Land-based Flatty Fishing Tips
 

Land-based Flatty Fishing Tips

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Land-based Flathead Tips - Area's and Times

BY SHANE MURTON

 

When you look at some of the top targets around the country they all have a few things going for them. Quite often they love lures, they're accessible to most people and they cook up a treat. Taking these factors into consideration it's easy to see why so many anglers enjoy messing with flatties!

There's an element of 'hunting' when it comes to flathead, given their sometimes sparse numbers over the large flats areas they like to inhabit. It really is up to the shore angler to put their thinking cap on and try to track them down. Thankfully there's plenty of grounds to check out and given their liking for the coastal fringe, there's productive hot spots within easy walking range. So where do you find populations of these reptile-like fish?

WHERE TO FIND THEM

The flat profile of these fish points to a species that prefers to hug the bottom and is capable of moving through shallow parts. It's this physical trait, combined with a military grade camouflage paint job and closely spaced eyes for great all-round vision that makes them such a well matched fish for the shallow flats environment. The shallows are often clear, relatively sheltered environments and these fish are perfectly equipped to be a successful predator in areas where there's often very little cover to hide behind.

The ability of flathead to push through the shallowest of waters means their range is basically up to the shoreline and quite often they'll sit within feet of the shore, especially when undisturbed. It pays to fish the first few metres of water out from the shore before you start wading around in it.

Coastal flats are the perfect areas to find a flathead. Rather than being expansive, barren environments, flats actually have a lot more going for them than initial impressions may reveal. Tidal flats have many subtle features about them that flatties will use to their advantage when sitting and waiting for their meal to swim past. The more tidal the area is, the greater the number of gutters, little drop-offs and ledges and even patches of exposed rock/low reef. These sorts of features will all attract these fish, which are true blue ambush feeders in every sense of the word.

Estuary systems are also known haunts for flatties and again the fishing is better where there's more bottom features, which is often towards the mouth sections of these waters, although some systems will produce quality fish along most of their length. Rock walls are noted for attracting the XOS fish in some states and these can be fished from the shore. There's generally good channel formation in these areas and plenty of drains coming off the flats and out of the mangroves. Flatties will sit in these patiently waiting for their prey.

For the most part you're looking to find something different to aim your casts at. This could be a patch of weed, a few rocks, a hole, a drain or anything out of the ordinary. Rather than try cast over every inch of a flat or estuary, narrow down things, and use what you've learnt to make less casts for more fish. Only when you've explored all the structures in the area for little result, should you start making more random casts in an attempt to cover ground and pick up the odd fish. You'll find you get better numbers around the structures and only sporadic fish out in the open most times—it all makes sense as these are the areas where bait gathers.

The more successful shore flickers will have a desire to find new grounds and push their flattie exploits to the limit. While they'll live in rather obvious areas, and even calm metro shorelines can hold them, as you walk you'll find greater numbers of fish. They're an ideal target if you don't mind throwing on waders, and grabbing a flickstick and backpack and going walkabout. Don't think that you have to wade to find them, as there's many low rock ledges you can cast from to reach flattie water and you won't need to get wet to do it! Also look for them from wharfs and other structures which jut out over shallow inshore waters. Otherwise look for sheltered beaches and coves and generally areas where there's minimal swell. 

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Wading the flats and casting at structure is reliable on these fish

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Rock and sand is a great combination to search for flathead on the coast

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If you start spotting these in your area it's pretty safe flathead won't be far away!

THE BEST TIMES

Many of the areas mentioned above are governed by the tides, which is to say without at least an incoming tide these areas could well be dry as a bone, or at least void or serious life. This doesn't mean you need a massive high tide to drown out the area to have any luck. Each area will fish differently, just don't be tricked into thinking you require a high tide or you'll be limiting your fishing time. Flathead can be caught at all stages of the tide, it's up to the angler to determine where they'll be holding.

A high tide will see lizards snake their way in close to the shore. This is the time to be working the first 50m or so bottom out from the shore in front of you. As mentioned, don't ignore the extreme shallows, but also don't be afraid to wade out a bit to hit any other likely holding points. A good scout around on low tide will often reveal any points of interest.

At the other end of the spectrum, on low water flatties will drop back to any outer patches and drop-offs. In many areas they don't go all that far and it's more than possible to wade out further and hit any outer areas. Once you've found one fish, you'll gauge the depth they're holding and then it's game on!

Both a dropping and rising tide can also see these fish concentrated in gutters/drains/channels, as these will be the first areas they'll push up onto the flats and they'll also be the last area they can be found as they feast on any food flushed down them. Flatties are always keen to get up to the flats and start eating so start flicking any drains as soon as there's a foot or so of water in them.

Very few shore flicking efforts for flatties are ever the same and there's a few variables that can influence the fishing. Heavily overcast days tend to fish best and further spur these fish on to come in close. Rain and wind might not be welcome from a comfort perspective, but these fish again don't mind these conditions, and you can have some smoking hot sessions if you rug up and are prepared to endure blustery weather.

Tides can also vary from their predicted height, and wind direction can make things awkward for the light line lure angler from the shore. Try and have back up plans if conditions aren't the best and as touched on, if it looks like someone has pulled the plug, don't write it off, try something different and walk out and try find them beyond where you'd normally fish. It could be a day saver. Good luck!