Port flatties start to stir
  |  First Published: September 2005

With Spring coming early this year, the estuary should be hotting up with bait fish appearing and predators in tow.

This is usually the month I start looking for flathead. They tend to re-emerge in the port every year about the same time.

The trigger is the weather. Nice, warm days which heat up the shallows excite all sorts of creatures out of their homes in the mud flats and after their dormant Winter flathead move in to dine on this smorgasbord of crustaceans and small fish.

There are a number of tell-tale signs to look for when trying to make the most of the start of the flathead season. Warmth is the key so in the early days of the season head straight for the shallows – under a metre of water.

Most big lizards that get taken at this time come from very shallow water. Look for water that is discoloured, not clear – warm water has typically more colour to it because of the active micro-organisms while cold Winter water is bereft of life.

If you get brown Winter scum on your lure, wait another week. The scum lifts with the warm days and flathead are less likely to bite at a lure or bait that is covered in it.


The shallows are where the life in the system congregates as the season begins. Even though flathead can grow bigger than the average goanna, they are perfectly suited to hunting this skinny water.

Anglers often sight big flathead as they cruise in search of an easy feed. Hopefully their next feed will be one with a hook attached.

I also like to fish where there is a bit of water flow nearby, a deeper channel is ideal.

Also throw your lure or bait in clear areas adjacent to weed beds. The ribbon weed seems to attract the sun’s heat a bit more because of its dark colour.

Even though flathead will make the most of this they will readily come right out of the weed to get an easy feed that’s not covered in thousands of strands of ribbon weed and looking like the creature from the black lagoon!


Hard-bodied lures wriggle and they catch fish – simple. Good colours are the ones that look good on the shelf. Ugly colours are just that! I like ones that dive to about a metre and have stripes over a basic colour of orange.

If you hadn’t noticed, soft plastics all the rage – we seem to be flooded in them. Take a look in any tackle store and there are more colours than a psychedelic technicoloured dream coat.

There are soft plastics that wriggle, flip, crawl, swim and skip and even more ways to fish them: You can lift and drop, fish them dead, flick them, twitch them, even rig them weedless or on a dropper – they must be the best thing ever.

There are more books, videos, DVDs and paraphernalia surrounding these magical new lures, no, ‘way of fishing’ than there has ever been in the history of Aussie fishing.

So just buy some and you can fish safe in the knowledge that you have the latest and greatest fad to hit our shores and some poor little old lady in a factory somewhere in China can afford to feed her family tonight.

On the other hand, for all you old-fashioned bait-soakers a pilchard on a set of ganged hooks can still catch fish, whitebait are also pretty good and even the humble prawn can appeal to a flattie at times.


Spring flathead are starting to stir as the days get warmer. Mick Jarvie pinned this one on a Squidgy at the corner of an island in the back half of Port Stephens.

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