With February just around the corner, the flathead have come out in droves. They are one of the bread and butter species targeted by anglers in the estuaries and beaches of Queensland in Summer and Autumn. IN the last week, we have photographed more flathead than any other species, with quality fish being taken on lures, plastics and fresh baits.
Flathead are fairly poor swimmers and tend hide out in areas of lower current strength or will bury themselves in the sand in an ambush position with only their eyes showing. They lay waiting for small bait to swim over them and with a short burst swallow the bait fish with their large bucket mouth. A combination of week swimming ability and ambush feeding style helps us as anglers to locate areas that we believe to be good flathead habitats.
The best locations to try your luck in the estuaries are along rock walls, bridge pylons, snags, under pontoons, bends in the river, change in depth along the river banks and sand/mud bars. Areas of low current behind structure are where baitfish congregates. Try to fish on the down stream side of a structure or banks when the tide is running out for best results.
Boat-owners fortunately can access some of the best flathead haunts with ease. If you don’t own a boat, then hiring one may be an option. In an effort to make boating more affordable in times when many locals are struggling, the team at Swan Boat Hire has come up with some pretty sizable discounts on boats that would be ideal for targetting flathead in the upper reaches. For instance, we’ve knocked over a third off the price of all boats hired for half a day (5hrs), meaning you’ll only pay for 3 hours. There are other great deals to be found at www.facebook.com/boathire.
Another easy option is drifting in a kayak over water with varying depth is also a great way of catching flathead. One of the best things about these fish is that will eat almost any bait that drifts past their nose. Favourite baits are live herring, whitebait, small W.A. pilchards and larger green prawns. Flathead readily take lures of all shapes and sizes so it is well worth throwing or trolling a lure around an area that you believe to hold flathead.
Locals have had great results from the mud flats in the middle reaches of the river using soft plastics. The best results were achieved when working the edges of sand banks and channels as the tide floods across them. We used an array of plastics with the stand outs being:
Drifting with soft plastics is excellent for specifically targeting dusky and sand flathead, as you will cover a large surface area. Sand bank drop offs, yabby banks, channels and holes are where the action will be.
Using fluorocarbon or low vis leader material is a must when chasing flathead, especially in clear shallow water. I use a minimum of 2 meters of fluorocarbon leader when chasing any fish on soft plastics. Between 12 and 20lb is ideal for flathead depending on the size of your average fish. With 20lb you are pretty safe even with 3kg plus sized duskies.
So get mobile, be it in a boat or paddle-powered, and make the most of this beautiful summer weather while it lasts. Any angler bringing in a legal-sized flathead this weekend will have their photo featured on www.swanboathire.com.au as well aswww.faccebook.com/boathire. The best catch of the weekend will also receive a $20 tackle voucher to spend in Swan Boat Hire, with the winner notified by email on Monday. Good luck!
Ray Smith was fishing off Chambers Island with fresh prawn on the ebb tide when he hooked this 52cm dusky flathead.
Jimmy Hill was working pearl soft plastics around Picnic Point when he boated this 62cm flathead.
Noosa: There has been trag jew and a few small snapper from Chardon’s reef and yellow fin tuna on Sunshine. A few whiting to 35cm from the mouth. Try around the Sheraton bridge for Jacks. Large numbers of flathead from the mouth along with a few bream. Mud crabs in the canals and Weyba Creek.
Maroochydore: Bream up to 850g and grunter bream to 34cm from around Goat and Channel Island. Trevally from the top of the tide and flathead to 73cm from Twin Waters canal. Flathead in the canals and to 44cm from the Bradman Ave disabled platform. Mud crabs to 1kg in the cod hole.
Kawana: Snapper, parrot and grassy sweetlip from the Blinker. Quality whiting in the basin on the incoming tide. Dart, bream, whiting and tarwhine in the wash along Kawana Beach. Good numbers of trevally and a few tailor along the dirty water line. Mud crabs in the canals.
Caloundra: Grass sweetlip and snapper from the 12 mile. Dart and whiting along Currimundi beach. A few big flathead over 75cm have been caught and released opposite the Power Boat Club. Trevally and a few school jew in the canals. Mud crabs throughout the passage.
Tyler Duncan was fishing with soft plastics in the lower reaches of the Maroochy River with Angler's Advantage when he boated this 47cm dusky flathead.
It doesn’t matter what river, creek, passage or open water you are fishing on this week, your chances of catching something is pretty slim. There is so much fresh in the rivers, logs and other floating debris are snagging hazards and the current is flowing at a cracking pace as all the excess water tries to escape towards the river mouth.
Technology has allowed many people to share their experiences of the Queensland floods across a variety of mediums including social networks and the likes of Youtube. The team at Swan Boat Hire has been watching the water levels closely and in doing so have captured some great videos and photographs of the local flooding. They can be found on www.youtube.com/swanboathire and on www.facebook.com/boathire along with information relating to the Maroochy River.
Fishing the dirty water line is what I would normally suggest after a storm or wet period, but there has been so much water, that more patience is required than normal. The dirty water lines are created when clean greeny-blue salt water meets the brownish fresh water. When these two water bodies meet they hold food that kicks off a small food chain. Small bait fish feed on the nutrient, these attract bigger predators and so on e.g. trevally in the river feeding on prawn and small baitfish from upstream, tuna and mackerel feeding on small frogmouth pilchards and herring out around the dirty water mark between Maroochy and Mooloolah river mouths.
Mullet are notorious for feeding on the froth build up, that is common on dirty water lines and this can be good for anglers wanting to cast net some live bait. Try your luck over the weekend with big lures and baits around schools of mullet that are feeding along dirty water lines in the lower reaches. If you are like many angler’s and prefer to have the weather, local knowledge and luck on your side before you head out, then consider a crabbing trip.
The fresh in our rivers will most definitely have the crabs on the move right through to next weekend. Flood waters, no matter how devastating always have the one upside of filling pots with big mud crabs after they’re washed from their hiding spots in the upper reaches. Also big territorial buck crabs should be moving around over night in the usual haunts and with the abundance of food being flushed out of the creeks and canals the crabs should be fairly full. It is good to see the true spirit of locals who were dropping pots out as soon as the rain eased on Wednesday!
If the rain stays away, the hot and humid afternoons (when the barometric pressure drops and right before a storm), are the best time to work snag country up the creeks, upper reaches and around bridge pylons for mangrove jacks. Smaller 3-4” poddy mullet aka Jack Snacks are prolific in the creeks, canals and drains at the moment after becoming disoriented by the surging floods. As the river starts to let the flood waters reside, mangrove jacks will venture away from the snags at dawn, dusk and over night, giving anglers a chance of hooking up a quality jack.
In all situations, whether off the bank, on the edge of the islands or along a jetty or bridge – play it safe. Remember flood waters are very unpredictable and have many hidden dangers. Watch all children like a hawk and avoid swimming as the water will be full of all sorts of nasties which have been swept downstream. And you can see first hand on our Youtube page – www.youtube.com/swanboathire exactly how the flooding is affecting the river.
If this article is nothing more than a pep-up and encouraging look at how there are still a few positives which have come with the rain. Our thoughts do go out to everyone who is struggling to survive now and are still enduring the devastation of this unpredictable weather pattern.
Noosa: Flathead and grunter bream in the frying pan. Mud crabs in the canals ,Weyba Creek and throughout the middle reaches of the river.
Maroochydore: Grunter bream and mud crabs throughout the middle and lower reaches. Bream and the odd whiting around the river mouth on high tide.
Kawana: Bream and tarwhine in the wash along Kawana Beach. Bream, Grunter bream and a few mud crabs in the middle reaches.
Caloundra: Flathead, golden trevally and bream from the bar. Mud crabs throughout the passage.
Trevor Westerman was fishing off the beach at Mudjimba with flesh baits when he hooked into some quality bream with the biggest weighing in at just over 1kg.
Zhane Currie was crabbing in Petrie Creek when he potted a nice sized buck crab.
If you haven't been able to wet a line properly yet this Christmas holidays be it for whatever reason - wet and windy weather, crowds inundating all the best fishing locations or that unusual desire to go shopping in the everlasting sales at the shopping centre. The time has come to stand your ground and exercise patience and perseverance, because the muddy waters are subsiding. And the numbers of people in this exceptionally busy at this time of year are thinning ever so slightly as many have to return to work now that all the public holidays are over...for a bit.
Early starts are a great idea for both the river and offshore trips. Not just because of very busy rivers and boat ramps, but the clear, cloudless days have heat beating down from the sun at a rate which even burns the most zinc-covered person. Most fish hunt and stalk at dawn and dusk rather than in the middle of the day unless in pursuit of a large school of tasty baitfish. If you have indulged in the odd beer over the past week, then perhaps a twilight fishing session appeals more than a pre-sunrise trip?
It only took a little rise in water temperatures to get the dusky flathead on the chew and although only a few big fish have shown up, plenty of succulent pan-size flathead of around 40cm-50cm are taking fresh and live prawns, blade lures and soft plastics in the lower reaches of the Noosa, Maroochy and Mooloolah Rivers as well as Currimundi Lake and the little creeks off the Pumicestone Passage.
Flathead can be caught all year round but in summer they tend to have a sweeter flavour as their diet is rich in prawns and small fish. Making and falling tides are good as long as the water is not rushing too quickly and try to fish along drop-offs or on a sand bank where water flows over and stirs up the sand slightly.
It was great to see some superb catches of bream at the moment, with both bait and lure anglers sharing the success. Local lads Frank and Mick Bartosek have cleaned up in the Maroochy River and along the Mooloolaba rock walls with every fish weighing a minimum of 1.2kg and the largest tipping the scales at 1.6kg. These big bream usually frequent the rivers in the middle of a cold winter. Many anglers are drifting unweighted frozen prawns along the edges of the river bank at Picnic Point, Cod Hole and Bli Bli with pleasing results of half a dozen good bream in a session.
Mangrove jack are usually the star species at this time of year, but they are remaining very illusive, with several ideas coming to mind to explain this. Firstly, jacks like nice, clean salt water when in the lower reaches but also can be found in the upper reaches of a river lurking in muddy water. Since many local waterways were almost considered brackish and borderline fresh, the jacks may have been flushed out to sea and have decided not to return until the water improves. The distinct lack of baitfish until Thursday this week could have the predatorily jacks in search of alternate food sources. Baitfish like herring, poddy mullet and bitties are staple diet which has been very lack lustre in the flooding, murky brown waters after the week of rain during Christmas. There are countless jack habitat area in the Maroochy and Noosa Rivers - good snaggy branches, mangrove trees, rock caves for us to stalk with a cast, trolled or drifted bait.
Last but not least, summer whiting have been in good numbers (once the waters cleared and in the past week) fishing along the dirty water line has also proved fruitful. Sand worms are menu of choice but whiting are also easily persuaded by prawn, pippy, squid and small strip baits. Reports just in the past few days are of good catches at Munna Point and the Frying Pan in the Noosa River, Cotton Tree and Picnic Point in the Maroochy, along La Balsa and in the canals at Kawana, mouth of Currimundi Lake and in the top end of the Passage. Red beads and plastic have been very popular to increase your chances.
So keep your chin up and persist over the next few days as the waters are getting clearer and clearer. With good catches late this week being evidence of the actual summer season finally kicking off, only slightly belated (but better late than never)!
Noosa: Spotty mackerel and Spanish mackerel on Sunshine reef. Flathead, bream and whiting between the mouth and the first cutting along north shore. A few trevally and flathead in woods bay at night on the high tide. Golden trevally, flathead and bream from the lower reaches. Mud crabs in Weyba Creek and in Lake Cooroibah.
Maroochydore: Spotty and Spanish mackerel north of old women island. Mangrove jack in Petrie creek on live poddy mullet. Whiting up to 41cm from the black banks and a few whiting from the sand bags. Jewfish in the middle reaches. Flathead around 50 cm, a few whiting around 30cm, and bream from Chambers Island. Heaps of mud crabs throughout the river system particularly around, Chambers Island, Bli Bli and the canals.
Kawana: Spotty mackerel, Wahoo, red throat and a few sweetlip from the outer Gneerings. Yellow fin bream, grunter bream and trevally on the high tide along La Balsa Wall. Whiting, dart and a few flathead between Kawana and Wurtulla beaches. A few grunter bream in the upper reaches. Mud crabs in the canals and in the upper reaches.
Caloundra: Flathead and golden trevally from the boardwalk. Mangrove jacks in the canals and creeks. Whiting throughout the lower reaches. Bream, whiting and flathead from the mouth of Currimundi lake. Mud crabs throughout the passage.
Allan Cook was flicking small slugs into the bait schools off Mooloolaba on Anglers Advantage Charters when he hooked this 7kg mac tuna.
The Mack Tuna have been plentiful for a while now and Damien got in on the action with this solid fish.