Picture nighttime flats and shallows, illuminated only by the moonlight and soft glow of LED lights from your boat. Your eyes are scanning the sandy bottom, looking for a “Doormat.” You’re full of adrenaline and can’t help but feel the thrill of the adventure. The hunt has begun!
Flounder gigging is a great way to embrace tradition and hunt for food the way our ancestors did. This niche sport is truly unique, allowing you to explore marine life at night. It’s an adventure in itself – and one that doesn’t require too much from the anglers.
If you have the desire and just a little bit of enthusiasm, you’re 50% ready for your Flounder gigging trip. In this guide, we’ll try to answer all the questions you have about this sport, including the best spots, gear you’ll require, and more. So without further ado…
What is Flounder gigging?
Flounder gigging is when you pierce your target fish with a spear or handheld prong. This is what’s known as a gig, trident, leister, or trishul. In short, instead of catching your target with a rod and line combo, you stab – or spear – your fish. You target fish that lay in place on the seafloor, which isn’t the simplest task. Flounder, the most popular gigging target, like to bury themselves in the sand.
How can an untrained fisherman spot their Flounder? Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. You need to make out their shape using a strong light source as you wade or float over the seafloor. Of course, relatively clear and calm waters help. The most interesting part is that you’ll be looking for Flounder’s eyes. A quick tip – the farther apart they are, the bigger the fish!
Size really matters here, as you can only spear fish that fall within size regulations. Once successfully gigged, your Flounder doesn’t have much of a chance of surviving. Therefore, you only want to spear as many Flounders as you’re planning to eat later.
All the action typically happens at night, although day trips are also possible. Flounder gigging enthusiasts use this method while fishing on the flats and backwaters.
Can I target anything besides Flounder?
As we mentioned above, Flounder is the most sought-after gamefish for gigging enthusiasts. However, it’s not the only species you can harvest with a gig. Anglers (sometimes mistakenly) gig Rays, while in Oklahoma, for instance, you may also target White Bass.
Gigging has a long heritage in the Ozarks, too. During the official Arkansas gigging season, which lasts from September 15 until February 15, you can legally target non-game fish, including some types of Carp, Bowfin, Gar, Suckers, Bullhead, and Drum. Gigging Bass, Trout, Catfish, and other gamefish is forbidden.
There are some gigging items you should always have in your arsenal for a successful hunt. Of course, a gig itself is number one, along with a quality lighting source. Let’s cover the most essential gear before we move onto some ways of going gigging.
A Flounder gig has a trident-like appearance thanks to its barbed tines (sharped spears), fitting on the end of a pipe or a long pole. It’s usually made of corrosion-resistant material and has sharp points. Gigs of lower quality, made from carbon or 304 stainless steel can also be used, however, higher quality materials such as 316 or 17-4 stainless steel perform much better. Anglers normally use those while gigging from a boat.
Regulations and requirements for the prongs on a Flounder gig vary depending on the country. For instance, Volusia County, FL, requires anglers to use three or fewer prongs, while there are no prong regulations in Texas. Make sure to check your local regulations before heading out.
Flounder Gigging Lights
Since the majority of Flounder gigging trips happen later in the evening and at nighttime, proper lighting is as important as the gig itself. As you might’ve already guessed, lights serve the purpose of helping you locate your Flounder laying on the seabed.
A quality light needs to be able to penetrate both clear and muddy water while being compact enough to fit on your pole or the boat itself. And, of course, it needs to be bright and relatively lightweight – the less it weighs, the better, since you’ll be fishing in shallow water. When it comes to the color, warm yellowish light works best for muddy conditions, while cool whites are optimal for clear waters.
Most Flounder gigging boats have LED lights that are mounted both above water and underwater. However, some anglers use headlamps to illuminate fish further ahead.
How is Flounder Gigging done?
What’s the difference between Flounder gigging by foot and from a boat? Are there other ways to gig a doormat? Can you use any boat suitable for flats fishing for your Flounder gigging trip? Let’s answer these questions, one by one.
From a Boat
Since Flounder gigging is a shallow water game, you’ll need to make sure you have the right boat. Given the nature of this sport, a flat-bottomed boat with a shallow draft is usually the best option. Regular boats can drag the bottom and get stuck in various debris, such as rocks and oyster shells.
For these reasons, the majority of Flounder gigging boats are made from aluminum instead of fiberglass. Bay fishing fiberglass boats can also be used – you just need to be especially careful and conscious of the terrain.
A typical Flounder gigging boat is equipped with gigging lights (mounted above water and underwater) and a motor. There are two types:
- Air motors. These are usually small air or fan motors with a prop attached to them.
- Trolling motors. Trolling motors come standard on most boats and are much quieter than fan motors.
However, a lot of anglers prefer to use air motors, since a trolling motor shaft needs to be adjusted all the time to avoid dragging the bottom.
From a Kayak
Some anglers prefer gigging from a kayak, standing on the platform, pushing forward with a long pole or the gig itself, and focusing their attention on the bottom. They set up the lights in the rear of the kayak and sometimes add a headlamp for better visibility and safety.
When gigging in calm waters, a kayak can pretty much serve as a boat. All you need is a stable sit-on-top, a gig with a long pole to push you forward, and some good lighting.
Wade-gigging is ideal for those anglers who like it the old-fashioned way. Wading enthusiasts say that this method allows them to have more control and spot their target easier. A bright light is especially important for anglers’ safety, here, to help avoid Stingrays.
Essentially, all you need is a good lighting source, your gig, and good wading boots. The only difference from gigging from a boat is pretty clear – you’ll be walking instead of floating on the water. Even though you’ll have to stick to the non-muddy bottom and can’t cover as much water as you would on a boat, you might be able to access places that boats can’t reach.
Where and When to Go Flounder Gigging
Flounder gigging is most popular along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas, as well as along the Atlantic coast up to the Carolinas. However, anglers also gig for Flounder in New Zealand and Australia.
Normally, the season starts in late August and lasts through November, although you can also arrange a gigging trip in spring and summer if local regulations allow it. If you’re planning a Flounder gigging trip in Australia or New Zealand, November until May is the best choice. In colder months, Flounder migrate to offshore waters.
Nighttime Flounder gigging happens shortly after dark when the doormats move into the shallows to look for food. They tend to hang out more in soft mud bottoms, but anglers also work areas with a lot of grass, sand, and oyster beds. If you come across something that’s called a “Flounder bed” – imprints of their body – it’s a sign that your target fish is not there, but has moved already.
There are a few more things you need to consider while preparing for your Flounder gigging trip:
- Water temperature. The temperature is cooler during night hours, which brings bait fish in. Flounder may move to waters up to 3 feet deep on a hot night.
- Barometric (atmospheric) pressure. Bait fish are pulled into the shallows as the atmospheric pressure decreases. Flounder follows.
- Water clarity. Windy nights are not the best time for Flounder gigging – it might be hard to spot your target. You may also want to stick to areas with oyster shell bottoms, grass beds, or harder sand bottoms.
- Tides. The tide is an extremely important factor to consider. Flounder move into deeper waters on a falling tide, and the water clarity is lower. Generally speaking, a rising tide opens more ground for you to gig from a boat.
Top Spots for Flounder Gigging
Now that you know when and how you can try Flounder gigging, it’s time to go through the top places to hunt these fish. Here’s a list of some of the most popular destinations:
- Texas: It’s almost guaranteed you’ll have a lot of fun hunting for Flounder almost everywhere in the state. If you absolutely have to choose, you can’t go wrong with Rockport or Galveston.
- South Carolina: Arguably the best place for Flounder gigging in South Carolina is the Charleston area.
- The Florida Panhandle: This side of the Gulf Coast is home to not one but two prime Flounder gigging spots – Panama City and Pensacola.
- North Carolina: The coast of the “Old North State” is an excellent choice for Flounder gigging enthusiasts, especially if you hit the Outer Banks.
- Georgia: If you’re in Georgia, head to the Georgia Coast and the inter-coastal waters of Hilton Head.
- Mississippi: If you’ve never ventured out after dark on the Mississippi Sound or Mobile Bay, you’re missing out on a lot of Flounder gigging fun.
- Louisiana: It sometimes seems as though the Bayou State was made for Flounder gigging, since you can enjoy it everywhere along the coastline from Venice to Cameron.
Flounder Gigging – The Hunt Begins
Flounder gigging is never boring. How could it be, when it’s such a blast for anglers of all ages? First of all, it’s exciting to look for a fish that resembles a wallowed-out football. Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to explore aquatic life at night and avoid the scorching heat. Thirdly, it’s deadly effective. And last but not least, it’s pretty rewarding to come back home with a cooler full of delicious fish!
And now, let’s hear from you. Have you ever tried Flounder gigging? Do you have any tactics you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.