FLATHEAD and more flathead! September is the prime time for one of our tastiest estuary dwellers. They congregate at the mouths of the bays and creeks to breed – all the big females waiting for the males to do their job.
Now that anglers are releasing the big breeders, there have been more decent flatties around than in previous seasons. Places like Corio Bay and Coorooman Creek attract large numbers of spawning flathead. Both these areas have a big tidal movement of relatively clean water that can be alive with schools of poddy mullet, hardiheads, yabbies and greenback herring, which are some of the favourite prey of flathead. Your bait choice should depend on the area in the creek you’re fishing and location of yabby beds etc. Drifting the sandbanks using livies is a sure way to find where the most fish are feeding.
Many anglers in Yeppoon swear by lures, and most of these anglers reckon one lure works better than the rest. I’ve tried various types and methods, and in my experience it doesn’t make much difference providing that the lure suits the situation. When targeting flathead in 3-4m, the lure that gets the most hits is one that reaches the chosen depth and bounces off the bottom, flicking up puffs of sand but not ploughing the bed. These little puffs fool the flattie into thinking it’s found an easy meal.
Certain colours may pull more fish on any given day, though it probably has more to do with the lure running at the right depth. The only other method I’ve found to catch flathead regularly is casting and fishing Vibrotails in close to mangrove bases and sunken logs.
There’s so much scope with structures and drop-offs that you’re in with a chance just about anywhere. Plenty of good flatties can be nabbed in the shallows and there is no set rule as to what depth they prefer.
Fishing onto sand- and mudflats as the tide rises over them accounts for a share of the captures, although our biggest fish have come from the deeper channels of each of the creeks we tried. These fish were mainly hanging along the immediate drop and where smaller streams entered the central flow. Flathead are primarily ambush and opportunist feeders, so eddies are top spots to begin looking.
The cooler weather has hardly had time to move on and already barra are starting to turn up in numbers. In Central Queensland, because we don’t get the hotter days until October, the summer species are usually slow. This year we’ve had a winter average of over 1 degree higher than normal, which may have been a signal for fish like jack, fingermark and barramundi to turn up early. The biggest system around here, and part of the second biggest in Australia, the Fitzroy River, has miles of structures that regularly produce quality fish all year. In the middle of Rockhampton it’s possible to score many of the most sought-after estuary fish anywhere. As I write, barramundi are making a very early charge and, as usual, king salmon haven’t stopped.
One of the reasons barra are so thick here is the proximity to the barrage that divides the saltwater from Rocky’s freshwater supply. The barra wait for the best times to traverse between both levels. Unfortunately, we don’t have a decent fish ladder that allows a high enough percentage of fish through. This spot is so good it’s illegal to fish within 500m of the barrage. In years gone by, guys have tried everything from camouflage outfits to floating in on inner tubes at night to try to nail a monster barramundi.
Just outside the limit (the legal side) is the favourite haunt of some of Rockhampton’s better fisherman. Right between the two bridges that divide Rockhampton are some very extensive rock bars that make ideal hiding and ambush spots for predators. The rocks hold heat, particularly at low tide, and the temperature around them is considerably warmer than in other places in the river. Barramundi are drawn to the warmer currents when the weather is cool, and their feeding window is open for longer. When the prawns are running there’s no other bait in the same class. At other times bait is scarce and hard to catch, and this is when lures come into play.
Local lure maker Ken Richardson has a variety of minnow types that suit conditions in the river and can often improve catches. Other notable choices include gold Bombers, both deep and shallow, Reidy’s and Storm lures. For some reason deep divers have the runs on the board even in depths that require shallow divers. The trick is to work them so slow they look like they are on Valium, add a few twitches and, if you don’t get hit, keep going. Persistence pays; barra will smack a lure to stop it annoying them.
All in all, trips to the north wouldn’t be complete in the warmer months without at least checking the Fitzroy River.
Spotted mackerel have arrived as planned and the Capricorn Coast is reaping the results. The mackerel keep showing near the islands at the southern end of the bay and as September wears on the fish will work north and give the rest of us a shot. Next month I will include a map of the top mackerel and local reefy spots.
Mack tuna are in the middle of their annual pilgrimage and the schools passing through now are in full flight. Several of my mates take one for the table; the Japanese chef at the resort has a way with tuna that makes it edible. I keep one to cut up as reefy baits, using the theory that one coral trout is worth a bundle of mack tuna. Red chunky flesh is hard to beat, and everything that eats fish flesh will take mack tuna.
The Coal Capital Saratoga Spectacular comp, the main fundraiser for the year, will be held on September 4-5 (Father’s Day weekend). This group is a volunteer fish stocking association that holds the annual comp on the Mackenzie River at the Bedford Weir. Money raised is used solely for restocking the Mackenzie River system. This year will be the 10th year of commitment to fish stocking, and in order to round up enough volunteers to run the event they have gone into partnership with the Blackwater Power Boat and Ski Club.
This family-oriented event has entertainment on the Saturday night, food, licensed bar, free camping and hot and cold showers. For more info contact Ian MacDonald President MRFSA on (07) 4934 8446 or email --e-mail address hidden--
Saratoga and barramundi are the most likely captures here and, from the look of the season so far, we’re in for some good fishing. In the long term, comps like this one feed most of our local waterways. When we get our seasonal rain and the weirs overflow, large numbers of barramundi head downstream to breed.
1) Pigsy with a pair of Corio Bay flathead perfect size to eat, let the big ones go
2) Warren Farrington with a saratoga ready for release.
3) Philip Fleming with one and a half Keppel Bay mack tuna.Reads: 1015