Louisiana's Fall Migration
by Jeff Bruhl. RodnReel.com
To most anglers flounders are a
bonus fish. Occasional flounders landed on casts for redfish and speckle
trout are the rule for many Louisiana anglers. However, knowing a few
key facts about flounder's changes these doormats from lucky catches to
a sure thing.
make a great dinner presentation when stuffed. Besides being fun to
catch, flounders are one of the best tasting fish found in Louisiana
waters. Learning the biology, habitat, and tactics for catching these
great sports fish will add numbers to your trips. Jerald Horst,
Associate Professor at the LSU AgCenter, provided information about the
biology of the flounder. The foundation of any game fishing is knowing
as much about the fish you are trying to catch as possible. After my
phone call to Professor Horst, I knew my understanding of the flounder
was in need of some homework. The most interesting bit of knowledge was
the migration of the Southern Flounder as it relates to the spawning and
life cycle of the fish.
Flounder is the most common species caught in Louisiana,"
starts Professor Horst, author of the RodNReel.com's Fish of the Gulf of
Mexico. "The flounder weighs about three pounds on average but can
grow as large as the world record of 20 pounds 9 ounces caught in
The fall migration or run of Louisiana flounders
is due to the spawning period of late November to January, with the peak
in offshore waters in December. The fall peak of flounders found in
inshore waters is mid-October to mid-November, which is a direct
correlation to the spawning period in December. Simple put, flounders
move from inshore habitat to the offshore spawning ground during the
"Flounder spawn in offshore waters,"
adds Professor Horst. "The fish stage near the Gulf of Mexico in
the lower bays, lakes, and bayous when the first cool weather arrives in
late September or October."
The inshore staging is a prime time to have a
flounder stretch your line. Knowing a few more facts provided by LSU
AgCenter professor will help you understand and catch more flounders.
"Male flounders have a life span of about
three years and rarely grow larger than 14 inches," states
Professor Horst. "After the first year of life, males live mostly
in outside waters."
Females are the trophies of the species, growing
as large as 3 feet in some areas of the country. The Louisiana
Record is 13.06 lbs and was caught on a Charter Trip With Captain
Jack Payne by Gary Hargis at the South Pass 12 mile Rigs on June 12,
1998. The fish was caught on the bottom in over 300 feet of
Since males live in offshore waters, females
comprise the larger portion of catches. After the fall gathering, both
sexes move to offshore waters to spawn. After the spawn, the females
move back to the lower estuaries to start the yearly sequence over
again. Studies have shown the late winter stage is the best seasons to
catch trophy flounders because the females are migrating back to inshore
waters to feed.
"Flounders migrate long distances, as much
as 100 miles up the Mississippi River," continues Professor Horst.
"After reaching their destination, flounders usually remain in the
same bay system or area until it is time to repeat the spawning ritual
in the fall."
Flounders are great predators. Perfectly
camouflaged to lie on the bottom, the fish waits until the prey passes
near the concealed spot. This is another key to catching flounder. Water
movement is vital to the feeding habits of the flounder. This one
characteristic makes points, cuts, and tidal flats prime location for
Most anglers know that Dudley Vanderborne is the
king of big trout along the Highway 11 Bridge near Slidell, Louisiana.
However, Dudley catches the October flounders found along the bridges of
Lake Pontchartrain with the same ease and tactics as he does big trout.
"We call them summer and winter
flounders," Dudley tells me with hint of excitement in his voice.
"Winter Flounders usually show up in October and last until winter
Summer flounders are the fish found in the
marshes near the Rigolettes, which are caught from April until August.
The Winter flounders hug the bridges during the fall and peak catches
occur during late October. The flounders average about two pounds with
some reaching five or six pounds. Dudley guides trips targeted at the
migrating flounder during the fall. Despite the local names, the
flounders exhibit the characteristics of the Southern Flounder.
"The west side of the bridge is often the
best place to locate flounders during the fall," adds Dudley.
"The main tactic is the one used for speckle trout. I use a Deadley
Dudley near the bridges. Cocahoes and shrimp on a Carolina rig are
another good way to catch flounders."
The marsh near Lake Borne and Lake Pontchartrain
hold flounders on the numerous points and cuts along the Intercoastal
water way. Dudley, who has a special line of Castaway Rods due out soon,
searches these areas for the flat fish of fall during late October.
Along with the abundance of flounders near the bridges, a limit of
flounders fills the boat in a morning of fishing the marsh and bridges
Solar is another Louisiana master that considers the flounder as bonus
fish most of the time. Herman uses the knowledge of his many years of
fishing and studying the waters of Louisiana to target flounders in the
"I like an incoming tide on the flats of
the Venice area near Southwest Pass," exclaims Herman, who conducts
classes on fishing the Louisiana coast. "I fish in three to four
feet of water near flats or points."
Herman uses a shrimp on a jig head and employees
a dead stick tactic. After casting the bait onto the flats, let the bait
rest on the bottom for about a minute.
"Most of the time you see the strike,"
add Herman. "Slowly lift the bait then allow it to rest on the
bottom for awhile. When you lift the bait again, you will see the fish
strike the bait. Set the hook hard and hold on."
Herman recalls how the fishing pressure on
flounders increased when the trout and redfish harvest was closed.
Recreational fishing pressure increased on the flounders at the same
time when limits were placed on specks and reds. A statewide limit was
needed on flounders because of the pressure placed on the species. Since
most inshore species caught are females, it does not take long to
decrease the number of flounders in the local waters.
"A fisherman can catch flounder around any
point from Delacroix to Venice in the fall," continues Herman, soon
to be the author of a new book about fishing tidal waters. "In the
early winter the beaches along the coast are great places to look for
flounders because these areas can be prime spawning grounds."
Captain Peace Marvel of Reel Peace Charters is
well known guide for big offshore fish out of Venice, Louisiana. When
the big winds of cold fronts make the gulf too rough for blue water
fishing, Captain Peace uses the flounder as a light tackle trip.
"October and November are prime months for
flounders in the passes of the Mississippi River," starts Peace who
is widely known for his offshore trips. "Cuts, sand bars, and flats
are great places to catch
The main rig used by Peace is a Carolina Rig. He
places a rubber core Water Gremlin weight about 12- 18 inches above a
hook with a live cocahoe. The rig is fished on 20-pound test line with a
Shimano rod and Stella spinning reel. Slowly drag the rig over the area
believed to hold flounders. Use firm hook sets when the flounder takes
the bait. These fish have powerful mouths and a strong hook sets deliver
the hook to the roof of the fish's mouth.
"Flounders average around two to three
pounds during the fall run," adds Peace. "Bring plenty of
cocahoes because the passes hold good numbers of fish."
Flounder fishing in Louisiana is simple and
economical way to add fish to the table. Flounders can be stuffed or
cooked whole. A flounder is easy to filet. Four nice filets are cut from
a flounder. After the pieces are cleaned, batter and fry the fish like
speckle trout. Flounders that are scraped free of scales, gutted, and
deheaded are delicious broiled. There are as many ways to prepare
flounders, as there are to catch them.
After interviewing all the participants of this
article, several keys to understanding flounders were obvious. First,
flounders are more likely to be caught during October and November due
to their migration back to offshore waters. Searching points, cuts, and
other coastal areas will yield good catches of flounders. Second, big
flounders caught by inshore anglers are females. Remember this fact. The
continuation of this sport is important so releasing a few flounders
will help perpetuate the species. Finally, whatever tactic you chose,
understanding the hows and whys of a species is very important in
catching the species. Migration and spawning patterns dictate habits.
Understanding a species habits is the key to catching that species.
When football season arrives and the leaves turn
their beautiful colors, remember the flounder migration is not far away.
After the first cold front passes the mouth of the Mississippi River,
spend a fall day in the back estuaries of the Louisiana marsh in search
of the flat fish known as the Southern Flounder.