Gilchrist TX .... With swift undulating currents ripping past the sea-worn shards of the rusty bulkhead, you could almost feel the tension in the air, as hundreds of anglers gripped their fishing poles in anticipation of the flounder run. "Slow at first, one by one on down the line, dozens of waiting poles suddenly began to dip and bend to the incoming tide of outgoing flatfish as they swam against strong currents to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
To most Texas saltwater anglers, just the mention of Rollover Pass will either initiate frowns of disappointed frustrations, or grins of absolute joy, as those memories conjur up "the good, the bad, and the uglies of fishing the Pass. "This, is definitely a hit or miss fishery, stated a middle aged Houston businessman, who had just landed his third flounder of the morning next to his $68,000 motorhome, "amen to that hitting or missing brother, echoed a Texas City graveyard shiftworker, who was watching from the tailgate of his Chevy camper-truck, "you either get here when the fish are running, he advised, or you may have just missed it altogether. "But", he re-advised, "when you hit it right, the fishing here at Rollover Pass can become absolutley "AWESOME".
Rollover Pass, "alias" fish pass or flounder pass, is probably one of Galveston Bays most popular saltwater fishing sites, drawing 150,000 to 160,000 anglers who fish its tidal waters each year. Best known for its "drive-up" conveniences, anglers can "bumper-up" next to the fishing action as they can enjoy "ruffing-it" with the creature comforts of air conditioning, television, and "frigidaired"beverages, as motor homes, camper trailers, and cabover pick-em-ups, line up side by side as they juggle for fishing positions. The Pass is also known for being "user-friendly" as those physically impaired anglers who would "also" like to enjoy, "the enjoyable", can, with very little effort, belly-up next to the fishing action.
Located on Bolivar Peninsula^s Highway 87, betwixt the coastal resort towns of High Island and Crystal Beach, the 200 foot wide Pass cuts through the small, but active, fishing village of Gilchrist. Officially constructed in 1956 to help improve the fishing conditions in the upper Galveston Bay system, the 1,700 foot long Pass allows incoming Gulf tides to breath new life into the bay system each day, as outgoing bayside tides help to flush out the system. This constant tidal action has created a unique outdoor recreational opportunity for 1000^s of anglers, as its tidal movements attract popular inshore fish species such as Speckled Trout, Redfish, Sheephead, Black Drum, Golden Croaker, or Gulf Flounder, of which have become the most popular species of them all.
The importance of this fishing area to the State of Texas, as well as to the 1,000^s of fishing families who visit each year, can be re-viewed each time that you visit Rollover, as people from all walks of life arrive from "everywhere" to fish, as license plates from as far away as Oregon, Minnesota, and Kentucky can be seen nestled amongst the Lonestar & Cajun tags of Texas and Louisiana. During my short visit to this area, I was able to witness the best advertisement for the importance this area within the smiling faces of those, "who were enjoying the enjoyable". Smiling faces that belonged to Gladys Clacks of Houston, who caught a nice 17 inch flounder while fishing the early morning run, "or", the young smiling grin of 8 year old Mary Hill, who, while fishing with her dad, managed to hook, but lose a "BIG" Redfish one minute, then catch her very first "keeper-eater" flounder soon after, "or" New Braunfels TX, angler, Johnny Graham SR, who had visited Rollover Pass recently, and wrote this "heartfelt" letter of thanks and concerns to the GCA group.
Dear Gilchrist Community Assn;
"Being an avid fisherman "and" a physically challenged Veteran, I visit Rollover Pass a lot and am writing this letter to inform you that you are doing an admiral service to the fishing population of "not only" Texas, but for the People of the United States of America as well. I fish the Pass a considerable amount of time throughout the year, and have met a lot of good people from as far away as Canada. But the main purpose of this letter is to ask the assn; for help in getting the bay side of the Pass upgraded, as now, the disabled anglers are having great difficulties in fishing that side without the assistance of someone who can help motivate our wheelchairs for us. We also need disabled parking areas on the bayside, much like is now in place on the Gulfside. Your undivided attention on this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Johnny Graham, SR....
"The Flounder are probably our #1 attraction for the fishermen, informed Eddie Oehlers, of the Gilchrist Community Assn; as he explains the main popularity of Rollover Pass to most of the visiting anglers who target Rollover each year during the major flounder runs of Spring and Fall. "We sell in excess of 85,000 fishing licenses here each year during those times, he further informs, adding that Rollover Pass is maintained as a "FREE" fishing site for everyone to enjoy, "but", he reviewed, the Pass was almost closed to the public recently, and "we", of the Gilchrist Community Assn; have formed together to take over the responsibility of this "very important" fishing facility, to keep it open and free to the public!
"But to be able to do this, he petitions, "we need the help of the public as they "must" keep up with their trash around their fishing areas to help keep the area clean and open for the next family of anglers who would like to enjoy it. "Dupont is providing us with some special containers which will be placed for the convenience of the anglers, Eddie informs, further stating that the GCA also welcomes the financial support of the public, by either joining as a supporting member of the GCA, or through personal donations which are collected from the GCA jars, which are placed throughout the Gilchrist business community.
"Important changes are also scheduled to get underway next year, which will serve the improvements of this major fishing site, Eddie explained, "further informing that the pass will be dredged by Galveston County, starting on January 6, and working in through February, "then, Eddie included, "we will start replacing the badly eroding bulkheads, located on the bayside of the Pass, replacing them with new concrete trimmed bulkheads, which will have concrete walkways, safety railings, "and" special wheelchair ramps for the physically impaired. "We, Eddie predicts, "plan to have these "much needed" improvements finished in time for the Spring fishing season which starts in April. (those of you interested in aiding the GCA with their projects of keeping Rollover Pass "Open & Free" for the public to enjoy, contact Eddie Oehlers or Cindy Slay, of the Gilchrist Community Association at- (409)-286-5784 -or- (409)-286-2222.
Primetime flounder movements through the Pass will always pulse with the incoming or outgoing tide-changes, with the best action occuring during the high tide changes. Good sturdy rod & reels of medium to medium/heavy action, with strong-geared spinning or baitcasting reels spooled with at least 20 pound test lines, are reccomended, but most any fishing tackle will suffice. "Bottom rigging here folks, as Flounder are bottom feeders which require terminal tackle with 1oz pyramid type sinkers, and or, 2/0 circle or mustad drop-hooks, being used, but not necessary, as a simple slip-rig with (-egg sinker-swivel-3 ft leader-swivel-hook-bait-) will do just as well-(and is less expensive)-. Flounder will feed on cutbaits and freshdead shrimp, but the best producers will always be live finger mullet, live mud-minnows, or live shrimp. Artificial anglers, who use bottom bumping jigs with soft plastics or spoons, will definitely catch their share, but "NOT" to be reccomended for use within the Pass as snag-ups with bottom structure and "other" anglers are 100% assured. Most arti-anglers will keep off to the Gulf, or Bay side of the Pass, where they can either wade-fish or cast out into the less obstructed, and congested fishing areas. Flounder are, for the most part, finicky feeders, with most anglers giving them time-(8 counts)- to swallow the bait prior to hook-setting, but experience has taught me to "immediatley" set the hook "as soon" as I can feel the Flounder moving off with the bait. Being of the flatfish family, the Flounder, which has both eyes on the color side of its body, is unique in that it will provide four filets-(2 from the upper color side & 2 from the bottom white side)-for the angler to enjoy. Smaller flounder are usually grilled or baked whole with crab-stuffing-("yum-yum")- with the larger ones being fileted into strips, dipped in a tempura, or beer batter, and then deepfried to crispy purr-fection-("ohh my")- "but, for whichever how you choose to prepare your Flounder, its delicate flavor "IS" to kill for !!
The convenience of being able to "bumper-up" your fishing vehicles right next to the fishing action at Rollover, has also developed into a nightfishing business bonanza for the Gilchrist business area, as anglers, who prefer fishing during the cool of the Summer evenings, run portable generators for lighting up their fishing areas at night. Lots of "LARGE" Speckled Trout, as well as some "RATHER LARGE" Redfish and Flounder, are caught during these nighttime fishing trips. Crabbing also provides a major interests for the visiting public, who can be seen lining the Pass with their crab-lines as they fill their baskets with some very impressive Blue Claws. Wade Fishermen also get in on the action as they stepout from either side of the Pass to wade-fish the Gulf or the Bay. And if your forte^ isn^t bank-fishing, crabbing, or wade-fishing, the location of the Pass, on the upper Texas Gulf Coast, puts it right within a major flyway for migrating birds who venture south for the Winter, or north for the Summer. Bird Watchers from all over the world know of this and visit Rollover on a year round basis. R.V. Campgrounds, with full hook/ups, are conveniently located on the north side of the Pass, which allows for daily, weekly, or monthly rates. Motels, Restaurants, Bait & Tackle shops and shopping are located nearby, as are white, sandy Gulf Coast beaches. The Island City of Galveston TX, being only a 20 minute drive down Hwy 87, with a short, but very enjoyable scenic Ferry Boat ride across Galveston Bay, is also a favorite attraction for Rollover visitors who enjoy visiting Galveston^s Highlights.
Although Rollover offers a year round fishery for a variety of popular inshore species, the Southern, and or, Gulf Flounder, have become its "major" attraction for most who come to fish. Major runs are enjoyed during the Spring, when the flatfish arrive from the depths of the Gulf to fan out onto the Galveston bay system, then again in the Fall season when the flounder return to the Gulf for Winter. Of the two, the Fall run can be the more dramatic, and most productive, as flounder will be "heavily" concentrated in the Pass as they migrate back to the deeper waters of the Gulf. To most, who plan their holidays and vacations to the pulse of the Fall Flounder run, this is the major run of the year for being able to catch a lot flounder in a very short time, as well as for catching the larger "saddle-blanket" flounder that often weigh over 6 lbs. As Flounder are a regulated fishery, check the Texas Parks &Wildlife fishing regulations for legal size-(14")- and creel limits-(10 fish)- "before" fishing for them, "or", you^ll be getting a very "unwelcomed" tap on the shoulder by the Game Warden.
As for the location of the Gilchrist Community Association, just look to the "Colors" of our Nations Greatness as it rises every morning up the standard which hovers in the breeze over the "Lil Burger Shoppe" that fixes the best doggone burger n^ frys found anywhere^s. As the proceeds, from these burger n^ fry purchases, help to keep our Flag hovering in the breeze at Rollover, "WE" need to support its "reason for being there" or it will become just another memory for "what once was".
For daily updates on fishing and tide conditions contact Rollover Pass Bait & Tackle at (409)-286-5562.