A flounder’s demise? Pretty easy to figure out

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2014

  • Updated Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:22 pm

I just read an article in our newspaper which states that in May, a team of researchers will begin tagging flounders to find out how and why they die. This didn’t set well with me. It was one of those, “you’ve got to be kidding me!” moments. Remembering back to countless fishing trips with my family, Dad at the helm of our Barbour boat, I had an easy answer: “I know, I know!” I said out loud, feeling like an anxious first grader sitting in the front row of class. (This never happened, by the way. I sat in the back, talking and getting into trouble.)

Flounder usually die because of three things: a fisherman, a rod and reel and some bait — in our case, we always used raw, frozen shrimp. It’s that simple, people. In fact, case in point: my mother once caught a six pound (record breaking) flounder in Bear Creek, N.C. (near Swansboro) at our home with her rod and reel, sitting in her old aluminum chair at what we called ‘the peninsula’.

The one thing that caught my attention, however, about the flounder survey is the $200 reward if you catch one and call to report it. Fred Scharf, a fisheries biology professor from UNC-W, and one of three researchers on the project says, “They can keep the flounder, as long as it’s of legal size.” He continues, “Hopefully, the reward amount is high enough to encourage them to let us know they removed it, so we’ll know what the fishery removals are.” I used my imagination to make the sentence read, “Hopefully, the reward amount is high enough to encourage them to think up some nifty purchases!”

‘Cause I’m thinking that would buy quite a few pairs of darling shoes at a midnight madness sale in an upscale mall. Or a fab spa day: mani, pedi, aromatherapy massage and fresh highlights for my hair. Shoot! That also would pay for our wedding anniversary dinner date in April at Ruth’s Chris.

Now it’s true that I have in my possession my 86-year old daddy’s “Bass Pro Shop Classic 100 rod and a Penn 714Z reel” and some shrimp/bait in the freezer, but I don’t have a boat. You could say I’m up the creek without a paddle; er, without a creek, paddle or boat.

However, there’s one other method of catching flounder — something I once did with an old boyfriend who was so cheap that he collected napkins, ketchup, salt and pepper from McDonald’s — that I swore I’d never do again. That’s gigging flounder at night.

You go out in a Jon boat with large lanterns, shining them into the pluff mud, until you find a flounder that’s partially buried, laying flat in the mud, camouflaged and oblivious to your upcoming plans. Then you take your gig, spear him, retrieve him and throw him into the ice chest.

It’s a sneaky way to fish, but it can also be sickening — as in ‘seasick.’ In my case, I got sick as a dog that fateful night. With the intense concentration I held, staring at the inlet floor with water swirling around and the boat changing directions — well, when I did look up I was dizzy, nauseated and yes, unable to hold down my hamburger from a few hours earlier.

So, now as you can easily see, I DO know how flounders die. And not to be cruel, but those ugly fish — flat and oval-shaped with splotches and blotches, grayish green in color, with both eyes on the same side of their head—can’t blame us for eating them. They themselves are predators, feeding on shrimp, blue crab and other fish.

To be fair, the article says the flounder are also tagged using a short black cylinder implanted in the fish’s abdomen (sonar equipped) to show researchers where they live and where they die, “separating death from emigration,” whether inside a larger fish/predator or a natural death. Obviously, there’s no reward involved here.

I wonder if there’s anything else the N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources wants to know. I might be able to save them not only that $150,000—the state grant used to fund this project — but maybe a little more.

Ann Ipock “Life is Short, I Wish I Was Taller” amipock@ec.rr.com www.annipock.com.


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