Cooler weather gets my adrenaline going, with the anticipation of knowing that some of the best fishing of the season will come in the next month or two.
During this period, one of the most prolific species becomes the main quarry -- and the eating ain't half bad, either. The species I am referring to is flounder, my caviar of the Lowcountry.
I like to fish for flounder in small eddies, which are formed by structure that disrupts the flow of the tide and forces the water to turn back on itself in a circle. These are great places for flounder to hide and rest, waiting for their next meal. Because flounder stay close to structure, look for oyster beds, rocks, sandbars and mud rises, as well as docks and old pilings. The edges of flats are prime areas for flounder. Changes as subtle as 1 foot in depth can be productive.
You will find the largest flounder in the cooler months after the fish have spent the season gorging themselves in the shallow, food-rich tidal waters. Flounder can be finicky, weatherwise, with October through November being exceptional months for some of the best catches. There may be some debate, but the preferred temperature ranges are around 50 to 80 degrees.
Baits are another area for debate, but flounder will eat almost anything. They've been caught on shrimp, crabs, minnows, strips of cut bait, mullet and a few artificials. Anything that emulates a live food source will attract them, including artificial grubs, hard and soft body lures. Flounder feed by sight, so water clarity is just as important as temperature and a decisive point in lure or bait selection.
Setting the hook: A flounder's strike is subtle, and often feels like some extra pressure, similar to hanging your sinker on the bottom. The trick is not setting the hook right away. When you feel pressure, the flounder usually has the bait in his mouth, holding it in his sharp teeth. He may swim to his safety zone before trying to swallow the bait. If you set the hook when you first feel the pressure, you will lose more than you catch. Circle hooks are the answer on your flounder rig.
Best bets for the coming week: flounder, black drum, whiting, croaker, spots, trout, spottail bass and sheephead.
FLOUNDER & SHRIMP ROLL
4 flounder fillets, 1/4 lb. prepared jumbo shrimp, 4 tsp flour, 1 cup milk, 4 tsp butter, 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 4 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/8 tsp white pepper, 1/8 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt
Rub the lemon juice into fillets, followed by a 1/4 tsp of pepper and salt. Roll the fillet around shrimp, use a toothpick to secure. Use the remaining shrimp by dicing and set it aside.
Coat a baking dish with cooking spray, lay the rolled fillets seam side down, Cover and place in 425 degree oven for 25 minutes. While the fish is in the oven, melt butter in a sauce pan, add flour and mix to combine. Gradually add milk, Dijon mustard, white pepper and salt. Mix together until mixture is blended well, add diced shrimp, bring mixture to a boil, cook while stirring until the sauce has thickened and the shrimp are pink. Remove fish from oven, pour the shrimp sauce mixture over the fish and serve.
I called David's house and asked his grandmother why he was late meeting me at the dock. I had left a note but received no reply. Patiently waiting for her to respond, David came on the line and stated he had not seen the note and that his grandmother has gotten to the age where she needs her false teeth and hearing aid before she can ask where she left her glasses.