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Now's the perfect time to go after flounder

In the Lowcountry, we are blessed with mild temperatures. Cold months for the majority of the nation are little more than a slight discomfort here most of the time.

With the milder temperatures comes better fishing, and some of the best flounder fishing of the year can be had right about this time until the middle of December.

For the record, I have never known flounder to be a migratory species; Not that they aren't, it's just that I have never seen them in any form of mass exodus from our region. Granted, they may be harder to locate when water temperatures reach the smaller numbers, but I believe they are still in the area. Which is why we continue to catch smaller fish in larger numbers well into December.

My gear -- I prefer a semi-taper, medium-stiff fishing rod of 7 to 7 1/2 feet. For me, a custom-made rod matched to a Shimano reel is the only combination worth considering. Normally I rig the reel with 12-pound test braided monofilament and favor greens and grays. Leaders are an iffy condition at best. There are times when a leader is the only option and others when it is not necessary to add anything extra to your line. Location and depth are the key factors. If fishing over a soft, muddy bottom, I will not use a leader. But if I am bumping the bottom in areas of oyster rakes, rocky bottom or shells, a leader is mandatory. I use a slider or flat sinker and incorporate snap swivels on any ties.

Baits -- For flounder, the baits are as varied as those who fish for them. There are favorites. A good many anglers will tell you the only bait worth tossing in saltwater is mullet. I tend to agree, but size is as important as the bait selection itself -- finger mullet by choice and mud minnows by default. Match your hook selection in respect to size. A 3/0 standard shank bronze trout hook works well and is first choice. Some swear by circle hooks, but the bend of a thin wired 3/0 trout hook serves the purpose nicely. Artificials will produce, but in choosing your colors, stay with the basics. Red jig heads on a white or pink swimming tail grub will make or break the day when flounder refuse to strike.

Areas -- Finding the best spot for flounder is hit or miss. Those who know the waters a bit better have found the secret. Look for areas that show current flows over structure -- areas that have a slight, if not definite, change in the flow of water over or around a drop or a structure that juts out into the main river. These areas provide a break in the water where current is disrupted and baitfish are plentiful. Flounder will move into these areas during the first hour of the outgoing tide and remain until the turn. After the change, they will remain just a few yards off the spot where the bottom is favorable, usually soft sand or mud.

Tactics -- With the tide change, slowly troll the area until you get a pick-up. When you feel the pressure, let the fish hold the bait with a slow count to 10. You may lose a few, but those you hook will be yours from water to boat. The advantage of the longer fishing rod gives you added leverage when setting the hook. Mark the spot with a buoy and make a long turn heading against the current until you are a few yards past your buoy. Troll over the area again and, using a grid pattern, you should soon have your limit.

Flounder are excellent tablefare and great fishing. About the only thing you will need to master is the cleaning. Maybe I'll touch on that in a future column.

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT

The Beaufort Sail and Power Squadron will hold its annual "Light up the Night" event at the Beaufort Downtown Park on Saturday, Dec. 4. Boaters are invited to "light up" their boat with the holiday spirit.

If you are interested in being a part of the boat parade, send an e-mail to Charlie Borrmann at iw61@hargray.com. Organizers of the event also are seeking volunteers to help with the event.

HAMPTON LAKE TOURNAMENT

Hampton Lake held its inaugural Captain's Cup fishing tournament last weekend, a two-day member-guest event. Eleven two-member teams spread out across the private community's 165 acre lake in search of tiger bass and hybrid-striped bass, just two of the many varieties of fish found there.

Over the course of the weekend, the top three teams combined to land more than 105 pounds of fish. The winning team of Randy Fix and David Warren posted a total of 37.58 pounds. The largest fish was caught by guest Ray Ranson, who landed a 5.86-pound tiger bass.

For more information on fishing at Hampton Lake, go to www.hamptonlake.com or call (866) 875-5253.

FISHING LOG

I will retire my yearly fishing log the end of November, and start another the first of December. My log consists of the normal entries: time, temperature, fish species, bait, tide, results and so on. I usually include small notes along the edges of the page to remind me of some matter left undone or something that should be considered in the future.

Over a period of 12 months, one can acquire a good bit of information. Some may be useful, while other bits of scribbling may have been entered because the fishing was poor. I must have had a quite a few poor days, as I noticed a good many pages had folded corners.

Among some of the pages, I found a list of oxymorons that pertained to the day, the trip, or my general state of mind. Some of these I will share with you, and you be the judge on my thought process:

Good Grief, Slow Speed, Icy Hot, Original Copy, Cold Sweat, Plastic Silverware, Brilliantly Dull, Deafening Silence, Terribly Good, Bit too Big, Genuine Imitation, Terribly Pleased, Almost Exactly, Same Difference, Exact Estimate, Found Missing, Act Naturally, Constant Change, A Little Big ...

CAPT. WALLY'S UPDATE

Charter boat captain Wally Phinney's fishing update:

Nov. 15 -- Had a great fishing trip today; The seas were kind, a slight rise of only 2 feet, little wind and plenty of warm sunshine. Five newbies on board for the charter: Ohio anglers, little knowledge of saltwater fishing techniques but willing to learn. First mate had his hands full showing them the tricks of the trade. Baiting hooks and tying on new rigs became a task; Although often envied, can be tedious work.

The current was slow, as we arrived two hours before low tide. But this afforded us another two hours of fishing after the tide as well. Drifting provided us with few hook-ups off the bottom.

At the reef in 45 feet of water, the temperature was 65 degrees. This is the first time I have caught black sea bass this big, some going up to 4 pounds. We released a good many of the smaller ones, while catching the big ones over 12 inches at around 60 pounds.

The day ended too soon. The charter donated 10 pounds of fish for me and the first mate. That night, the wife and I had a nice fish dinner with all the trimmings. To me, black sea bass tastes better than grouper.

KIDS FISHING TOURNAMENT

Fripp Island's 11th annual Kids Fishing Tournament is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 26. Last year, 167 children fished in the tournament. The Fripp Island Yacht Club and the marina are sponsoring the event.

There is no charge to participate. Children ages 4 to 14, accompanied by an adult, are invited to fish from a boat, the marina dock (Friday only) or a private fishing hole. Participants should bring their own rod, reel, tackle and life jacket.

There will be free hot dogs and hamburgers, and plenty of prizes for the largest trout, bass, flounder and other fish. Note size regulations.

Registration and fishing starts at 8 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony.

For more information, call the Fripp Island Marina at (843) 838-1517.

PAPERWORK REDUCTION

The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

Dates: Written comments must be submitted on or before January 3, 2011.

Addresses: Direct all written comments to Diana Hynek, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at dHynek@doc.gov).

Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument(s) and instructions should be directed to Rob Andrews, (301) 713-2328 or Rob.Andrews@noaa.gov.

SALTWATER ANGLER EXEMPTIONS

NMFS has designated the states of Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Washington, and Guam as exempted states for anglers, spear fishers and for-hire fishing vessels. NMFS has designated the state of Maryland as an exempted state for-hire fishing vessels pursuant to 50 CFR 600.

The final rule implementing the National Saltwater Angler Registry Program, 50 CFR Subpart P, was published in the Federal Register on December 30, 2008. The final rule requires persons who are angling, spear fishing or operating a for-hire fishing vessel in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone or for anadromous species to register annually with NOAA. However, persons who are licensed or registered by, or state residents who are not required to register or hold a license issued by, a state that is designated as an exempted state are not required to register with NOAA. The final rule sets forth the requirements for states to be designated as exempted states. Generally, exempted states must agree to provide to NMFS names, addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers of the persons licensed or registered under a qualifying state license and/or registry program, or to provide catch and effort data from a qualifying regional survey of recreational fishing, and enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with NMFS to formalize the data reporting agreement.

NMFS has received proposals for providing license/registry and/or regional survey catch and effort data from the states listed below, has determined that the states' programs qualify for exempted state designation under the provisions of the final rule, and has entered into Memoranda of Agreement with each of the states. Therefore, pursuant to 50 CFR 600.1415(b)(3), notice is hereby given that the following states are designated as exempted states under 50 CFR Subpart P: Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Washington, and Guam. Persons who hold a valid fishing license or registration issued by these exempted states for angling, spear fishing or operating a for-hire fishing vessel in tidal waters are not required to register with NOAA under 50 CFR 600.1405(b).

Persons who are residents of these exempted states who are not required to hold a fishing license, or to be registered to fish under the laws of these exempted states, also are not required to register with NOAA. Further, pursuant to 50 CFR 600.1415(b)(3), notice is hereby given that the following state is designated as an exempted state only for-hire fishing vessels: Maryland. Persons who hold a valid license or registration issued by this exempted state for operating a for-hire fishing vessel in tidal waters are not required to register with NOAA under 50 CFR 600.1405(b).

Dates: The designation of the states as exempted states became effective November 8, 2010.

Addresses: Gordon C. Colvin, Fishery Biologist, NMFS ST-12453, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

For further information contact: Gordon C. Colvin, Fishery Biologist; (301) 713-2367 extension 175.

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