In our series "how to catch your own seafood", today's attention goes to flounder gigging, a popular nighttime activity on Amelia Island.
If you’ve never been flounder gigging then here is how it’s done. You walk along the shore line, at night with a light that shines down into the shallow water and when you see the outline of the flounder, you gig it. A simple enough procedure for catching one of the most tasty fish in the ocean, I think. Pin the flatfish to the seabed with the gig, then reach under the flat-fish and hold in onto the gig from underneath the belly depending on the size of the fish.
Flounder gig tips should be kept sharp and enclosed with cork or plastic tube for safety when not in use.
A good place to do some flounder gigging is off the beach of Tiger Island or along the shoreline of Fort Clinch. One of the treats of gigging off Tiger Island is finding a sweet conch from time to time. The very best time for spearing flounder is on an incoming tide on a calm, dark night when the water is clear. Spring and summer months are best but flounder can be taken year round. Too much rain causes dirty water and a rough sea surface distorts and diffuses the light. Either makes the flounder more difficult to spot, and when both are combined it is best to stay home.
Rarely during daytime will you see one scoot away in the shallow waters as you approach.
One day however in the mid 1970’s, my friend George and I had been fishing. We beached our boat on the shore of the Fort Clinch camp ground to get fresh water. As we were getting ready to push our boat back out into deeper water we noticed the outline of several flounder, just as you would see at night with a light. The entire shore line was covered with flounder. A park ranger came down to the beach and watched the fish with us. He had never seen anything like this before and neither had George or I. What caused these fish to lay in the shallow water in the middle of the day is still puzzling. I have never before seen anything like it nor have I talked to anyone who has seen this many fish in the daylight hours. One of those quirks of nature without an answer.
Oh well, I still enjoy a good night of flounder gigging though. There’s something about catching your own seafood, bringing it home and preparing it for the family. I guess deep down inside we are truly hunter gathers and this is just part of our make up, a feeling of accomplishment comes over you when you succeed. If you have never tried flounder gigging then I suggest you give it a shot.
If you’re not lucky on your first trip, don’t get discouraged, try again. After all it is fishing, and not every trip is going to be productive. A couple of years ago there was a captain, Mac Daniel, who had built a flounder gigging boat that could handle up to six people per trip, and offered two trips a night here on island. I’m not sure if he still operating the tours, but his website is http://www.floundergigging.com