23 years ago on a shark tagging trip, I’m the guy who who was trying to save sharks, but also got bit by a shark! It was not a big night, not a big deal. Well, I go into the academy about two weeks later and this guy’s looking at me like he saw a ghost. I said, “Are you okay?” He said, “Dude, you look like the guy who lost your leg.” I said, “What?!”
He said, “Yeah, I read on the fishing forum that you lost your leg in a shark bite. I'm like, “Okay.” So I showed him my scars, they really weren’t that big. Then about a month later I got emails saying I hope you reply to this so I know you’re not dead. I'm thinking, “Are you serious?”
First off, I'm definitely alive. I was bitten by an Atlantic shark. If I was in high school, I would’ve said I was bit by a 14-foot tiger shark, and I would’ve told all the girls I had to fight it off and I survived. Sometimes the fish look smaller in pictures, but we’re in Texas, where they’ve got to look bigger. Some people are taking photoshop to the extreme. I’ll see a flounder in a picture that I can tell is the size of your finger, that looks about 14 inches and 14 pounds.
My name is Chester Moore and I call myself the original flounder revolutionary.
This is an excerpt from a speech by Chester Moore
My name is Chester Moore and I call myself the original flounder revolutionary.
I started a project called Flounder Revolution. Back in 2008 I got the idea and then I instituted it in 2009. The idea was to help save the southern flounder because flounder numbers have been going down for 40 years. A lot of it had to do with shrimp-related bycatch, and that was dealt with a lot because of changes in bycatch reduction and shrimping fleets being bought out.
There’s still commercial fish. We recreationally take them, and I envisioned having a flounder stocking program in Texas one day. So we started asking Texas Parks and Wildlife for me to do this, and I got one! Even though it is small.
I had the incredible honor of getting to release the first-ever flounder. I have a program called Flounder Revolution, and what we’re doing this year is that any angler who catches and releases any flounder, 20 inches or bigger, and sends me a photo, gets this really awesome collectors coin.
Every flounder 20 inches or bigger gets put into a drawing. At the end of the drawing, the winner of the drawing gets a replica of their catch. And there are really awesome-looking coins that we’re giving away for each flounder 20 inches or better. And you can look at those coins and think, "man I caught all those 20-inch flounders and released them".
Now, if you hook one 24 inches or better we got the golden, saddle blankets reward. This is for mutant-sized, GMO flounders, the big monster ones.
And then, any kid who’s caught their first flounder gets this really cool wooden token called “the first flounder reward.” They also get a flounder revolution decal. The idea is, release fish 20 inches or better, eat the smaller ones. It’s what works in every fishery of the world. Release these big fish that are breeders and eat the small ones! We wouldn’t have the bass issue we do if we did that, or redfish, or trout.
Flounders are the ones that are hurting more than all of those. I had somebody get mad at me because I had a flounder recipe floating around. I didn’t get my interest in flounder just by releasing them, I like to eat them too. Some of them must be stuffed with crab meat occasionally; it's just the way it works out.
My favorite time to catch flounder is in the late winter, early spring because you’re pretty much alone out there. I think it got pushed back a little this year because, at the time that flounder normally trickles in, we had that mega freeze which pushes things back a bit. But flounder have already come in from the Gulf, and there’s probably trickles of others. What you call the fall run is a migration.
Flounder are really awesome fish and they’re inspiring fish. They’re a lot of fun to catch. This is kind of a tricky year to catch flounder so we’ll talk about spring and summer flounder fishing.
The reason that you can catch flounder with such intensity in certain periods is that you’re working along a bunch of fish, coming along a path all going out at the same time. It’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s very fun to fish in the fall but it’s more challenging in the spring and summer because the fish trickle back. It may take six weeks or two months for them all to come back. And the passes can be really good, but right now I think they’re mainly established in the bay systems.
Where I like to look is the bayous. I like to look along the bayous and the slews along with the bay system. I go to those bayous and look for eddies, which are slights in the water, because if you look into those eddies, and have some polarized shades on, you can see tiny little shad. You’ll see them down in that water column and flounder love those little things.
You can pick up fish in those eddies. If you see the current coming through, areas of slack water are the first places you should go to fish. It’s like trout fishing.
I prefer to fish with lures almost exclusively. Not because I’m a snob or a purist, but because it’s fun and I don’t usually have to use bait. I usually use a 2.5-inch shad imitation on an 8-pound jig head. Sometimes I’ll also take a little piece of dead shrimp and I’ll just work that thing along the bottom.
Have you have ever heard that if you feel a thump, you should wait ten seconds or a period of time? While there is some truth to that, here’s what I’ve discovered: if I do fish live bait, I’ll guarantee you 90% of flounder in Texas, that are caught on purpose, are caught with a mud minnow or a finger bullet. That’s probably what most flounders are caught on...
...Well, those are all bony little baitfish and they’re long. When a flounder grabs it, that flounder is moving and will grab on the side. He’s turning his mouth to swallow it headfirst. So, when you pull that thumb and you feel that tap on there, that fish is turning that bait around, because, while they have a wide mouth, their throats aren’t very big. For most flounder you catch, since it’s harder to get that big piece down there, they’ll need to turn it around.
That’s why we fish with a live mullet or a live minnow. You’ve got to wait a little bit so the fish can swallow it. Well, when you’re fishing with a live shrimp, the flounder crushes it and they go right in.
I was at the University of Texas Marine Sciences Institute, and Jeff Kaiser, who used to work there, said, “Chester, I want to show you you’re right about the ten-second rule.” He showed me a cigar minnow, for about an 8-pound flounder. I've got video of this, the flounder grabbed it, swam off, and started turning it in his mouth and then he swallowed it. He also swallowed the shrimp immediately.
I use a braided line for a lot of my flounder fishing because flounder have a very bony mouth. Have you ever had the heartache of having a giant flounder on your line come to your boat, and it looks at you and then goes, “Bye!”? Do you know why that happens?
This is because we have little wimpy trout rods, little finesse rods out there trying to finesse the trout with a bite. You’ve got to have something stiffer for flounder if good bites are going on.
I'll take a braided line because the braided line stretches. And when I use that lure I feel the thumb, I wait about 2-3 seconds, and then- WHAM- I set the hook on them hard. I rarely lose them on the hooks because you have no stretch on the line and very little stretch to give on the rod. That’s my basic setup.
I like pink a lot for my grubs, pink is a popular color for me. If the water is clear, I’ll use smoke or glow, those are really good. Shad, I use Mr. Twister, it's got a clear body with a metal flake and a black back. I’ve caught thousands of flounders on these. It’s incredible. But the other side of that is, there’s another kind of bite where it feels like you’re in the mud.
I'm paranoid now so I sit there waiting. But when you grab it’ll feel a little heavy. I might let it sit for 20 seconds. Sometimes you have a big flounder right there. And either that flounder just grabbed it and is sitting there with his mouth, or he hit it and is sitting right behind it. I've watched this happen, that’s how I know this.
I am definitely in no contest to be the greatest flounder fisherman of all time. But I am in a contest with myself to be the greatest flounder writer of all time, because that's what I do for a living, write about flounder. I want to be the best so I got to provide you with the best information.
About 10 or 11 years ago we had a period where Sabine Lake cleared up for about 3 weeks and it was really clear in the channel. I had an area we could wade into. And I’ve watched flounder hit the thing and sit behind it. Sometimes I let it sit and sometimes I let it come back for a second strike. So if you feel it, tap and let it sit for about 15-20 seconds. Then set the hook and you might have a fish. So that’s another aspect of the bite you’ve got to consider.
Now, using live shrimp isn’t as good if you’re out in a channel where you’ve got a million Kroger, but if it’s mainly flounder where you’re at you’re going to want a live shrimp. The only problem is, everything likes a live shrimp. So maybe you’ll catch a redfish or a speckled trout, but live shrimp works really, really well. These are some strategies that work for me.
In May or June you might see what looks like raindrops along the shoreline. Sometimes you’ll see fish rolling in there with them. At this time, flounder can get spooked over a line color.
If you’re in the West Bay where it gets clear, I like to use fluorocarbon. So, I will actually use a medium-light spinning rod with a fluorocarbon line. And I'll fish little tiny two-inch shad imitations. Get a little tiny piece of table shrimp on there because they want something small. I'll fish in those plots where it looks like raindrops on the water’s shoreline. Do not pass that. Those shorelines and those bayous, and those raindrop-looking shads, there are flounder there, guaranteed.
Now there’s definitely a phenomenon where flounder, or any fish, will want to eat one thing. You’ll have a guy on a boat and he’ll have the one crankbait or the one color that’s a slightly different shade of chartreuse than you, and the flounder wants that one. Fish will focus on some things for whatever reason. I saw the same thing happen when I was fishing for redfish one time. This guy in front of me caught a redfish with a shad not very big.
Now, as you go into the summertime the fish will disperse a little more, moving, and some of them go way up into the interior of your marshes and into the marsh lakes and holes, stuff like that. You’ll also start having some fish filter into the areas of the channel, there’s always fish in the deeper water of the channel.
Another technique is using a drop shot rig. Basically, you have a weight and a hook tied off to it.
When you’re fishing deep water you can go around these channel markers. If you have electronics you can start finding a sharp drop-off on the channel. Especially where you have a mix of sand and shell, fish that drop shot rig whether it’s your live bait, or I like to use a gulp on that. I’ll take the gulp curl tail, the swimming mullet in a smoke color called forage, and you just vertical fish around a lot of those drop-offs.
You can throw it like anything else and it’ll work, but I like to vertical fish that. I started to do this at a place off of the Sabine River. Because I catch a lot of flounder around there but what will happen is you will have them for 30 minutes on the shoreline and they go dead. And I’m thinking, something’s weird they’re going somewhere, they’ve got to be going deeper.
There’s a pretty steep drop off and so that’s what is happening. But if you take the drop shot rig and fish in the deeper areas you can catch them. That’s a killer way to get flounder in deeper water. You can literally go around a lot of the marker buoys in the channels or right along the shoreline because there’s always structure around it. There’s always some concrete down there, you’ll have barnacles. It’s a great area, especially in the summertime, when the bigger fish like to be in deeper water.
They’ll be in that deep water and then they’ll move up to feed. The drop-shot rig is killer for that. You might get a 5 or 6-pound flounder in like 15 feet of water on a vertical jig hit. That’s a pretty good fight.
I caught my first bonefish last week and nothing else seems to be in their fighting category. I love redfish but I respect their fight a lot less now after catching a bonefish. It’s like a 50-pound redfish meets a 50-pound king mackerel, it’s insanity, but the big fish like that down there, you can catch a lot of bigger fish. A lot of the bigger fish are in the channel so fish those transition zones.
If you have a spot where the shoreline drips right off like 2 or 3 feet and then it goes to about 10 feet, that’s a killer spot. Look for steep drop-offs in the channel and fish the spot in the mid-zone area and you’ll catch fish.
This next tip works anywhere you have a riff-raff along the shoreline, and every time I've done this I’ve caught flounder, although it hasn’t been often that I see it. If you have alligators facing the rocks, or the shoreline, and there’s baitfish there, I almost always will catch a flounder right there.
They’re eating the same thing. So we have gators a lot along with the Sabine riff-raff. Those gators basically just have to open their mouths to get a share. Gators will sit up there facing the bay and you’ll see stuff hitting. Often, that’s flounder, so look for alligators because that’s a sign people don’t talk about. Gators along the shore facing the shore is a hard sign of flounder.
We’ll be sitting there watching the gators and I’ll be thinking, damn that’s got to be flounder in front of them because the flounder will rollover. Sometimes they’ll even jump, that is awesome!
Now I’m going to move a bit into the fall. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of hurricanes and tropical storms. But if you hit one of these little lightweight tropical storms coming through, go flounder fishing, it'll be the best trip you’ve ever had in your entire life.
Flounder go insane on a storm tide. Now, many guides know you go to the surf to catch bull reds, but bull reds start spawning a lot when that happens. When you find one of your favorite canals and you have that tide ripping the end from that tropical storm, it’s a great time to fish.
I’ve fished this three different times in my life, and the worst time was 40 flounder between me and another guy all within one hour. We finally got rained out though. Forty flounder in an hour! It was unbelievable. When you have those storm clouds come, you get those big old tides moving in and the tide also rises.
The flounder go absolutely out of their minds. So if you know a spot that has had flounder on it in the last week or two, and it’s safe to go, do it. If it's a category 5 storm then no no no don’t go. Tropical storm preferably not directly whacking you.
As a matter of fact, there was one that hit Corpus Christi about 7 or 8 years ago. My dad and I, about a year before he passed away, caught like 50-something flounders in about 4 hours. It was the third time I’ve gone in a slew of like 10 yards wide.
They go nuts during tropical storms. It's insanity. It’s awesome. So mark down in your calendar, if the tide comes up it’s like channel fishing but this is in the slews of the bayous. So if you got a tropical storm, go. It’ll be the best trip of your entire life. It’s 100% for me.
I’ve done it 3 times and out of those three trips I’ve probably personally caught 125 flounder. That’s pretty crazy! It's fun! That's why I like it! So, that usually happens in September or October, that time frame. Mark those days in your calendar because they’re very, very important.
As I said, I like a medium-heavy spinning rod, especially in the fall when you can get a lot of action, you want something to set that hook in the sand. I always say that my favorite fisherman is Bill Vance, and Bill sets the hook for me. So I’d watch Bill. Bill danced flounder. He’d get a flounder, set the hook hard, they all got bony mouths, and wouldn't be afraid to put some pressure on it right there especially using that brand new line with no stretch, and a medium-heavy rod. That’s how you’re going to have a really good chance of setting the hook in the fish’s mouth, it’ll make the difference.
My flounder books are now at half price, so you can all read my fishing books. As much as I love to fish, my priorities in life are Christ, my family and the kiddos, and wildlife. And my wife and I have a ministry.
Our mission is to bring the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. We have a small facility and we work with kids who have terminal illnesses, kids in the foster system, mentally, physically, sexually abused kids, abandoned kids, and we give them experiences with wildlife. It’s like getting a backstage pass to a zoo but you get to play with the animals. We’ve now developed a higher calling in wildlife and we’re training the teams in wildlife to become wildlife conservationists.
The highest suicide rate in America is among girls ages 11-14 years old, ask your kids how they’re feeling, you’d be surprised. We want to give them a purpose and what better purpose than conservation?
So, Higher Calling Wildlife started and we’ve taken a teen boy and a teen girl out there. Me and my wife took them out and they got to go on a bighorn capture, got to put big GPS collars on rams, it was awesome. We also take a boy and a girl to go release turkeys.
We put the kids who need it the most at the front of the line and let them have a chance. So we now have Higher Calling Gulf Coast, and we’re going to be taking some of these kids on coastal fishing conservation expeditions to use photojournalism to raise awareness of habitat conservation, fisheries conservation, and catch a bunch of fish!
I was in Florida last week, but I’ve got a place out there where I take kids out on the bay where we’re going to get to see clear water and catch little barracuda, lemon sharks, and see manatees swimming. That’s a big part of what we’re doing now. You can find more about it at highercalling.net. And follow us on social media.
Don't forget, if your kids caught their first flounder, they can get their first flounder reward today. But if you catch a flounder 20 inches or bigger go to flounderrevolution.com and get some info. You got a cool way of conserving that fish and you get a drawing at the end of the year of that replica.
God bless you and thank you so much for coming out today!