Flathead Feast
  |  First Published: September 2011

September can be the most difficult month of the year offshore from the Gold Coast as it is ‘in between’ seasons, however there are still some great opportunities out on the 50 fathom line.

Providing the westerly winds don’t blow too hard there are some great kingfish, amberjack and pearl perch to be caught, and while the snapper numbers tend to drop off a bit this month, there are some quality fish to be caught.

The northern end of the 50 fathom reef east of Jumpinpin tends to be the most productive part of the reef this month, with deep jigging, live baiting, float lining and paternoster rigs being the techniques to produce a few fish. Some massive amberjacks are commonly caught in September and the fishing pressure is generally a bit less than occurs in winter.

It is always worthwhile stacking up on livies this month if heading offshore, as the bigger snapper, pearl perch, kings and amberjacks love small live yakkas and slimies. As the fishing can be fairly tough this month, the extra effort to get a tank full of live bait often pays good dividends. Metal jigs are also surprisingly effective especially if there is a bit of current.

Closer to shore there should still be a few mulloway at night on the inshore grounds and a few cobia will start to show. Although the cobia season has been relatively quiet and erratic so far, there are still some on offer for those who put in the effort.

Snapper will tend to thin out a bit on the inshore reefs towards the end of the month as most of the adult fish will have spawned and headed back offshore.

For the thrill seekers there are a few striped marlin and yellowfin tuna to be caught in September, but it all depends on the amount of bait that is out there. The water temperature is generally around 20degrees and this suits the cooler pelagic species.

Closer inshore some big kingies can turn up off the Tweed coast but it is a tough month for game fishing. There will still be the odd blue marlin around if the water temperature holds.

Around the seaway there should be quite a few schools of mac tuna, tailor and even Australian salmon if the big schools of white pilchards stay close inshore. The best time to chase these small pelagic is on the run in tide with good clean current. If a dirty water line pushes out to sea on the run out tide it can also be a good area to spin metal lures or fish a pilchard on ganged hooks.

The back of the surf line towards Jumpinpin can produce some monster tailor when the conditions are right, and the biggest tailor of the season are often caught this month. The most effective metal casting lure for big tailor are the 65-85g Raiders.

Overall, however, the offshore grounds tend to be quiet this month, but berley, live bait and persistence will produce some good fish throughout September.


This month the flathead reigns as the main target species, although there should be plenty of mulloway, trevally, bream and even a few mangrove jacks starting to show.

A lot of anglers will be in preparation for the upcoming Flathead Classic held towards the end of the month, and already there are stacks of boats out there practicing for the big event. Flathead have been present in good numbers but not too many big ones have shown up as yet, but September conditions should mean plenty of big females will move towards the river mouths in preparation for spawning.

With the constant damage to soft plastics by pike, tailor and toads being a problem this month, it is worth giving the new style Z Man plastics a go. These work well on flathead but are very teeth resistant and extremely good value for money. By super gluing a Z Man to the jig head you have a lure that actually lasts a long time.

Up north I’ve caught over 20 barra, Saratoga and tarpon on a single Z Man tail that was still fine, and in normal circumstances you would have used an entire pack of conventional tails. Adding a bit of scent seems to help a lot. Don’t mix the Z Mans with other plastics as they tend to melt and react with them; they are a very durable effective lure that is definitely worth a look.

Trolling for flathead should also be very effective this month, particularly on the edges of the flats. The weed growth hasn’t been too bad so far, and Lively Lures Micro Mullets are definitely worth giving a swim this month.

The Seaway and Jumpinpin often produce some nice mulloway on soft plastics this month and white Gulp 7” Jerk Shads are as good a lure as anything. This will also produce plenty of big flathead as well. Quite a few mulloway over 1m long should turn up this month on plastics in daylight hours.

The Nerang and Coomera can produce some great mangrove jack fishing in September as the conditions warm up a bit. Live baits, deep diving hard bodies and metals are all often effective and a low tide just on dark is the ideal time to try.

Work the rock bars and the bridges for best results. Quite a few of the early season jacks are over 50cm long and are a great fighting fish that seem to have become more common in recent years.

Overall, September is a great time to concentrate on the estuaries and focus on flathead. After such a big wet season the estuary is in excellent condition with plenty of bait and the fish so far have been fat and plentiful, and the average size will greatly increase this month.

Tight lines and good luck to all competitors in the Gold Coast Sportfishing Club’s Flathead Classic.

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