That might seem like a silly question but I ask it because I am about to propose an idea that might seem unusual and perhaps unorthodox. It will however allow you to catch more flounder and that I guarantee.
For years, I have been writing about fishing along stands of Roseau cane where flounder move on high, falling tides to intercept baitfish hiding in the safety of its intricate rooting system.
All of that is still important but over the last few years, I have learned that Roseau cane plays an even more important role in the life of bay-dwelling flounder than I once believed and that anglers seeking flatfish can use Roseau cane to their advantage in ways never before explored at least in publication.
As I have stated on numerous occasions, Roseau cane has a very intricate rooting system. It is not unlike a miniaturized version of mangrove and with that said it gives baitfish a place to hide on high tides. The general thoughts are that during periods of high tides, the batfish are "in" the marsh.
That may be true for some but certainly not all of it because lots of menhaden, shrimp and other forage species are on the edges of marsh on the main shoreline of bays hidden in the roots of Roseau cane.
Flounder have figured this out and being the highly opportunistic predators they are gang up on the edge of the cane and wait for the falling tide to expose the roots and force baitfish to exit. Some are aggressive enough to prey right on the edge of the cane when tides are at their peak but most for the fall to begin.
These flounder typically body up in schools of up to a few dozen. I say this because I have seen it with my own eyes. One of the final projects I had to complete to earn the zoology degree and marine biology minor I just earned was to observe flounder schooling along these areas. This involved using an underwater camera viewing system called the Aqua-Vu, which I am able to use from the boat and can view fish in water with low visibility because of the use of a highly sensitive infrared camera. I also simply cruised areas with snorkeling gear and by wading along the shorelines of Sabine Lake on a few days when the water was super clear and made note of flounder that I saw. You would be surprised how many you can actually see this way.
With the Aqua-Vu, I found on high tides along stands of Roseau cane, two basic things. The first was that I found groups of flounder numbering in the dozens. I made 10 trips during peak flounder time of year and spent six hours per trip perusing the areas with the Aqua-Vu. The areas I have had consistent flounder action over the years produced the largest and most frequently found schools. The large schools were typically spread out in an area of maybe 15 square yards, which makes perfect sense. Those of us who regularly fish Roseau cane often talk about the "bite window" being small or in other words having the fish all bite in one zone and no bites out of it. The Aqua-Vu research proved that was because they bunch up in tight groups.
The second thing I learned with that device is that the areas holding the most fish are those right along the edge of cane and regularly marsh grass or those spots with some kind of structure like a deep hole or island in front of them. So in other words if you see massive stands of cane, try fishing the outer edges of them or spots where there is a point, bowl or some kind of structure in the area. These spots hold the most fish.
My efforts to view flounder with the naked eye while snorkeling and wading during periods of clear water were much more difficult. To start with, those days are rare on Sabine Lake, but I did get to do it on three separate days. The first time I saw only four flounder, one of them was by itself and the other three were within three feet of one another. I guess that day they were simply camouflaged better than usual.
On the second outing, I saw 31 flounder. The first batch I encountered consisted of 11 I could see and they were right along the edge of a cane stand where I had much success with the Aqua-Vu. The next area I checked I found seven and then I found a group of 13 in a stand bordering a major bayou. The rest of the areas yielded no sightings.
The third and final try produced 14 sightings with two groups of six spotted along two separate small stands of can and two massive loners scattered along a medium-sized stand of cane.
How this information can aid you is that it is evident how to best pursue these fish has now been verified with this research and expanded on greatly.
Most of the flounder I saw positioned themselves with their heads pointing toward the cane. For a few years, I fished cane by casting parallel to the bank and had success but I now think that was a mistake. These flounder focus on what is in front of them and by casting toward the cane and reeling back; I believe anglers will have much more success.
"A lot of times what I will do is cast parallel to find fish and then once I locate them start throwing toward the cane to pick them off one by one," said veteran flounder guide, Capt. Skip James (409-886-5341).
James said anglers should fish with lures like a curl-tailed Old Bayside Speck Grub tipped with shrimp to get the best results in these areas.
"These are intense, aggressive fish just waiting for the bait to leave so once you present them with an offering they tend to take it. You can cover more ground with lures and I find the hook-to-land ratio is better," he said.
I too fish with soft plastics tipped with shrimp and remind anglers never to use the ten-second rule commonly with live bait applications. When I feel the thump of a flounder strike, I count to two and then set the hook. Ten seconds is too long to wait when lure fishing.
In terms of targeting Roseau cane, as the results of the study I conducted suggest, key in on areas where the cane begins on a shoreline and and has some kind of structure along with it. Those are the spots that I consistently saw flounder at during the study and have found to be productive over the years.
In terms of watching the tides, the ideal time to fish is right when the tide begins to fall. This is when the flounder are the most aggressive and will respond best to lures and bait. Make sure and keep an eye out for feeding flounder. Most of the time we do not think of flounder as breaking the surface but they do quite often and on numerous occasions I have seen them jumping completely out of the water when they are feeding in a frenzy.
And yes, flounders do feed in frenzy-like states just as speckled trout and redfish do. They do not cause as much commotion but they are exhibiting the same basic behavior and you can use that to your advantage.
Another thing that is good to know is that when I was right on top of these flounder with the boat or in the water in my wet suit, they did not spook. Only when I bumped them a few times with the Aqua-Vu's camera did they move. Think about that when you are fishing and fish your lure all the way to the boat or all the way to you when wading.
I am currently in the process of seeking funding to set up several Aqua-Vu units hooked to video cameras to record exactly what happens in eddies and along weirs, two of my favorite spots to catch flounder. As soon as I can make this happen I will let you know.
God bless and good fishing!
(You can keep up with what is going on with flounder research at my new
web site www.southernflounder.com. It is full of information on how you
can help the southern flounder get the respect it deserves in terms of research