I’ll never forget the first big flounder that graced my eyes.
Flopping in the shallow waters of the southeast side of Bessie Heights Marsh, it had my Zebco 808 tested to the max and my heart pounding like a jackhammer. I unfortunately missed that fish that bit on of all things a baby hardhead that ended up in our box of frozen shrimp. I say “unfortunately” but maybe it was divine fate.
Ever since that incident some 28 years ago I have been chasing monster flounder and although I have caught some big ones, the REALLY big one is still out there.
Actually, a few years ago I got to hold it in my hands.
Yes, the flounder you see here was bigger than the current state rod and reel record from Sabine Lake and is alive and well right now at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI). In fact, this fish captured awhile back is produced young that were stocked back into the Aransas Bay complex. It has since died and I have a replica made from the body of the fish.
For anyone who wants to know what the potential of our flounder fishery is, look no farther than the photo you see above. While the fish you see is unusually big, it is not some lab created mutation but a monster flounder amongst many big flounder at UTMSI that have been allowed to reach their maximum size. This one of course is a special case.
The right ingredients had to come together to make this happen and the single most crucial is allowing the fish to get this size.
On that same trip I went out with UTMSI biologist Jeff Kaiser and a very generous flounder boat guide who helps them catch fish for their lab. It was during November when no gigging is allowed and it was unusual to see the pass empty of gigging boats. We literally saw hundreds of flounder in just a few spots that would have been killed and not allowed to pass through to the spawning grounds. What was even more impressive were the number of empty beds (some of which were scary big) of fish that had likely moved on to the Gulf that was just a few miles away.
UTMSI’s Jeff Kaiser transferring a big flounder to their lab/hatchery.
You see without that encounter and the desire it planted in me to seek these amazing fish I am not sure if I would even be in this profession. I know for a fact I would not have been the “flounder guy” and I certainly would not have a burning desire to see the potential or our fishery reached at its highest levels.
This blog is dedicated to flounder this month. You will get more tips, inside information and unique photos than anywhere else.