabs or shrimp will catch the eye of most folks, but especially flounder.
Flounder are ambush feeders, laying motionless along the bottom waiting for an easy meal to swim within range so they can use a lightning quick striking action to capture prey. Because of the flat shape of the flounder, they are able to blend in with a sandy or flat bottom contour. On top of that, flounder have the ability to change color to match the color of bottom they sit on. This even includes the ability to mimic a shell bottom.
Another trick the flounder uses is its ability to use the fins along its oval-shaped body to flip sand on itself. This effectively ‘buries’ the flounder, with only its eyes above the sand. This qualifies as an extremely effective camouflage, making flounder very efficient predators.
If you are going flounder gigging on foot you need a few basic items. First, you need a light. Most use propane-fueled hand-held lanterns, because of the great amount of light they put out. Next, you will need a good sharp gig, stringer to drag along your catch, and a bottle of water to drink.
If you flounder by boat you have the luxury to carry along a lot more gear. You can carry along multiple gigs, a dip net to scoop crabs, mosquito repellant, multiple flavors of beverages and more. You also have an easier way to record your trip. You can use small hand-held cameras, cell phones as cameras and you can put all your flounders in an ice chest and not have to drag them behind you.
The main advantage of flounder gigging by boat is lighting. Whether you power lights by 12-volt battery or by a small generator, your options are more numerous. You can go with underwater lights or above the water. You can use multiple fixtures or bulbs to illuminate a larger area.
What to Look For
As mentioned earlier, flounder like to lay in an ambush position to attack food. These positions are usually near a high traffic, bait zone. This could be along a rocky shoreline, where minnows are abundant or on the edge of the channel where bait is funneled by the current.
You should also look around pier legs and any grass bed edges where minnows hang out. Flounder will stake out positions in these areas as well. Be sure to work any underwater points or sandbars that extend towards deep water.
Flounder leave an oval shaped hole where that have been laying previously. These are referred to as flounder ‘beds.’ When you come across these you can sometimes ‘hunt’ down the fish by heading in the direction of the head end of the bed. Flounder will sometimes move around short distances in search of food. By tracking beds, you can take advantage of this habit.
Flounder seem to move in with the tide, so being out at night on an incoming tide will be a plus to your flounder gigging success.
It’s always best to listen to locals when fishing any area. Flounder gigging is no different. We contacted a ‘homegrown’ authority on floundering Mobile Bay and the waters surrounding the bay.
Frank Foley is a medical student who also operates Bayside Boat Detailing (251-709-1617) in his limited free time. Foley has been an avid flounder gigger since the age of nine when his parents allowed him to venture out on his own near the family home. The home is located on the west side of Mobile Bay on Mon Luis Island.
Foley considers many variables when planning any flounder adventure, but no matter what, you must have clear water to see the fish.
“When I try to hit the water at night, I do consider moon phase and tides as very important. I like a clear, dark moon with an incoming tide. Flounder will push up so close to the beach that their noses almost stick out of the water. These are my favorite nights,” Foley said. “On full moon nights, the flounder move off the beach and attempt to bury up between the sandbars. The bright moon gives baitfish the ability to see better, so the flounder must take additional care to conceal themselves,” Foley explained.
Foley prefers to travel light when flounder gigging on foot. He carries an aluminum LED light and small compact stringer, along with a three-pronged stainless steel gig. You sometimes have to cover extensive beach before locating the flatfish, so traveling light is a plus.
“When I am out, I am looking for baitfish and flounder beds. I may cover four different areas in just four hours. I am looking for areas that have not been too pressured. My best advice for folks new to this game is to seek out areas without crowds, where the flounder haven’t been picked over.
With many years of searching for flounder on Mobile Bay, Foley has encountered many small to large flounder. His personal best is a whopping nine-pounder!
If the scorching sun has taken all the fun out of fishing, give flounder gigging a try this summer. In addition to flounder, you will be shocked to see what other marine life is out there.
This article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. For more great hunting and fishing content for the deep South, subscribe to Great Days Outdoors print and digital editions or click the image to download this issue.