, Port Arthur, Texas


January 16, 2013

OUTDOORS COLUMN: Local flounder bite in the winter

PORT ARTHUR — Most flounder leave during the fall migration.

    The majority of the population is in deep (well at least compared to bay standards) water spawning right about now.

    Notice I said “most”.

    A sizeable chunk of the population stays behind and in my semi-educated opinion it is probably in the 25 percent category.

    Flounder numbers due to a number of factors, including harvest restrictions put in place a few years ago, are at the highest levels in many years on Sabine Lake. That is according to surveys conducted by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

    If populations have increased overall that means more fish are staying behind and that is what anglers are experiencing right now.

    A variety of locations in the ship channel south of the causeway are producing fair to good numbers of flounder.

    There are a couple of very important things to keep in mind when it comes to winter flounder fishing.

     The first is timing.

     Incoming tides are by far the best for flounder this time of year and they are best when they coincide with a warm, sunny afternoon. Warmer waters push their bite button as does sunlight penetration.

      I have rarely done well on flounder super early in the morning. Even on the best of tidal movements it was not until the sun penetrated the waters that the bite really turned on.

     Something else to keep a watch for is any concentrations of small baitfish around drop-offs, points and mud flats near the channel. This can be a very positive sign that flounder are nearby since small baitfish are a staple of their diet.

     For anglers like me who prefer fishing with artificial lures there may need to be some adjustment in gear.

     The bite tends to be softer so I usually switch from my “pool cue” rig of a medium-heavy spinning rod with 50-pound braided line to a light action spinning rod with 10-pound fluorocarbon.

    This allows me to use tiny (2-inch) curl-tailed grubs and shad imitations and feel those soft bites.

    The fluorocarbon also gives a big advantage when waters are running clear. Unless we have a lot of run-off like we have had lately, winter waters are typically clearer due to less algae in the winter. Flounder are very sensitive to line and lure color so using fluorocarbon line or a fluorocarbon leader if you choose to go with braid will make a big difference.

    Getting back to lures a second, I go with more natural colors in the winter. Shad, smoke and salt and pepper type patterns work best when waters are clear. If it is stained then pink is where it is at.

    Make sure to fish a little more slowly than you would in the fall. That means working you bait a tad slower and also working areas over more intensely than you normally would do.

    If you catch fish at a spot, make a bunch of casts in the same area because there are usually more around although they will be more scattered than during the fall.

    For years people thought flounder were a fall fish only but as more people get turned on to these exciting fish they are seeing opportunities abound even in the winter.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk Am 560 KLVI. Watch him on his WebTV Series at

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  • Chester Moore column: Bank fishing good approach on catfish

     Summer is one of the best times to seek catfish in Southeast Texas and thankfully, for local anglers without a boat, there are catfish in just about every canal, drainage ditch and bayou in the area.
      Fishing from the bank has its disadvantages but there is a way around it. This involves making the fish come to you.
      European catfish and carp anglers who typically fish exclusively from the bank use a system called “ground baiting,” which involves putting chum out with the bait. They attach a small cylindrical device above their swivel, which holds chum and dispenses it as the water rushes by. The problem is these rigs are not readily available in our marketplace.
      However, with a little ingenuity, taking a 35-millimeter film canister, punching a hole in the bottom and on the lid and then punching more holes along the side can make a similar device. This acts as a perfect chumming device and is very inexpensive.
      Not everyone has film canisters these days so the softer plastic aspirin bottles will also get the job done.
      Rig this above your swivel and weight, and then fill it with your favorite chum. Now you will not only be chumming the area you fish in but also bringing fish directly to your bait.
      Any kind of chum will work, but a mixture I have had some success with was menhaden oil (available through many mail order offshore supply catalogs) mixed with soured milo. The oil creates a huge chum slick and when it mixes with the milo, the smell is almost unbearable, which means catfish love it. The best part is that a little bit goes a long way.
     Something else to consider is using jack mackerel as bait.
     This oily fish is available in larger supermarkets in a can for less than $1, and I can attest it will bring in fish. While fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and tagging sharks for the Mote Marine Laboratory, my partners and I were able to chum in and catch nearly 40 sharks while using less than two cans of the stuff. It is oily and stinks to high heaven, so catfish should love it.
      For anglers interested in using film canisters to chum their bait, something else to consider is the use of a popping cork. Even if your bait is on the bottom, you can rig a popping cork above it and attach a baited film canister below. This will allow you to do some extra chumming and use the cork to “pop” the chum out whenever you want to release more.
     Another great tip for land bound anglers is to use braided line. In talking with several anglers who pursue brackish blues from the bank, I have learned that loosing striking fish can be a problem.
      I am not sure as to the reason but a definitely solution is using a braided line because they have no stretch. When making long casts with monofilament from the bank you have the potential for lots of line stretch when can make a poor hookset.
     Sixty yards of line might have five or six feet of stretch and that is plenty for a big blue to undo. When using a braid like Fireline, Gorilla Braid or Spiderwire you can forego these problems and greatly enhance your chances of putting some catfish in the frying pan.
     (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at and watch him Saturdays on on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”.)

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