Morris Dawes held his bleeding thumb aloft for his fishing companions to see and with a measure of false bravado announced, “It’s been a long time since I had a flounder bite me this badly.”

Without even pausing between casts, his brother-in-law snapped back, “You’re lucky a flounder that size didn’t just bite it off!”

That was a bit of an exaggeration, but the dark brown slab thrashing on the bottom of the boat with two feet of broken line and a bug juice Flats Minnow protruding from its toothy maw was an impressive fish.

While supposedly targeting trout and redfish, we finished the morning with eleven flounder and four of those fish exceeded the 21-inch mark. I have blamed the wind that didn’t ease up until June and an unusually cold winter for my inability to score well on trout in excess of the seven-pound mark this year, but the flounder bite has been exceptional since day one of 2011.

Even during the coldest months of the year when we were cursing the redfish for running the big trout off the flats we were still catching two or three nice flounder on Corkys and suspending crank baits darned near every outing. It was almost as though the big females forgot that they were supposed to migrate out of the bay.

I don’t know that I have fished a trip since early September that we haven’t added at least a couple of flounder to the catch regardless of how deep we were fishing or what we were using. The handful of anglers that either fish live bait all the time or at least opt to target flounder with GULP and smaller plastic tails have enjoyed an incredible year.

While I remain convinced that forcing recreational anglers to harvest only the females of any species is grossly mismanaging a resource, at least for right now there appears to be a sustainable number of the larger females in the Sabine ecosystem. One can only speculate as to how much faster the flounder population would grow if anglers could retain the smaller males that will not make the 14-inch minimum length in their life time rather than only the female fish?

The last two modest cold fronts have not been strong enough to force the shrimp out of the marshes in great numbers, but they were enough to light a fire under the flounders already pondering the fall migration. It is not unusual to see the bite in the rivers and the bayous on the north end of the lake improve first as those spawners have a significantly longer trip than those that populate the south end of the lake and ship channel.

Because my first obligation is to fish for whatever my clients want to fish for, I very seldom have an opportunity to focus on flounder only. There is a certain bit of irony in that considering the fact that my guide business was built exclusively around flounder fishing many years ago.

The unregulated netting all but eliminated any possibility of ever catching anything other than small trout at that time and no one wanted to pay to catch redfish. A tiny group of local anglers that basically consisted of Gerald Jones, and anyone fortunate enough to fish with him, convinced me that saltwater guiding had the potential to be a better gig than continuing to fish for hire on Toledo Bend. That assumption eventually proved to be right!

I mention that because I have, with only a few exceptions, chosen to pursue flounder with artificials rather than live bait. Clients get to see more water, it is a more diverse approach, and they have a better opportunity to catch both trout and redfish using the same lures. A small curly tail jig with a pinch of shrimp on the hook was and still is a great choice of lures, but we catch them on everything from paddle tail grubs to crank baits today.

And, while fishing with artificials does not eliminate the possibility of catching a flounder over the coveted five-pound mark, your odds are much better day in and day out fishing live bait…..even more definitively, fishing live bait near or in deeper water.

Invariably, the largest representatives of this epicurean delight are caught soaking a mullet or mud minnow around some form of structure in water deeper than ten feet. Points along the ICW, bridge pilings, bulkheads, and submerged piles of scrap metal are all prime locations to dupe your personal best.

We are less than a month away now from having the five fish limit reduced to two fish for the entire month of November so why not take a shot at catching the biggest flounder of your life rather than chasing numbers? Based on everything I have seen this year, your chances have never been better!