I’ve been fishing in the Mobile Bay area since 1985 and to my knowledge this area has never had a dedicated flounder fishing tournament. Why have a flounder tournament? How will this benefit flounder? Why are we creating another tournament? I’ll get into answering those questions along with giving a little back story to my experience with flounder fishing.
My Flounder Story
My dad was the one who introduced me to flounder fishing as a child. Well, he introduced me to most fishing when I was a child. I don’t remember my first flounder or even the first one I ever saw. However, it was and still remains my dads favorite type of fish to catch. Since he was taking my brother and I fishing we learned who to flounder fish at a young age. We would fish from the Causeway seawalls, from our boat, from the piers, and from the shoreline and jetties. Two lessons stick out in my head handed from my dad were; one while in a boat cast your lure/bait out and work it all the way to the boat and vertical jig all the way around the boat. Second lesson was after you feel the thump or weight on the end of the line you should give it at least a 5 second count before setting the hook. My dad taught me many more lessons but those two are evergreen and priceless.
Flounder Back Story
Based on my experience In the 80’s 90’s all the way up to 2010 we always flounder. If you wanted to target flounder March through November all you had to do was fish for them and you could catch them. Of course some days good, some great and some terrible but needless to say flounder fisherman caught flounder pretty much at will. Sometime after 2010 flounder fisherman began to notice very consistent declines in catches. All fisherman, even commercial fisherman. Things continued to decline year after year with little tiny blips of good fishing. Finally, in 2019 Alabama State officials decided to change the daily bag limit from 10 per person and 12″ minimum to 5 per person and a 14″ minimum size limit. In addition the Claude Peteet Mariculture center added a southern flounder broodstock program to help with stock enhancements. Flounder fishing remained poor until 2022. Like a light switch was flipped we had flounder again back to 2010 levels in my opinion. Again in 2023 we have flounder in our system.
Why Have a Flounder Tournament?
Now that flounder are on a rebound and anglers are finding moderate to great success I feel its time. I’m curious to see what a couple flounder competitions will yield. Are we putting a target on the flounder for increased harvest? One would think that would be the case when you create a saltwater tournament. Unfortunately, majority of saltwater tournaments are kill tournaments. However, with the increase of virtual tournaments and a heightened awareness of how to keep your catch alive in your boat. Both can drastically reduce fish mortality because of tournament fishing. I personally created a weekend long speckled trout where over 80% of all tournament entered fish are alive and either utilized as broodstock or released alive. Prior to my tournament the “Winter Classic” no one ever brought live speckled trout to a weigh in now many anglers bring in live fish.
How will This benefit flounder?
How is catching flounder going to benefit flounder? Fortunately, in the Mobile, Alabama area we are blessed with a top notch hatchery (Claude Peteet Mariculture Center) and a passionate hatchery manager and team who are the industry leaders in southern flounder production. We also have an incredible team of students, PhD’s, professors and such from South Alabama Marine sciences. Last but not least the CCA of Alabama is funding many projects that are flounder related in this area. Dylan Kiene AKA Dr. Doormat is our local flounder scientist. He has been working with all things flatfish for several years now and the southern flounder is his favorite. Dylan and I discussed how could a tournament benefit the flounder population? One if the hatchery needs more brood stock then our anglers are bringing in live fish so they can take them. Also, the CCA is funding a flounder tagging program and all of the fish that the hatchery doesn’t need will receive tags and released. Lastly, if some flounder do die then Dr. Doormat will be able to take ear bones, fin clips, and tissue samples for is research.
Why another Tournament?
I aim to maximize the overlap in conservation and competition. We are aiding in all things science and data collection while giving anglers a platform to flex his or her fishing muscles to win some prizes and bragging rights. The above paragraph I mentioned all the ways the two day main event tournament will help with the flounder fishery. The virtual tournament we have a partnership with Release Over 20 to gather data about flounder over 20″s being released. I am the Alabama Representative of Release Over 20 so we need more Alabama data. Whether, I am right our wrong about having another tournament it will be tough to argue that this tournament will do more harm than good.
The Doormat Classic is Born
The Winter Classic was my first tournament I ever put together and hosted (I also participate) and has 8 successful events. The Winter Classic combined the best of the BOG (Battle of the Grubs) and the Bassmaster Classic for Mobile Bay anglers. The second tournament I put together is the Convict Classic which is a 100% virtual. So here we are with a drastically improved flounder fishery, my experience hosting two totally different style tournaments, and many layers of the science community from which can benefit. In The Doormat Classic we have a competitive 27 day virtual practice round with a $25 entry fee with awards and cash prizes. Following the virtual tournament the main event Doormat Classic will begin. The Doormat Classic is 2 days, 2 angler teams, 5 fish creel per day. All live flounder will be rewarded with a .25# bonus per fish. For anyone interested in participating or following along with the flounder fishing
tournament results check out the tournament link.