Did you know that “GIG ‘EM” isn’t just for Aggies? Gigging is a verb that means hunting and stabbing a flounder with a specialized spear at night! This fishing sport is huge and the Texas Coastal Bend (from Port O’Connor through Corpus) is the best place in the world for floundering all year.
We talked to Rick Hammond of Nightstalker Guide Service in Rockport to get the scoop on gigging. Captain Rick is Rockport’s long-time flounder hunter! He has been floundering nocturnally for over 18 years and he told us that gigging is the most effective way to catch Southern Flounder. Gigging involves highly customized equipment. Captain Rick’s is all homemade, including his 26-foot air motorized, flat-bottomed boat, equipped with powerful above and below surface lights, and loaded with handmade gigs. Rick fabricates his own aluminum for boats and gigs, and as he says, “using redneck ingenuity,” he has created the industry standard for what he believes is the best gear and methodology for bringing home the bacon, err… I mean, flounder.
Rick takes up to 4 adults out at a time, and the boat leaves just after sunset. He navigates to the areas of the shallows where he knows flounder hang out at night to feed. Though flounder spawn in 90-100 feet of water, they eat in the shallows where they bury themselves under the sand and pounce on their prey, primarily shrimp and other small fish. They can be tricky to spot! Check out The Flounder Finder Game on Rick’s website and you will see what I mean. He shows you what to look for as the flounder camouflage themselves under the sand, and his lights illuminate the ocean floor, so you can see your prey while your flounder is ambushing his!
Once your target fish has been sighted, then next step is straight forward… you stab it with a special spear and lift it into the boat. You can only catch flounder that are 15 inch minimum from tip to tail in length and you can only catch up to 5 per person a night. As your guide, Rick can eyeball the fish and tell you which ones are good to catch and which ones to leave alone. There is no time limit on your nighttime gigging trip, so clients usually fish until they max out their catch limit.
Rick’s favorite thing about floundering is the peace and solitude of being on the water at night when, “his lights bring the bay to life like an underwater aquarium.” You can see mullet, stingrays, crab, drum fish, etc., and discover the vivid colors normally hidden under the tidal flats.
The simplicity of gigging also appeals to Captain Rick, as he doesn’t have to worry about rod and reels, hooks, lures, or bait. He keeps his special gear in good shape and can repair or replace any items he needs to, since it’s all homemade. Being alone on the water at night means safety is important and Rick takes that seriously, stocking extra supplies to ensure he is prepared for anything.
Gigging is extremely popular, and as the Rockport area expert, Rick is booked up well in advance. June through October are Rick’s busiest months, though flounder are available all season. Texas Parks and Wildlife has determined that the only period when you cannot catch flounder is from November 1st to December 15th, to protect the spawning population. A typical flounder is approximately 2 pounds, but Rick had a client once catch an 11 pounder that was 30 inches long!
The price of your guide trip also includes cleaning and, if you prefer, filleting your catch, so you can cook it up at home or have a local restaurant cook your catch. (Note, in Texas, restaurants will only prepare a filleted fish, not a whole one.)
Now you know, gigging isn’t just for Aggies, and anyone can do it. Rick has had had clients as young as 4 and as old as 95 gig their own flounder, so go on out and “GIG ‘EM”!