BEAUMONT, Texas -- The southern flounder is a hero fish about this time year along the upper Texas Gulf coast for three reasons: It is fisherman-friendly, available in big numbers and one of the tastiest fish you'll eat.
The fall flounder run has garnered a lot of attention, especially among bank fishermen at traditional hot spots like Sabine Pass and Rollover Pass.
''The flounder fishing has been very good,'' said Dimitri Schwarznau on a recent outing. ''We've had lots of fisherman taking plenty of flounder around the causeway bridge and off the state park pier.''
Ditto that at Rollover Pass on High Island. If you have never visited this pass during the peak of the fall flounder run, you are definitely missing a sight. When it's right, and plenty of flounder are being caught, it's shoulder-to-shoulder fishing.
What makes Rollover Pass such a hot destination is that it's a bank fishing paradise. And thanks to new bulkheads, this fall flounder fishing destination is more popular than ever.
For years it was thought that most flounder left the bays, heading for the Gulf to escape chilly water temperatures. Some do leave due to cold water. But studies have shown that many adult southern flounder migrate from bays and estuaries in the fall and winter to spawn. Almost all spawning of both Gulf and southern flounder takes place offshore.
The peak flounder spawning time for the upper Texas Gulf coast is from mid-October through December.
The prime spots to intercept migrating flounder are in the passes. And Sabine and Rollover are two of the best around. Both offer plenty of bank fishing access.
Schwarznau says that anglers on the Walter Umphrey State Park Pier have been making some pretty decent catches of not only flounder, but also lots of golden croaker.
Boat anglers fishing the mouths of bayous and around humps and islands on Sabine Lake and in the pass have been boxing flounder to 5 and 6 pounds. The heaviest flounder I've heard of caught recently was in the pass. It weighed right at 6 pounds, and was caught on a hump just off the Louisiana shoreline.
Over on East Galveston Bay, there are two very good floundering options. The first is to fish from one of the piers at the bait camps near Port Bolivar. The other is to anchor your boat at the mouth of one of the passes that connect the bay to the Intracoastal. You can wade those passes or fish from your boat. I've caught some pretty big flounder in those passes during the fall run.
Schwarznau says that the number one bait for live flounder in the pass is a live mud minnow. At Rollover Pass live shrimp are the number one baits.
Artificial baits, particularly soft plastic jigs, account for big numbers of flounder. Sabine Lake guide Skip James specializes in catching flounder on Mr. Twister jigs.
''I like to use jigs over live baits because I can cover more water,'' says James. ''But I don't leave the dock without a box of fresh table shrimp. The tail section of a piece of a fresh shrimp is very smelly. I like to put a pinch of that tail section on the tip of a jig. The action of the jig gets the flounder's attention, and the shrimp seals the deal.''
The Texas limit on flounder is 10 per day with a 14-inch minimum.
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