Night Flounder Gigging

Gigging for flounder at night is legal in many states, and can often be much more productive than targeting them using a rod and reel.

In most states, gigging is a legal method for taking flounder or fluke. Usually done at night, it is more for the adventurous angler, but any of you can do this and come home with some great table fare!

Gigging is a nighttime activity, which is the major reason it becomes an angling method for the more adventurous among us. It involves either wading from shore or floating in a small boat over the shallow areas where flounder congregate. It requires relatively clear and shallow water, a good, heavy duty gig head, a high candlepower light source, and just a little schooling on what to look for on the bottom.

Flounder will settle on the bottom, back-flap their fins, and essentially cover themselves with the surrounding sand. The only visible part, short of a slight outline of their body, is their two eyes sticking up just above the sand.

The process is rather straightforward. Find an area where flounder gather at night, and light up the bottom. As you wade or float over the bottom, look for a pair of red glowing eyes sticking up from the sand. Be careful to identify two things, (1) which direction is the fish pointing, and (2) how far apart are the eyes. 

Most states have size limits on flounder and it will pay you to remember how far apart the eyes need to be for a flounder to be long enough to be legal.

Once you locate a pair of eyes and determine which end of the fish is the business end, it becomes a matter of driving the gig home just behind the eyes. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Now for a few words of caution! I prefer a single pronged gig head. That is, it has but one long tang with a good barb. The tang itself is about a half-inch in diameter. This is not a thin wire frog gig. When you drive the gig home, make sure you pin the fish to the bottom until he stops kicking. Only then should you lift him out of the water. The lifting process also requires a bit of caution. Don’t pull the gig straight back toward you, rather try to lift it out of the water as if you were trying to scoop something off the bottom with a shovel. This prevents the gig from backing out of the fish from the water pressure exerted on the side of the fish.

My particular methods for night gigging involve either wading or floating a small boat, as I said. If I am wading, I like to take a ten-foot long, two-inch dowel, on which I hang a gasoline lantern. I place the lantern on one end of the pole, a balancing weight on the other, and wrap a soft towel around the middles of the pole. I then balance the lantern and counter weight on my shoulder, so that they will remain stationary as I walk.

I shield the side of the lantern that faces me so as not to blind myself. Then I wade slowly in the area I plan to fish. The long pole and counterbalance serve to stabilize themselves when I thrust the gig, allowing me to use both hands when required.

One word of caution is appropriate here. Don’t let the lantern touch the water! That hot surface will literally cause the glass to explode when it hits the water. A little practice prior to embarkation is definitely in order.

When I gig from a boat, I use lighting that may be foreign to many of you. I have modified a metal car top carrier bar and fitted it with four sealed beam headlamps, the same kind we use on an automobile. They are mounted so they point straight up if the bar were mounted across the roof of an auto. The connections have all been waterproofed, and the wiring to the lamps is of six gauge, insulated copper.

I take the headlamp arraignment and drop it over the bow with a line attached to each side. I then draw the bar so that it is about one quarter of the way back from the bow and strapped across the bottom of the boat. If you picture this properly, you know that the headlamps are now pointed at the sea bottom.  Once securely strapped in place, I connect the wiring to one of the three auto batteries in the boat.

Bingo! The bottom directly under the boat is lit up like a ballpark. The angle of the light to the front of the boat allows any eyes that are protruding from the bottom to be seen as I stand on the bow of the boat.

Now, all it takes is someone helping you pole the boat, or run an electric trolling motor!

One more word of caution: If you see a pair of eyes that are four or more inches apart, be prepared for a ride! Eyes that wide mean a double-digit doormat, and they are not the easiest thing to handle, especially on the end of a gig! And if you are wading and see these eyes, I would strongly suggest handing the gig to someone who is not carrying the lantern! Otherwise, you can kiss a perfectly good gasoline lantern goodbye!

How about you? Have you ever caught fish using a non-traditional method? Tell us about it on our Reader Submission Page, or on our Saltwater Fishing Forum!