A five-pound flounder launched into the air as it clutched a huge white shrimp in its jaws.
The flying flatfish cleared the water by a minimum of two feet and sent dozens of smaller shrimp scurrying across the surface. To call this sight awesome would be cliché but I was certainly left in a state of...well...awe.
A lifetime of pursuing flounder beyond simply fishing for them has given me incredible opportunities to see things that shatter preconceived notions about these fascinating fish. And I am excited to share these with you as we enter the fall flounder run.
Flounder can be surprisingly acrobatic, especially when they are feeding in frenzy on a specific type of baitfish. Out of all the fish I have pursued none get tunnel vision, so to speak, over prey items like flounder. When they are locked on tiny menhaden (shad) they often refuse other offerings and feed with enough enthusiasm to leap for joy.
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Last fall my father Chester Moore, Sr. and I not only observing flying flatfish but also saw them "rolling."
We would see mud boils all over the particular cut we were fishing and occasionally see a glimpse of brown or a shrimp jumping. Upon closer examination we were able to verify they were flounder feeding on shrimp in an unusual way.
They would rocket from the bottom, sweep through the shrimp and roll back down in a clockwise direction. We saw this dozens of times in the course of a week and each time the strikes were conducted in exact fashion. You had to be close to verify they were flounder and we had that opportunity many times.
An even stranger phenomenon was also viewed last fall. I watched several small male flounder gathered around big females in the channel at Sabine Pass. This was the last week of November and there were several egg-laden females with males right on them.
Were these fish spawning in the channel?
We know they spawn in the Gulf but is it possible that a remnant actually spawns in our deep man-made channels?
These fish were in three feet of water on the edge of a 30-foot drop-off. Perhaps they were simply staging together to run but the females looked as if they were about to burst.
Even more intriguing was the fact the males would seemingly defend the area around her like a bass does on a bed.
I would pitch a 2.5-inch Sassy Shad from Mr. Twister toward them and the males would hit the lure, swim away with it and drop it. It was really weird and a year later still has me wondering what was going on.
I have always believed flounder were territorial to the point of migrating back to the exact areas every spring. And while I have no concrete proof of that there is evidence to suggest they stay in the same areas during their spring to fall tenure.
In 1996, I began an ongoing flounder-tagging program with Capt. James that took an interesting turn a year later. In April of 1997, I caught and tagged a flounder in Bridge Bayou. Three months later Mike Denman of Orange caught the flounder in the same cut about 100 yards from its initial capture.
That is three months and only 100 yards of movement, which shows definite territoriality.
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials have found genetic differences between flounder populations based on bay systems. Fish from Galveston are different than those in the Matagorda Area, etc.
Wouldnt it be cool to know the flounder you released when it was 12 inches was the same one you caught a few years later when it was 24 inches or maybe even larger than that?
We are completing our third year of the November closure to commercial harvest and gigging as well as restricted bag limits across the board. This is allowing more flounder than ever to have a chance at making it to their genetic potential.
The state record of 13 pound was caught by Herbert Endicott in Sabine Lake in 1976. Thats nearly 40 years of a standing record but I believe it will be shattered within this decade.
I got to hold a 13-pound, 11-ounce flounder that was housed at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute three years ago. That fish was caught when it was in the nine pound class and it was kept in captivity as a brood fish for a couple of more years until its death. That fish had a chance to live and shows that the very coding it takes to allow for the growth of mega flounder is out there.
UTMSI biologist Jeff Kaiser let me feed this monster fish by hand and it was amazing to watch the careful, meticulous way it approached to take the shrimp from my hand.
It swam up slowly, gave the shrimp a good look-over, cracked its mouth open and then engulfed it with precision.
There is a lot more to flounder than we know. Part of my lifes mission is to continually gain a deeper understanding of this misunderstood and quite miraculous fish.
No other inspires me more.
Catch Chester on the radio Fridays, 6pm on 560 KLVI Beaumont, (www.klvi.com) Email him at CMoore@fishgame.com