One of the best things that I’ve enjoyed about my long career as an outdoors writer is the interesting people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned from them. To glean information for my writing, it’s important that I deal with knowledgeable people, outdoors men and women that are highly skilled in their particular endeavor. Through the years, I’ve hunted, fished and written about guides and outdoor specialists that were skilled in everything from hunting with big bore air rifles to running hogs with dogs and, just about every other outdoor topic one can conceive. This past week, I enjoyed the unique experience of gigging flounder with commercial fisherman Trey Schmidt down on the Texas Coast.
When you have been a very active outdoor person as long as I have, there isn’t much the outdoors has to offer that you haven’t done at least once. Spending an evening gigging flounder was definitely on my bucket list and as it turned out, I was with one of the best commercial flounder giggers in the business and, one that is also a hoot to spend time with!
Schmidt has another ‘day’ day but he spends three nights each week on the bays in his flounder boat, cruising the shallows in quest of good eating flatfish. There is a ready market for flounder and Trey does what he can to insure the restaurants have a steady supply.
During a dockside briefing before we headed out, Trey gave me some basic gigging instructions. “Luke, you’ll want to stand up here with me in the front of the boat.” He then handed me a long bamboo pole with a very sturdy gig on one end. “When we get to the flounder waters, hold the gig vertically with the prongs just above the water, right in front of the boat. As we cruise along and move just over the flounder, you will be able to make out an eye, or possibly the shape of the fish. At times, the entire founder will be visible but not often, you’ll have to learn to identify the kaki color that is just a little different from the bottom.” Trey’s very sturdy boat was rigged with two engines. A power outboard for heading across the bays and a prop motor mounted above the stern for propelling the craft along slowly when gigging.
As in often the case in the outdoors, our rewards for the evening didn’t begin the minute Trey shut down the big engine and fired up the prop. We cruised the shallows for about fifteen minutes without spotting a flatfish but there was always something going on, the big stingray that darted out of the mud on my side of the boat or the school of mullet that a five foot shark pushed to the surface, we could actually see the back of the shark in the 3 foot deep water.
Then we motored to Trey’s next flounder hole. As we neared the tip of a long stand of marsh grass, Trey pointed ahead. “See how there is a little opening or funnel between this submerged island and the next? Flounder love to hide in ambush and catch their dinner in such areas. Flounder are not designed to chase their prey, they lay in wait but are deadly fast when food swims within striking distance. Be ready!”
Just as the nose of out boat reached the little opening in the grass, Trey pointed into the murky water. “See him? Right there on the edge of the grass?” I didn’t see him! I didn’t see a flounder’s eye or any part of a flounder. About that time, Trey’s gig struck the flounder with the speed of lightening and our first fish of the evening came aboard.
“HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW!” Came from the other side of the boat as Trey bellowed the famous words from Toby Keith’s hit song of a few years ago. For the remainder of the evening, I was to hear these words many more times. Trey reflexes were as fast as greased lightening and every time a flounder came aboard, he would let loose with his vocals! He even did a bit of singing for me on the rare occasion that I was able to first identify a flatfish on the bottom and then actually gig it! I love spending time around happy people and it was very obvious to me the Trey was doing exactly what he loved and made him happy!
I’m not a night owl and the ten o’clock h111111111our usually finds me fast asleep. Gigging flounder and sleep loss go hand in hand. As Trey stated, “You will find me on the bay from just after dark until I get my limit or sunup but then I Vamp out during the daylight hours and get rested up for the evening trip.” Trey keeps a thermos of hot coffee onboard and when gigging gets a little slow, we stopped and sipped a little stimulant.
The night was moonless with no wind. The heavens looked like countless jewels shining from the cloudless sky. I found myself enjoying the solitude of being out in the vastness of the big saltwater bay almost as much fun as gigging the flounder. The trip would have been well worth the sleep loss if only for the scenery but we soon found that the cooler was filled with good eating flounder and a few tasty sheepshead that are also legal to gig with the commercial license.
Trey is also a trained Chef and the day after our trip, he shared some of his flounder recipes. I brought a few fish back home and baked flounder is on the menu later this week.
I’m not sure how many of you gig for flounder but I wish all of you could have been there to enjoy this exciting evening with a ‘sure nuff’ expert. I was very much impressed with the titanium gigs and very light but strong bamboo gig poles. The gigs are handcrafted by Jim Cosson and the bamboo poles supplied by Craig Boutwell. Both should do double duty as frog gigs. Should anyone be interested in acquiring these poles or gigs, Trey can hook you up. Give him a call at 281-844-1016.
Remember the big Dallas Ducks Unlimited Banquet November 6 at the Centennial Hall at Fair Park. To purchase tickets, go online to www.dallasducks.org. Stop by and say hello, I’ll be making the rounds but will headquarter at the Professional Big Bore Air Guns booth with my friend Terry Tate.
Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton on radio stations from Nebraska to South Texas each week or online anytime at www.catfishradio.com