Flounder Gigging – The Ultimate Guide
Giggers today have some wonderful tools to work with, but flounder gigging still comes down to going out after dark and getting into position for a secure thrust into an alert flounder. We may have more and better tools for gigging today, but we still face the same challenges as the old-timers did.
Of course, the reason we go out at night on the dark water is to obtain some of the best-eating seafood to be found on the Gulf Coast (or in the whole world).
Captain Yano Serra of Coden, Alabama, has spent many nights on and in the waters of western Mobile Bay and the surrounding bayous looking for flounder. Captain Jody Waldorff has also spent a lifetime chasing flatfish, and these two experienced experts can offer us some helpful advice when it comes to gigging flounder.
What Is Flounder Gigging?
Flounder gigging is a method of fishing that involves hunting and capturing flounder at night using a gig—a long pole or spear with multiple prongs. It is a popular recreational activity primarily found in coastal regions, especially in areas where flounder are abundant.
The technique is typically performed in shallow water, such as saltwater marshes, estuaries, and flats, where flounder tend to feed and rest. The process usually takes place after sunset when the flounder become more active and easier to spot with the aid of artificial lights.
Flounder Gigging Gear
Yano says that when he wade-gigs, instead of a multi-prong gig such as he uses on a boat, he prefers a single-prong gig. This makes removal of a stuck flounder much easier.
“I use a single point gig when I’m wading, and when I stick a flounder, I don’t remove him from the water. I put him on the stringer before I remove him from the gig. Then I let the stringer trail behind me,” Serra advised.
For giggers who do prefer multi-tine gig heads, be sure to purchase one designed for flounder fishing and not for frog gigging. Many multi-tine heads are too small and too flimsy to hold up to a struggling doormat flounder. Flounder gig heads are usually designated “heavy duty.”
B&M Heavy Duty 3 Tine Fish Gig
The gig head is only half of the equation when building your gig. The gig pole plays a large part in how well the gig handles. Many giggers insist that you can’t beat the simplicity of a traditional bamboo pole. A good piece of bamboo that has been dried and varnished is strong, light, and will float if dropped. Others prefer higher-tech collapsible aluminum poles.
Flounder Gigging Lights
Many wade giggers still use propane or other gas-powered lanterns, but some really effective underwater single-bulb lights have been developed that operate on small battery packs carried by the gigger. These long-handled lights allow giggers to put the beam of light right on a suspected flounder for a quick stick.
It seems that the color of the flounder light is very important. Waldorff runs a 2200 Kelvin amber colored light.
“This color light cuts through the water particles better than clear or white light. White light reflects off the water, but amber doesn’t,” he noted. A hand-held light allows giggers to safely and securely wade through shallow waters where most flounder spend their time looking for minnows, shrimp, and other food. But some anglers prefer alternatives. A strong headlamp doesn’t put off as much light, but it does let you gig with one hand, and the light is always aimed where you need it to be!
Aikertec Waterproof Headlamp
Others prefer boat-mounted lights. While having the lights on the boat means that you’re limited to gigging in waters where you can float your boat, they put out a LOT of light.
FOXPRO Bowfishing Lights
For those who want the best of both worlds, some manufacturers make lights that are designed to be mounted on a pole or on the bow of your boat. Models like these are not only dual use, but they can be color-adjusted to get maximum performance in stained and clear waters.
Swamp Eye Submersible Flounder Gigging Light
How To Gig For Flounder
To gig for flounder, begin by equipping yourself with the necessary tools: a gig, a powerful flashlight or spotlight, and appropriate attire. Head to shallow coastal areas where flounder are known to inhabit, preferably during the nighttime. Wade slowly and quietly through the water, using your light source to illuminate the surroundings. Keep a keen eye out for the distinct shape and movements of flounder on the sandy or muddy bottom.
Once a flounder is spotted, swiftly thrust your gig towards it, aiming to impale the fish. Ensure a firm and accurate strike to secure your catch. Retrieve the flounder and place it in a bag or cooler. Always abide by local fishing regulations and size limits to promote responsible fishing practices. Enjoy the thrill and adventure that flounder gigging brings while respecting the environment and conserving fish populations.
Gigging flounder from a boat and gigging while wading have lots of similarities. Actually, they are the same basic operation. Perhaps the biggest difference is that boat giggers can work all kinds of bottom while waders need to try to stick to firmer, non-muddy bottom. Of course, waders need to keep an eye out for stingrays as they work silently along.
However, for night-in night-out results, more flounder have been taken by wading giggers than by almost any other form of fishing. Wading puts us in close contact with the hard-to-see flounder of Mobile Bay.
“If I’m wade-gigging, I want a dark night. Moonlight will create shadows from the gigger which will spook flounder.” Waldorff adds, “ In clear water, flounder will stay put more than in muddy water. They don’t move as much in clear water,”Waldroff said.
Wading allows giggers to silently work very shallow water that no boat could reach. This puts a lot of flounder within reach of a wader that a boat gigger just can’t access.
Another really big benefit of wade-gigging is that it allows giggers to find that wonderful seafood delicacy—soft-shell crabs—as they look for flounder.
“I always have a little scoop net with me when I go wade-gigging. When I see a crab, I scoop him up. If he’s a hard-shell, he goes back. If it’s a soft-shell, it goes in a sack I have with me. We used to pick up lots of soft-shell crabs in a single night’s gigging. This is easier to do when wading than from a boat,” Serra added.”
Of course, there’s no reason that a gigger can’t do both kinds of gigging in a single trip. It’s very likely that flounder on many nights will be in water too shallow even for a flounder boat’s shallow draft, so it’s a simple matter to anchor the boat in navigable water and then wade around islands and other structure that often hold nighttime flounder for gigging.
Flounder gigging boats need to be as shallow draft as possible because gigging is a shallow-water game.
“For years, I used a 14-foot aluminum flat-bottomed boat,” Serra said. “It worked, but two people couldn’t gig from the front of the small boat. An 18-foot boat is better. You need a boat with length and width to support the people. You can pole the boat or use a trolling motor as you move down the shoreline. Now, I have a total gigging setup with a larger mud-boat with ten LED lights mounted on a handrail. Each light produces 950 lumens of lights, and it all runs off a battery. You can also use a generator to power a gigging boat’s lights.”
Good Tides/Bad Tides
“They’ll be facing upstream when they’re lying in a cut or in moving current. On a blank tide, the flounder will move more. They’ll be easing up shallow on a tide that is coming in,” Waldorff advised.
When asked what sort of tide he prefers for gigging, Serra says a neap tide is best.
“There’s no tide movement to scatter the bait, but really the tide is not as important as it is when fishing for flounder with a rod and reel. All you have to do when gigging is see the fish. The water needs to be clear,” he explained.
“The bottom here on Mobile Bay is mud—a south wind will muddy the water. You’ve got to know the little places where there will be clearer water. In Florida, you’ve got sand bottom and you can gig in four feet of water. Here, thanks to runoff from farmland into creeks upstream, two feet is the maximum you can see in the bay,” Serra added.
How To Spot Flounder And Stick Them
Before we can stick ‘em, we have to see ‘em. This sounds easy but the whole structure and appearance of a flounder is designed to make it very hard to see. Flounder have first-rate camouflage, and when lying motionless on the bottom it’s a challenge to pick one out from the surrounding bottom.
“Ease down the bank. Look for something that’s not supposed to be there. Look for something out of the ordinary. You may see eyes, a vague outline of the fish, a mouth. Look for something that looks out of place. Nine times out of ten, it’s a flounder.” Yano advised.
When a flounder is spotted and then stuck with the gig, it might seem that the hard part is over. It’s not that simple. Many flounder have been lost to giggers because they slipped off the gig when the gig was lifted from the water.
“Stick him, then turn his head toward the stern, slide him across the bottom, and then slide him into the boat. Keep him moving on the gig. Don’t stop the gig until the flounder is in the boat. Flounder will jump when the gig is removed. I have a wooden wedge attached to an ice chest so I can just pull the gig out and the flounder will fall into the ice chest. Don’t just leave the flounder on the deck. They’ll be muddy and bloody and slick, and if someone steps on the flounder, you could kill yourself in a fall,” Serra said.
Where To Aim Your Gig
When it comes to the moment of truth, there is a definite technique to maximize the chances of a successful thrust.
“Try to stick him them right behind the gill plate,” Yano advised. “Try to get a head shot. That way you don’t mess up the meat. I was trained to hit them in the head, and that’s how I do it.”
Flounder Gigging Advice For Beginners
Yano has taken flounder from the waters around Mobile Bay for many years, and he’s learned a lot about the sticking game. He offers some good advice for those of us who are just getting started in the gigging game.
*Be quiet. This is very important. Don’t stomp and don’t drop things in the boat.
*Full moon conditions are not the best for gigging. On a full moon, the flounder can see you coming before you see them. They spook.
*Wind. You don’t want wind in your face. Try to go with the wind. This is quiet and the wind pushes you over the bottom.
Follow the tides and be aware of what they are doing. A falling tide can leave you stuck up a bayou. It’s easy to get excited sticking a bunch of flounder and lose track of the tide. A falling tide can get away from you and leave you high and dry.
*If running a generator in an aluminum boat, make sure you’ve got a good in-line fuse. A short from a generator will run through the boat and you can’t get away from the shock.
*Make sure you’ve got an ice chest ready for stuck flounder and get them in the chest and off the deck.
*Have plenty of bug dope. Bright lights attract insects, and the mosquitoes can be fierce during a gigging trip.
“You have to be either standing on your feet if wading or standing up on the deck of a boat. It’s like sight-fishing for reds- it’s easier to see flounder from above. The more up and down the gigger is, the less light refraction and the easier to see where the flounder is,” Waldroff added.
Full Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links. There’s no extra charge to our readers for using these.