Gently, he raised his rod tip to move the bait mere inches in the chilly water. Like a crawfish, the bait "scurried" along the bottom. It hopped a few inches and then settled back into the black mud. After a brief pause, Miles renewed his tedious retrieval.
"I only let the bait tick, tick, tick along the bottom," he said. "It's a subtle method of fishing, very slowly and deliberately. These fish can move quickly, but they like a soft presentation. Keep it on the bottom and let it drop over the edges. If you are not touching bottom, you are not catching all of the fish you can. They like to feel it thump. A jighead makes a vibration on the bottom. Wait, there's one now."
Miles lowered his rod tip slightly and felt for the solid weight of a fish at the terminal end. Satisfied that another lunker clutched his bait, he set the hook.
"Got him," he shouted.
Water and mud boiled from the shallows like a cauldron of erupting black ooze. Straining against the line, the fish lunged for deeper water. Miles reeled the fish toward the boat. The three-pound fish shook its head, but the hook held tightly.
"It's almost just like bass fishing with worms," he explained. "Work the bait slowly on the bottom, where the fish want it. Sometimes, they just nibble at it. At other times, they blast it and nearly yank the rod out of my hands."
Almost like bass fishing, yes, but this oddly shaped creature erupted from salt water where no bass could survive. This flounder added to the tally of flatfish we enticed along a 30-yard strip of shoreline at the southern end of Calcasieu Lake, a shallow estuary south of Lake Charles, La.
For tempting cold-water flounder in Calcasieu Lake or anywhere else along the Gulf Coast, Miles gives them what God created -- with a little tweaking. He threads a fresh shrimp unto a 1/4-ounce lead jighead. He fishes it almost the way one would a plastic shrimp tail, slowly bounced over the bottom. Flounder and redfish, attracted by the smell, suck down the offering.
"I pop the head off the shrimp and thread the hook down dead center and roll the shrimp up on the jighead," Miles explained. "It hides the hook and decreases drag. The barb of the hook keeps the shrimp on the jig. Smell is the key. That will increase the chances of bites."
Flounder also readily hit several lure types. They devour soft plastic grubs
, beetle spinners that imitate baby croakers, minnows and shad. Flounder also occasionally hit Rat-L-Traps
and sometimes topwater baits
. Among soft baits,
Cabela's Living Eyes grubs look like live minnows and work well. Berkley Power Baits
, with added fish scent and flavoring, attract many flounder since they search for food primarily by smell. Hot colors for soft plastics include pink, red, white, chartreuse, avocado, purple with a chartreuse tail and anything that resembles a live minnow.
Usually, bottom-bouncing baits work best. Throw a bait as tight to weedy shorelines or other structure as possible and work the bait slowly toward drop-offs. Let it fall off the edge into deeper water. These fighters lurk in shallows along weedy shorelines or at the mouths of tributaries waiting for tides to deliver dinner.
At the mouths of marshy drains, tidal flows create mini deltas. Usually, a shallow shelf forms on one side of a bayou and a deeper channel on the other side, depending upon prevailing tides and currents. Flounder drop off ledge edges to rise and slash at minnows and shrimp passing overhead.
"During a running tide, flounder set up on the outside of points," Miles explained. "An outgoing tide pulls finger mullet and shrimp out of the marsh. Pay attention to the baitfish. Look for feeding activity along the shorelines or around the mouths of the marshy drains. Look for moving water and bait popping. Anglers can see them feeding. They come out of the water and smack the surface like a spatula hitting the water."
Rising tides press forage species against shorelines. Tiny critters seek the apparent safety of weedy shorelines where they can hide better than in open water. Passes and cuts opening into bayous create "choke points" that concentrate baitfish. Flounder follow baitfish looking for opportunities to attack.
In shallows, flounder hide better than baitfish. With their flat, mottled, splotchy bodies, they disappear into dark muck. Only their eyes protrude through the mud. As something tasty washes overhead, they erupt from their silty lair to devour the temptation.
Use tides to an advantage. Throw baits upstream and bounce them down with the current. Thoroughly fish a productive area. Flounder congregate in hot holes in large numbers. Fish every possible hiding place. If fish stop biting, leave the area for a while then return. What attracted them once might attract them again.
When the tide switches, fish the other side of structure or cover. Flounder usually face upstream to wait for bait to wash over them. Often in the company of big redfish, which share the grassy shorelines, big flounder can put up quite a fight. They hug the bottom and swim differently than other fish. Because of their wide mouths, sharp teeth and peculiar features, they frequently throw the hook at boatside.
Magnificent sport fish, yet largely ignored as anglers pursue redfish and speckled trout, flounder thrive throughout estuaries along the Gulf Coast and up the East Coast. Nearly every salty bay, inlet or marshy bayou contains a population of the main ingredient in delicious stuffed flounder.
All it takes is a jig, and a delicate presentation.
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