Gigging for Doormats (Flounder)
Gigging for Doormats sounds pretty funny to most people.
Hum, first off, why would anyone want to gig a doormat? Maybe a warning to door-to-door salesman to get off your stoop?
A Doormat is what locals call a Flounder because they look like doormats on the ocean floor. In Panama City, Gigging for Doormats is a popular sporting event in the spring and summer months.
Many guides around the state offer this fun alternative to hook and line fishing. You can also go gigging for frogs or fish. Locals find this sport just as exciting as hooking up a big fish.
What is a Gig?
For those of you who do not know what a Gig is, it is a pole with a forked-end containing one or more sharp spears called barbed tines. A gig is also called a spear, trident, trishul or leister.
Gig's are in the same category as spear guns so the Rules for Spearing apply to Gigs - it is OK to use a gig to catch a fish as long as it is not on the can't spearfish list and you are not allowed to gig in Collier or Monroe Counties. You may NOT spear, bowfish or gig: in Volusia County inland waters with the exception of Flounder and Sheepshead using a spear with three or fewer prongs. Always inquire locally as to the rules to stay out of trouble. See Fishing Regulations for the rules.
How to Gig for Flounder
Flounder settle in on sandy bottoms covered in sand with only their eyes and outline visible from above. They lay still, camouflaged waiting to ambush their dinner of shrimp or bait fish. The mission is to shine the light into the water to see the Flounder resting in the sand and the reflection of the Flounders eyes. Once you find the Flounder, Gig him! You will also look for the Flounder's tracks in the sandy bottom. Flounder are seldom found on muddy bottoms so look for shallow sandy areas with clear water. Lighting up the water also reveals amazing sea life below the surface so you get a wonderful education along with dinner if you catch a Doormat.
Tracking Flounder as they move with the tide is actually "seeing" the Flounder tracks in the sand as they move around. Flounder Tracks are the depressions left behind by the fish, a shallow hole in the shape of the fish. Flounder seldom travel very far from the tracks so following the tracks can bring you to the fish. At the end of the track you should be able to see the Flounder's eyes illuminate in the light you shine on them. Flounder generally travel in groups so if you find one you know there are many in the general area.
Once you see the Flounder slowly put the gig into the water, line your gig head up with the back of his eyes, and with one swift jab pitch the gig just behind the eyes all the way through the fish, if you don't stab hard and get thru the fish you will loose him! When you spear the Flounder with your gig the water will explode in a cloud of sand and you have to hold on tight. Hold the speared fish on the bottom until he stops fighting they slowly lift him out of the water in a motion like you are shoveling, this will prevent the fish from backing out of the tine and loosing him. Gigging the Flounder in the head behind the eyes and in front of the gill plate reduces the amount of struggle the fish will exert. If you gig a large Flounder you may have to get your buddy to jump in the water and wrap his arms around the fish as you lift it, gigging it in the head may not slow down a big fish.
Another thing to note is the distance between the eyes on legal sized Flounder. After you catch your first legal one, put it back in the water and study the distance between the eyes so you know next time if it is legal before spearing. When you are not sure if the fish is legal size, just leave it and look for another, this will help avoid returning an undersized fish to the water that may die from the gig wounds. A word of warning: if you see a set of eyes 4 or more inches apart be sure to be ready for an incredible fight. Put your light aside before spearing and hold on tight! You will definitely need a buddy to help land a big one.
Be sure you have a Flounder and not a Stingray before gigging the fish, it is very easy to mistake a Stingray for a Flounder and they both inhabit the same areas submerged in the sandy bottom.
Remember to have your fishing licence with you, observe the current size and catch limits for Flounder, and inquire locally if it is OK to gig in the area. Any county with spearfishing restrictions with restrict gigging too.
When to Gig
Gigging for Doormats is done at night in shallow flats and backwaters while shinning a bright light into the water to locate the Flounder. Although gigging can be done in the daylight hours, it is far more fun and productive to gig for Flounder on a very dark night.
Gigging a few hours before dead low tide or at low tide before the tide starts to come in will bring you the best results as the Flounder will be closer to shore. Gigging around low tide also helps to keep your boat from getting stuck—you get so immersed in the gigging you forget to watch the tide. As the tide comes in the Flounder will move in to the back bays and out of the anglers reach unless you have a flats boat with a pole or trolling motor. If the tide is outgoing you can still gig for Flounders on inshore sandbars in about 2 or 3 feet of water.
Gigging for Doormats during the full moon is not the best time as the Flounder can see you in the moonlight and will get spooked easily.
Gigging when the wind is calm is best. If the night you plan to gig is windy, move to a location that is sheltered from the wind.
What if I can't find any Doormats? If you can't find a Flounder within a half hour, pack up and move to another location. Also remember to find out when they are seasonally in your area so you have a better chance of finding a lot.
Where to Gig
Gigging from Shore
The easiest way to Gig a Doormat is to go out at night and walk the shoreline with a lantern or flashlight in one hand and a gig in the other. When you see a Flounder, spear it! Simple right? But you have to be quiet to avoid spooking the Flounder and quick to get him before he notices you. Flounder are very sensitive to noise and vibrations so don't use your gig as a walking stick, move as quietly as possible. You will be surprised how close to shore Flounder will sit on the beach. Sometimes you will see them almost out of the water as the waves come in. You also have to look out for Stingray's, stepping on them can be a painful experience.
If you use a lantern, shielding the side that shines on you will help you to see better. And a word of caution: if the hot lantern touches the water it could explode. Flashlights don't like being submerged either so securing your light at all times is a must. This is where gigging with a friend is much easier than alone. What are you going to do with your light while you are fighting a big Doormat at the end of your gig? If you use a submersible light you can just drop the light was you fight the fish and retrieve it afterwards.
Dragging a battery on a float and attaching a light to it is a very popular way to illuminate the water while wading the shore. In the picture to the left I believe his light is battery operated but I have seen similar looking light that connect directly to a battery, see picture below.
After you catch a Flounder use a stringer that you can attach to your waste and drag behind you in the water if you will be traveling any distance from your entry point. Otherwise walk back to your site and drop the fish in a cooler.
Gigging from a Boat
The most popular way to Gig for Doormats is to use a flats boat with a pole or trolling motor so you can quietly patrol the shallow waters.
Shallow draft boats work best because you will be bending over the side and spearing, can't do that with a big boat unless you have a very long gig pole.
The deluxe model gigs have very long aluminum poles that can double as a push pole as you slowly drift thru the water looking for your doormat. Be sure to gently put your push pole into the water, Flounder spook when there is disturbances such as vibrations in the sand.
To gig for doormats you need run your boat very quietly thru the shallow waterways using your trolling motor or fish pole. You will have lights illuminating the water ahead of you so you can spot the flounder. Once spot you gently lower your pole in the water above them and spear them with your gig. Bring the fish aboard and look for another.
Many anglers that gig frequently equip their boats with tall thin railings that they can lean on as they scan the water. They also make custom holding bins that allow them to release the Flounder from the gig and drop it directly into the bin.
Gigging from a Kayak
| Source: http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/forum/
You can also use a kayak, which is a very quiet way to navigate through the flats. Attach a light to the outside of the kayak to illuminate the water and use the gig to guide you through the water.
Remember you need a navigation light if you will be on the water at night - notice in the picture here the angler made his own light with a wooden pole. You can string your catch and using a float drag them behind your boat.
Equipment for Gigging
|Click Image to Buy|
There are readily available gigs for frog hunting that have many tines but these are flimsy and made for smaller targets. The best ones for Flounder gigging are the one or more 1/2 inch stainless steel tines on the gig head mounted on a long aluminum pole.
If you want to make a cheap gig pole you can purchase this Fishing Spear head, item A in the picture, from Bass Pro Shops and attach it to a pole. This cheap setup will give you a taste of what it is like to gig for Flounder in your area and if you decide it is something you want to do on a regular basis you can buy one of the more expensive stainless steel models.
|Submersible Battery Powered Light||Submersible Flashlight||Head Flash Light|
Submersible lights are the light of choice since these lights let you see much better what is going on underwater. Regular lights sending their beam from above will reflect the ripples in the water reducing your visibility. Head lights allow you to see what your doing above the water.
Having a light mounted on the bottom of your boat to illuminate the water is a wonderful expensive luxury that most don't have, so buying a submersible fishing light works great. Submersible lights that can be clipped to the side of your boat work great and broadcast light a good distance from your boat. These lights are generally powered by clipping the cables on to your battery and there are also battery powered lights too. Many anglers make their own light units using waterproof connectors and mounts customized for their boat.
When gigging from shore your can use a gas lantern or flashlight but a better option is to buy a gigging light or get a battery powered submersible and attach it to a pole so you can walk with it submerged. Some lights are powered by 12volt batteries. You can attach the light to the battery and using a battery float like the one pictured here and tow the battery behind you when shore gigging.
We will be selling reasonably priced submersible lights that are made in Florida soon on Florida Go Fishing. These lights come in many styles for both boats and docks and are also great for night Snook fishing. You can even buy battery operated models that you can use while working the shore on foot.
Holding Bins / Storing Your Catch
You need to store your catch. Most recreational anglers use a cooler or well in their boat. But the experienced Doormat Anglers have big bins equipped with a shelf edge that has and opening a little wider than the pole. They put the Flounder into the bin and pull up so the shelf ledge releases the fish from the gig. You can see some of the designs anglers have made on You Tube videos.
If you are shore gigging on foot, use a stringer or cooler.
Watch Videos to Learn Techniques
There is a great video on You Tube you should watch to get some great tips, watch Flounder Gigging. After watching this video browse others on You Tube and learn many different techniques and equipment used from some experienced Giggers.
Gigging Around Florida
Spear wielding giggers will head to Lake Okeechobee for night time gigging of Tilapia, Gar, Mud Fish, Sucker Fish and Frogs.
Frog gigging is a popular sport because the Frogs are huge in Florida and many are good to eat. Read this Bass Pro story on Frog Gigging.
August is the time for the Wounded Warrior's Annual Fish Gigging Tournament at Lake Okachobee, why not join in on the fun!