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Flounder

Back in the day, you could feel the chill to the bone as we were out for doormats, as we poled along with twin propane lights bow mounted, in a search for those big boys that brought in the bucks. Poling, was a style developed by the commercial fishers that caught on in the recreational arena and is the norm now in floating the skinny without the use of a trolling motor. Fact is, back in the early eighties, they were hardly heard of unless you were on the Bass trail. We used a long, mahogany pole of twenty feet long and three or four inches round, to the end of it was attached a potato rake, flattened out to form a gig type apparatus. Neptune’s pitch fork on a twenty foot rod made for a perfect poling to gigging rod when in search of big flat fatties, flounder. Those were a reflection on how I really started angling for these fat, flat fish. Two of us would be in our Banana Boat, called such as flat boats did not really exist then so we built replicas of these South American boats used to navigate shallow waters but were heavy enough to handle a moderately heavy sea if it had too. One would pole in the bow of the boat and upon spotting a flounder, it was gigged and thrown back into the bottom of the boat as the other guy would place the flounder in a holding box or ice chest. Reliving each after an hour or so all night long, from dusk until dawn. While sitting on the gunnels of the stern, one usually had a rod and reel, as we were out to get flounder and its boring waiting your turn up on the bow. Funny thing was, after have an hour of pole gigging, you couldn't wait to get back to the stern and watch the trolling rods. We generally rigged two rods with light wire hooked jigs on a fifth pound test piece of mono as our leader and attached either a strip of cut bait to them.

On the other we rigged it with a fish-finder-style bottom rig. Both rigs were inshore bottom bouncing rigs, covering a lot of water and probably caught just as many flounder as the giggly on the bow. Problem, if you hung up, you broke off because there was now stopping and a lot of coastal hugging. So you spent time either re-rigging or taking fish off the hooks or re-baiting with either more eels or live Mud-minnows. As the sun rose and broke the horizon, came the dreaded time as we worked our way back to the camp, turns were taken cleaning the flatters. A cleaned fish at the market could, depending on the fish, almost double the price per pound paid. We made a whole bunch of crabs happy on the return trip, as we used the discards in our traps, to which we would check later that day before getting a few hours of needed shuteye. I still use the same techniques today, as I fish, rod & reel, as a recreational angler, in search of Florida flounder's.

There are many kinds of rigs used by the dedicated angler, but all retain one attribute: They get baits down to the bottom, where flounder chew. If a bait does not find bottom, chances are a flounder will never see it, much less inhale it.

Several factors deserve consideration when selecting flounder rigs. Water depth, current and bottom terrain are three significant variables. Bait size also plays a role. It takes more weight to drag larger baits, as silver mullet, Pin fish and Croaks, to the depths. However, a fine line exists. Baits need to move freely across submerged terrain, not hold fast, over weighted, in one spot. Too much lead decreases strikes as much as using too little.

Look close. You'll notice them, despite their low-key attitudes, skillfully pitching baits into likely flounder haunts. For flatfish followers, nothing matches the thrill of dredging a hefty doormat off the bottom.

Veteran flounder fishermen know success depends on terminal rigging. There are many kinds of rigs used by the dedicated angler, but all retain one attribute: They get baits down to the bottom, where flounder chew. If a bait does not find bottom, chances are a flounder will never see it, much less inhale it.

A simple and effective live-bait flounder rig is the jig-head. With various weights and hook sizes, jig-heads make good everyday bait carriers. Simply pin your bait through the lips, toss it up-current and let the lead-head sink your living into the zone. Nothing could be easier.

All types of jig-heads do the job, but some do it better than others. I stick with lead-heads equipped with light wire hooks. These thin-diameter hooks usually find something to grab between a flounder's sharp dentures. Jig-head color can spell the difference between banner and mediocre fishing. Brightly hued heads amplify flash. Chartreuse, red and orange are good choices. Opt for chartreuse in clear water. Go with red or orange in dark, tannin-stained or brackish water. The glitter-filled TerrorEyz jig-heads from D.O.A. lures consistently entice flatfish when baited with mud minnows.

Jigs work best with smaller baits. Live shrimp, small finger mullet and mud minnows (killifish to y'all hailing from north of the Mason-Dixon line) make excellent jig-head baits. For added attraction, try leaving the plastic tail on your jig in conjunction with live bait. Tails provide extra action and often invite a second shot if a flounder steals your live. One Mud minnows and chartreuse tails make perfect companions. This combo remains one of my favorites.

Baits pinned on lead heads offer distinct advantages for anglers pursuing flounder in slow current, shallow water and around oyster bars. Lead head rigs allow constant, direct contact with the live bait. The slightest bait movements and subtle telltale flounder taps telegraph instantly up the line to the rod tip. Remember, when flounder fishing you must "feel" your bait to distinguish hits. Work leadhead flounder baits around docks, eddies and shoreline structure for best results. Flounder Ponders

Jig-head baits do have some drawbacks. Perhaps the most disconcerting is a tendency for flounder to "taste" the lead and spit the hook before the set. This happens almost every time a flounder mouths a jig-fished bait for too long. They're also tough to fish in strong current and depths over six feet. Once you need more than a 3/8-ounce jig-head, it's time to switch to a different rig.

Doormat chasing', inlet fishermen normally employ standard, barrel sinker livebait rigs. This type of terminal tackle produces more fish in fast-water and deepwater situations in many Florida inlets and passes.

 As the sun rose and broke the horizon, came the dreaded time as we worked our way back to the camp, turns were taken cleaning the flatters. A cleaned fish at the market could, depending on the fish, almost double the price per pound paid. We made a whole bunch of crabs happy on the return trip, as we used the discards in our traps, to which we would check later that day before getting a few hours of needed shuteye. I still use the same techniques today, as I fish, rod & reel, as a recreational angler, in search of Florida flounder's.











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