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Volume 3, Issue 2, August 2012: Flounder Pounder – Bay area bridges holding summertime flatties


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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT,  Volume 3, Issue 2, August 2012:  Flounder Pounder – Bay area bridges holding summertime flatties, I explore Upper Tampa Bay area bridges with flounder killer John Guiseppi. John is arguably one of the best Gulf Flounder anglers in the Bay and, despite how tough it is to get these fish in the box, he seems to limit out on just about every trip. Not only is this a tricky bite, requiring lots of patience and a good amount of learned skill, it’s brutally hot right now. You must put in the time, sometimes hour after hour of covering sandy, shelly bottom, just to put a fish or two in the boat. These are not fish that slam your bait and run for structure, rather, they pick up your bait with just a subtle bite that many times goes unnoticed by the angler. The art of flounder fishing with artificials is truly something that takes lots of patience to learn and even when you think you’ve got it figured out, there are days when you head back to the dock skunked. John shared with me his delicate and skilled technique and choice of artificial baits which led us to a banner day of flounder catching. I encourage Tampa Bay anglers to give it a shot, but, don’t be surprised when a few hard hours of work nets only sailcats, blowfish and the occasional trout. This fishery is without a doubt one of the most difficult, though potentially rewarding experiences out there. But even a fish or two in the cooler will make the effort worth it as the Gulf Flounder is some of the best seafood the ocean has to offer.

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the August 2012 issue of Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Sincerely,
Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)

 

 

Flounder Pounder – Bay area bridges holding summertime flatties
By Joshua W. Broer

 

The shallow water flounder bite around our Upper Tampa Bay area bridges, much like the weather, is red hot. That’s lucky. The fish usually don’t show up in good numbers until the fall months when the water temps have cooled. Not only are there plenty of fish hugging our shelly, sandy bottoms, there are some truly big fish hanging around. Our last trip not only produced a healthy bag, but two fish measured a respective 20” and 21”. For a 12” minimum slot, that’s good catchin’!

Not to be confused with their closely related larger cousins, the Southern Flounder, Gulf Flounder (Paralichthys albigutta) are the fish we target. The body is brown with the shade of the fish based on the color of the sea bottom. They have numerous spots and blotches including three prominent eye-like spots that form a triangle with one spot on the lateral line. The distinguishing factor between the two species is that Southern Flounder lack the characteristic eye-like spots of Gulf Flounder. Both species are delicious.

Gulf flounder can be fished many different ways with many different baits. We are concentrating our efforts around bridges in 10-15 feet of water and over shallow water reefs in the Bay. It is not uncommon though for offshore anglers to find them in much deeper water. When it comes to a meal, flounder don’t discriminate too much. We see good catches on live bait such as mud minnows, scaled sardines, pinfish, shrimp and crustaceans. We’re fishing purely with artificial baits, however, which can be both time-consuming and tedious, but rewarding.

Gulf flounder lie on the bottom of the ocean floor often partially covered by sand, waiting for prey to come near. Their strong, canine teeth help to secure their catch. It’s important then, to locate the fish. They are not going to move very far to eat. As ambush predators, they simply lie and wait for the prey to come to them. Alas, this is what can make fishing for flounder so difficult and tedious.

I learned how to fish for gulf flounder from a true specialist, Mr. John Guiseppi. John and I have been fishing together for many years in the bay and in the gulf and this is one fish he’s truly got dialed in. Unlike most anglers targeting flounder, John strictly uses artificial baits. His go-to terminal rig is 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader, a red 3/8 – 1/2 oz. Cotee jighead, and a DOA Glow C.A.L. Curl Tail body. These fish will eat many different color, size and pattern variations but the above-mentioned rig seems to attract more bites. 3/8th oz. is an ideal size jighead but often you’ll need to switch to ½ oz. due to the strong currents that rip through the bay. The key is to keep your presentation on the bottom at all times in order for your bait to stay where the fish are.

John’s technique, however tiring and perhaps a little boring, is to make long casts, let his bait sink to the bottom, then slowly and methodically twitch it up and down with erratic movements. He does this all while sitting on the bow of his skiff, feet dangling in the water, and always using the trolling motor . A swivel-like bass boat seat would be ideal for this type of prospect fishing. My technique differs only in that I opt to slowly drag my bait across the bottom in long, slow sweeps of the rod tip. Either way, if your bait finds its way in front of a hungry fish, it will eat.

What I like so much about flounder is that for such a relatively small, flat fish, the filets are big. A chunky filet on top and a slightly thinner filet on the bottom make for a good pile of meat. Reach your limit or even catch just a few and you’ll have plenty of one of the ocean’s tastiest fish for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.

Contact info:  jbroer@freshfromthesalt.com or www.freshfromthesalt.com