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Flatties going flat out
  |  First Published: September 2012



With the days starting to get warmer and the daylight hours extended, September is a great month for anglers to get out onto the water in relative comfort.

The variety of species on offer can be exceptional with a list as long as your arm for both inshore and bluewater anglers. Often the hardest decision is picking your destination or target species.

Weather patterns have been bizarre at times over the last year, which makes trip planning difficult. Weather predicting doesn’t get any easier in September, however with so much variety on offer, the best bet is to get out on the water whenever the opportunity presents itself. Let’s look at a few of your options.

FLATHEAD

September offers some of the best flathead fishing for the year with good numbers of larger breeding females and their male entourage entering the creeks and estuaries to go about their business. As a result, good numbers can be taken using a variety of methods and techniques by both land-based and boating anglers.

For those fishing from the shore, especially in the creeks, rivers and other estuarine areas, flathead present a desirable and worthy target. As they can be found in fairly shallow water, those fishing from the bank can easily access this bread and butter species. Obviously anglers with a boat have greater access to a wide variety of flathead holding areas, especially in the estuarine environment.

Both lures and baits can be put to good use on flatties in all situations. Understanding how flathead feed will greatly improve your chances of putting your offering in front of them to solicit a strike. They are ambush predators and lie semi-submerged in the sand or mud and wait for a tasty morsel to come close enough to pounce upon.

Their lateral line acts like their ear and they can use this to detect the presence of prawns and baitfish feeding in the bottom layers. They can have extremely good camouflage and can change the colour of their body to blend in with the environment in which they are hunting. For this reason, body colour is not the best way to identify flathead. Fanning out the tail fin will allow accurate identification with each species having its own distinct pattern and colour.

Large flathead in excess of 75cm are females and must be quickly released back into the water all year. Keeping them out for a period of time can cause them stress, which is often indicated by a white slime along the back, and will often result in them re-absorbing their eggs, meaning less baby flathead and fewer mature fish in years to come.

Different species of flathead have differing size and bag limits so accurate identification is important to protect you from fines and flathead species from over fishing.

Targeting flathead can be fairly easy for those who learn their habits. As the tide rises they sit in the channels and gutters adjacent prominent bank systems, feeding opportunistically on whatever comes past. Trolling lures or drifting baits will allow you to cover prominent areas of water quickly and effectively.

As the tide breaks over the mud and sand banks, flathead will move up on top of the banks to feed. The smaller specimens make this transit first, then the larger ones as the water depth increases, offering them more protection and allowing them to feel less conspicuous in this environment.

The better quality specimens will often lie in the small gutters, melon holes and recess contours of the flat as well as other areas of cover including weed beds. These larger fish will generally reside in the areas with the best ambush spots.

Drifting these flats and casting all manner of lures or dragging baits will usually work a treat. Lures that periodically bang the bottom are most likely to get noticed

As the tide turns the larger specimens will recede from these flats and take up ambush positions along the edges of prominent banks where they feed on the baitfish, crustaceans and other morsels forced from the flats with the receding waters. Again, the largest fish will take up the best ambush positions, which is generally near the lowest point of the flat (often the mouth of a small gutter) where the most water and the last water will drain from the flat.

This situation probably provides the easiest situation for anglers chasing flatties. Hopping plastics or blades down the decline, drifting the bank edge with baits or trolling lures that bang periodically along the bottom will usually produce the goods in this situation.

Shore based anglers are best to walk the edges of these flats and cast their offerings. These can include small, lightly-weighted whole fish baits (whitebait, pilchards, hardiheads, frogmouth pilchards etc.) or sinking lures (blades, plastics, vibration baits etc).

Don’t wade as often the flathead are very close to the bank and you will spook them before you can put an offering in front of them

Land-based anglers can try their luck at the mouths of canals and the flats at the mouth of prominent creek and river systems. Try around the mouth of the Pine River (Hornibrook Bridge), Kedron Brook Floodway, the mouth of Tingalpa Creek, Manly Foreshore and Scarborough Foreshore just to name a few. However, flathead can show up in some pretty unusual locations at times so your chances are great at a variety of locations throughout September.

MANGROVE JACK

Even though water temperatures are still fairly cool, mangrove jack are available if you specifically target them, especially towards the latter half of the month. Most successful anglers cast lures around prominent structure (bridges, jetties, rock walls, snags etc) within the creeks, rivers and estuaries. Offerings can include hard body minnow lures, soft plastics, vibration baits, poppers, stickbaits and even blades. Good technique is often more important than the lure choice.

Live baits are also a common way to get results with mullet, herring, prawns, gar and small pike being commonly used. These baits are generally fished close to the bottom around prominent structure. Quick reflexes and a solid drag setting will increase, yet not guarantee your success. Flathead, estuary cod, trevally, tarpon, hairtail and many other species will also respond to these techniques.

MULLOWAY

Although numbers of these awesome sport and table fish will be tapering off throughout the month, there should still be a few around. Often some of the better jew of the season are taken during September, so they are worthy of your efforts.

Plastics, vibes and other lures will readily take the smaller school mulloway up to a metre, but many of the larger specimens fall for live baits. Mullet are probably the prime offering, with prawns, pike, herring and others a close second. Just legal tailor make a great bait for the larger mulloway.

The Brisbane River regularly produces a good number of sub metre fish and the occasional larger specimen, but few quality 30lb fish are caught. Areas such as the Jumpinpin Bar, Gold Coast Seaway, Tweed River and the shallower offshore reefs are a better bet for those trophy specimens, but you can expect to put in a degree of effort for each fish caught.

BAY PELAGICS

Anglers cruising through Moreton Bay would be wise to keep a look out for surface feeding pelagics as September can produce some reasonable numbers of several species. The smaller tunas and bonito are probably the most common captures however longtails and mackerel are also serious options.

Often you will need to search a little to locate the more prominent action, however reliable areas can include the Pearl Channel, along the front of Bribie Island, Rainbow Channel, Harry Atkinson area and the Four Beacons. Further south the action can be found along the Naval Reserve Banks, behind Peel Island to Dunwich and down past Coochiemudlo.

The longtails will usually be fairly scattered and feeding in a casual manner. Sometimes you will need to try various offerings before you achieve success. Chromed slugs and slices are a time proven offering that are easy to cast and use, however other offerings are often necessary to achieve results on the tough days. Poppers, hard stickbaits, soft plastic jerk shads, Sebile Magic Swimmers, Shimano Waxwings, other similar offerings are well worth trying.

School mackerel are also common at times throughout September, especially in the shipping channels, Rous Channel and Rainbow Channel. Jigging metal slices and chromed slugs around prominent beacons will often be rewarding. Trolling deep diving minnow lures around the edges of major banks on a rising tide or up on top of the banks towards the upper stages are other proven approaches. You can also try trolling spoons or drifting pilchards throughout the Rous Channel, especially the eastern end between the last few red beacons and first green.

Cobia are another popular target throughout September and can be caught around most of the beacons in the Northern Bay and around other structure such as artificial reefs, ledges and shallow coffee rock areas.

Plastics and other lures can work, however the majority of larger cobia are taken on live baits, and the bigger the better. Popular offerings include whiptails, yakkas, slimey mackerel, sand crabs and anything else that can be caught where you fish for cobia (adhere to the various size and bag limits). Heavy monofilament leaders, snelled circle hook rigs and a good degree of effort and luck will be required to land the larger specimens, which can be in excess of 40kg.

BAY ISLANDS

Fishing around the bay islands can be fairly good throughout September with a good deal of variety on offer. Snapper in particular can be fairly prevalent although how far out from the island you need to fish will depend on the water clarity resulting from the westerly winds. The higher the water clarity, the deeper the water you will need to fish to get amongst the better quality snapper.

Sweetlip, school mackerel, juvenile yellowtail kingfish, morwong and a host of other species are likely in these waters for those usuing soft plastics, blades, other lures and a variety of well-presented baits. Other areas worth prospecting throughout September include the Harry Atkinson, Curtin Artificial, Benowa Track grounds, Cowan Ledge and the various wrecks throughout the bay (Houseboat, Kaptajn Nelson, Bulldozer etc).

Drifting over these wrecks with a pilchard or a small live bait, will likely result in a snapper, cobia, mackerel or yellowtail kingfish. Start your drift well up from your mark and skirt wide of it when repositioning for another drift.

Anchoring well up current and floating your baits back is also a productive way to fish these zones and many others. Soft plastics, especially jerk shad styles, as well as blades and other offerings can be jigged over these wrecks as you drift. Peel, Green, Mud and King islands are well worth a trip throughout September and although there’ll be fewer snapper during the colder months, the quality is generally better most of the time.

BRISBANE RIVER

The rock walls at the mouth of the river have been consistently producing good numbers of snapper over the last few months. Anglers have taken these on all manner of soft plastics and other lures as well as baits, especially small live mullet and prawns.

The area around the dredges have been fishing well and plenty of anglers are venturing into these zones despite the fact that you are not supposed to be within 200m. The bottom silt and debris stirred up by the dredges unearths a broad array of food items making these areas popular with snapper, mulloway, cod, bream, threadfin and several other species.

Right along the Reclaim Wall and even on the eastern face the snapper fishing has been good most of the time. Other captures have included cod, mulloway, bream, and flathead. The Clara’s Rocks area has also been fishing exceptionally well at times, except when large numbers of boats decide to anchor within close proximity to each other. This area has readily produced snapper, cod, bream and the occasional mulloway.

The oil pipeline area has also been worth a look especially for those with live baits. Threadfin, flathead, snapper, bream and various species of rays are commonly taken here. Casting your soft plastics (especially paddle tail shads and Prongs) around lighted areas at night can result in threadfin, tailor and mulloway. As you cruise the river, these lighted areas can be located around bridges, jetties, CityCat terminals, pontoons and other man-made structures.

CONCLUSION

With so much great fishing on offer and air and water temperatures on the rise, September is a great month to get out there and experience the great outdoors. With school holidays upon us once again, plenty of families will be out on the water experiencing the great outdoors. Often a little more patience is required at the ramps when you have kids as it can take a little longer to get everyone one aboard safely.

With heightened water traffic, especially on the inshore grounds, anglers need to be a little more courteous and aware of what is going on around them to avoid mishaps. There will be plenty of good weather and opportunity for all to get out fishing and get amongst some of the quality fish on offer. Enjoy!

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