Flounder are everybody’s friend along the coast

Elizabeth Eustis and Joanne Adams with a couple flounder they caught fishing with Fishing Tom Guide Service on Sabine Lake. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Few people intentionally fish for flounder, but nobody throws these odd fish back. In recent years, populations of these delicious fish plunged all along the Gulf Coast, but they seem to be making a comeback.

“We’re working on the newest stock assessment, which will be finished in February 2025,” reported Jason Adriance, the Marine Finfish Program Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “We’ve seen some increased catches recently and did have decent recruitment in the past two years.”

Anglers can catch flounder in any salty, brackish and sometimes freshwater systems along the Louisiana coast. For the best flatfish action, fish the river delta marshes. In these brackish estuaries, flounder and other predatory fish feast upon the bounty from both aquatic and marine environments. In the summer and through their fall migration offshore, flounder stuff themselves with all they can catch.

“In the summer, flounder spend most of their time eating,” Adriance said. “They are ambush predators. They like to sit on the bottom and wait for something to swim nearby to ambush it, but they can be pretty aggressive sometimes.”

Few people intentionally fish for flounder, but nobody throws these odd fish back. In recent years, populations of these delicious fish plunged all along the Gulf Coast, but they seem to be making a comeback.

“We’re working on the newest stock assessment, which will be finished in February 2025,” reported Jason Adriance, the Marine Finfish Program Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “We’ve seen some increased catches recently and did have decent recruitment in the past two years.”

Anglers can catch flounder in any salty, brackish and sometimes freshwater systems along the Louisiana coast. For the best flatfish action, fish the river delta marshes. In these brackish estuaries, flounder and other predatory fish feast upon the bounty from both aquatic and marine environments. In the summer and through their fall migration offshore, flounder stuff themselves with all they can catch.

“In the summer, flounder spend most of their time eating,” Adriance said. “They are ambush predators. They like to sit on the bottom and wait for something to swim nearby to ambush it, but they can be pretty aggressive sometimes.”

Pearl River System

Fortunately for Louisiana sportsmen, the Bayou State overflows with streams, quite literally sometimes! Starting in the east, the Pearl River delta holds good flounder numbers. Pearl River flows out of Mississippi and splits into West and East Pearls near Talisheek. East Pearl continues down the state line into Lake Borgne south of Pearlington, Miss.

Fished on bottom or under a cork, fresh or live shrimp make excellent bait for flounder. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Between East Pearl and Chef Menteur Pass, the marshy delta holds good flounder concentrations. West Pearl subdivides into two main mouths. One flows into Little Lake, also called Mud Lake, a shallow waterbody between the marshes and Lake Borgne near Slidell, La. The west mouth pours into the Rigolets. Both Chef Menteur and the Rigolets connect Lake Borgne to Lake Pontchartrain.

“The Pearl River Delta is a great area to fish,” said Mike Gallo of Angling Adventures of Louisiana (877-4AAOFLA, www.aaofla.com) in Slidell. “We fish the bayous, jagged shorelines, ponds and marshy sloughs. Every once in a while, we’ll see flounder jump out of the water in the marsh.”

Although live bait probably works best for flounder, anglers can also use artificial temptations. A jighead tipped with a soft-plastic minnow or shrimp imitation works great. Drag it along the bottom. Occasionally hop a jighead off the bottom. When the weight hits the bottom, it causes a thump that flounder can feel. Use the lightest weight possible to keep the bait on or near the bottom.

“For flounder, some people like smoky curled-tail grubs, but I like brightly colored plastics,” Gallo said. “I usually throw white, pearl or chartreuse grubs. I just drag it along the bottom. Flounder are very much scent-oriented, so sometimes we tip jigs with a piece of shrimp. Berkley Gulp! baits and other scented lures also work very well. Sometimes, we catch flounders on spinnerbaits when fishing for redfish. Flounder also love plastic worms.”

Lake Borgne to the Mississippi River

From the south shoreline of Lake Borgne down to the eastern side of the Mississippi River, vast marshes and bays provide unlimited fishing opportunities. People launch from Hopedale, Delacroix, Pointe à la Hache and other towns. Anglers can also cross the sounds to fish the Chandeleur Islands.

Dalton Guidry with a nice flounder caught in Leeville using Gulp on a jig head.

“The marshes south of Lake Borgne have always been good for fishing,” said Charlie Thomason with Bayou Charters (504-512-3474, www.CaptainCharlie.com) in Hopedale. “We have so much marshland that anglers can find many places to get away from people. Sometimes, we go all day without seeing another fishing boat.”

Some of the best fishing occurs in the “Biloxi Marshes” near Hopedale along the southeastern shore of Lake Borgne. These pristine marshes stretch across 120,000 acres reachable only by boat. Numerous ponds and bayous provide outstanding fishing. People also fish around the islands bordering Chandeleur Sound.

Mississippi River Delta

When it comes to river deltas, nothing compares to the Father of Waters. The mighty Mississippi created and nourishes one of the largest, most nutrient-rich and diverse fisheries habitats in the world. Numerous ponds, passes, bayous, lakes, bays and manmade canals provide outstanding places to fish for flounder.

In fact, the Louisiana state record flounder, a 13.06-pounder, came from near South Pass, one of the river outlets to the Gulf of Mexico. Gary Hargis caught that fish in June 1998. In August 2009, Tony Guidry caught a flounder weighing 10.88 pounds in Pass-a-Loutre, another outlet to the gulf.

“The incredible Mississippi River Delta is unique because of that great river,” said Mike Frenette with Redfish Lodge of Louisiana (504-782-0924, Laredfish.com) in Venice. “No other place in the country has anything like it. Few places offer such varied fishing opportunities like the Mississippi Delta. It’s a special place that should be on the bucket list of anyone who never fished this area.”

Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary

West of the Mississippi, the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary system spreads through more than 4.1 million acres of wetlands in a giant triangle anchored by the Atchafalaya River on the west and the Mississippi River on the east. South of Lafitte and Houma, numerous bays and lakes hold flounder. 

Devon Shaheen of Fishing Tom Guide Service in Sulphur shows off a flounder he caught while fishing the Black Lake area of the Calcasieu Estuary. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Many people fish around the islands in Barataria or Terrebonne bays and associated waters. Anglers without boats can wade-fish the beaches at Grand Isle. During the summer and early fall, many sportsmen walk the beaches carrying lanterns for night “gigging” flounder. Karl L Credeur, Sr. caught a 11.15-pound flatfish near Pointe au Chien close to Golden Meadow in November 2015.

Calcasieu Estuary

In Southwestern Louisiana, Calcasieu Lake anchors the Calcasieu Estuary south of Lake Charles. Locally called Big Lake, the lake spreads across 50,000 acres. The oval-shaped lake measures roughly 12 miles long by nine miles wide and averages about six feet deep. The Calcasieu Ship Channel, a 40-mile-long deepened, straightened and widened version of the old Calcasieu River, connects the port of Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Between Lake Charles and the Gulf, people can fish Prien Lake, Moss Lake, and many other places. Surrounded by marshes, West Cove, a very shallow bay filled with oysters, branches off from the southwestern portion of Calcasieu Lake. On the eastern side of Calcasieu Lake, several bayous flow through the marshes.

“In July, flounder are spread out back in the marshes,” said Tom Adams, Jr. of Fishing Tom Guide Service (318-675-9114, FishingTom.Net) in Sulphur. “On the eastern side of Calcasieu Lake, five weirs control the water levels in the marshes. Those marshes hold a lot of flounder. At times, we catch them right by the weirs where the bayous flow out of the marshes, especially when shrimp start moving out of the marshes.”

On the west side of Calcasieu Lake, Kelso Bayou connects Black Lake to the Calcasieu Ship Channel. The Salt Ditch runs south from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Black Lake area. Several canals and bayous traverse this area.

Sabine Lake

To the west, the Intracoastal Waterway connects the Calcasieu system to Sabine Lake. Fed by the Sabine River, which marks the boundary between Louisiana and Texas, Sabine Lake covers 59,700 acres. It measures 19 miles long by seven miles wide and averages five to eight feet deep. Sabine Lake produced the Texas state record flounder, a 13-pounder. 

Most people fish for flounder with natural bait, but flounder hit a variety of artificial temptations as well. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

“Sabine Lake is a great place to catch flounder, especially the marshes on the Louisiana side of the lake,” Adams said. “For flounder, I recommend using Berkley Gulp! Shrimp or Swimming Mullets in chartreuse or pink on a 1/8-ounce jighead. In off-color water, I throw chartreuse. In clear water, I use white. When flounder are up really shallow, I sometimes use a gold-bladed spinnerbait with a curly tail Gulp! on a 1/8-ounce jighead.”

From the eastern shore of Sabine Lake to the western shore of Calcasieu Lake, lush marshes crisscrossed by numerous bayous and lakes offer some of the best flounder fishing in Louisiana. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/sabine) preserves about 124,500 acres of that marsh. The refuge exists to preserve winter waterfowl habitat, but recreational anglers can fish the refuge from March 15 to October 15 each year.

Black Bayou flows through the northwestern portion of those marshes and into Sabine Lake. The bayou averages 8 – 10 feet deep, but some holes drop to 14 feet deep. Anglers can also fish the Vinton Drainage Ditch, which crosses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The East Cut connects the north end of Sabine Lake to Black Bayou.

“Both Sabine and Calcasieu lakes as well as the marshes between them are great places to look for flounder and can hold some big ones,” Adams said. “A live shrimp or minnow under a popping cork is a good method for catching flounder. Often, flounder are in really shallow water, so we use a short leader and take the weights off. With no weight, the shrimp falls more slowly and flounder get a better look at it.”

Most people probably catch more flounder by accident while fishing for redfish or speckled trout than by intentionally targeting them. However, nobody wants to throw a legal flounder back after putting it in the boat. Bring on the crab meat and start stuffing! 

About John N. Felsher 47 Articles
Originally from Louisiana, John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer, broadcaster, photographer and editor who now lives in Alabama. An avid sportsman, he’s written more than 3,600 articles for more than 173 different magazines on a wide variety of outdoors topics. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at j.felsher@hotmail.com or through Facebook.