Flathead North Queensland Style

DSCN5394   The cooler wintery weather has certainly forged its dominance upon us early – even those in North Queensland have been feeling the big chill. Whether winter even exists in the northern part of Queensland is a somewhat debatable topic, but as Luke Galea explains in the latest article in Kaydo’s flathead series, there are a few fishy advantages to the cooler weather.
  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining for a second. Our winter in the north of the State is still warmer than the summer of most southern states so I consider myself very fortunate to live where I do. One thing that this cooler seasonality does do, is that it brings with it a different wave of predators for us piscatorial hunters to target. Our traditional summer species go into a degree of hibernation for the most part and we now may need to change out tactics or visit new locations to consistently continue to catch fish.

Trophy Species on Hold

Author Luke Galea with another of one of his favourite winter species - the flathead.

Author Luke Galea with another of one of his favourite winter species – the flathead.

Common summer target species such as barramundi, mangrove jack, fingermark, threadfin salmon and sooty grunter go off the bite to a large degree. These fish are certainly some of my favourite species to target (especially sootys) that one would be forgiven for being a little depressed at this time of year. They can still be caught, although you will certainly earn your keep as you will need to work much harder to entice a strike. In winter, you may still find success with these summer species by fishing shallower, warmer waters or around heat absorbing structures such as rock bars and bridge pylons. Impoundment barra will inhabit the shallower, weedy bays of the dam to stay warm. Rock bars and bridge pylons are natural heaters that absorb the suns heat/energy and expels it into the immediate surrounding water. Almost all major rivers will contain rock bars and bridge pylons in the urban area’s, so you should look to give yourself the best chance of catching those harder to tempt fish by fishing these locations in winter.

The Jelly Bean Principle

The perfect 'jelly bean' for a flatty, fresh nippers.

The perfect ‘jelly bean’ for a flatty is a soft plastic – even aggressive smaller fish like this one will target plastics intended for their bigger brothers and sisters.

You could also apply the “jelly bean” method and downsize your lures. Fish that are sluggish or lethargic will be more inclined to eat a smaller offering as they will need to expend less energy chasing it down and digesting it if it were a real baitfish. For example, if you have had a lot to eat and someone offers you another large meal you will probably not take this on, however if you had a full belly and someone offered you a bite size portion, ie a jellybean, they you are more than likely to scoff that thing down aren’t you?. The same goes for fish. Going smaller with a jellybean sized lure when fish are sluggish will tempt more bites.
Almost Invisible: Another quality flathead in the closing stages of a battle.

Almost Invisible: Another quality flathead in the closing stages of a battle.

Applying the methods and mindset mentioned above will test your fish finding ability and persistence to the limits during winter and whilst chasing summer species. You could persist with these methods and species and challenge yourself OR you could take the easier approach and fish for those species that become more readily available during the winter months. These fish are often termed bread and butter species and are species such as bream, whiting, blue salmon and flathead. These fish often bring back great memories as they are the species the majority of us learnt to first target as a kid and our love for fishing stemmed from. They also taste great (especially whiting and flathead).

Flathead 101 NQ Style

Up there as one of the better sized flatties for the day, this one took a deep diver and put up a great fight!

Up there as one of the better sized flatties for the day, this one took a deep diver and put up a great fight!

I will focus primarily on flathead for this article. Anywhere there are mud or sand flats and a food supply, you will find lizards. Yabbie beds are a perfect place to find flathead as it will be a spot they reside, 1) to feed on yabbies and 2) to lay and ambush small baitfish cruising over the flats. They are great fun on light gear and are always a reliable option for small soft plastics, vibes or hardbodied lures. Another awesome trait they exhibit is the fact they are just as easy (if not easier) to catch off the bank than in a boat. The reality is, many people don’t have the luxury of a boat to fish from. The fact they are plentiful to the landbased angler makes them readily available to everyone. In fact, I swear I have caught more off the bank that I have in my boat. Arriving at a location roughly 1.5 – 2 hours after the bottom of the tide is certainly my tidal preference for chasing lizards on the flats. The reason being, that the water is rising over the flats and the flathead will be moving up on these flats to feed upon the freshly inundated yabbie beds. If flathead inhabit the area, you will often see tell-tale signs from where they have been laying in the sand. Typically knows as flathead lays, if you see the evidence of these, you can bet your bottom dollar that these fish won’t be too far away.

Soft Plastics are the go

Another victim of a well presented soft plastic.

Another victim of a well presented soft plastic.

Small soft plastics and shallow running minnow lures will get the job done any day of the week. A heavily weighted soft plastic or a lure that dives slightly deeper than the depth of the water is a good option as they will dredge the bottom, stir up detritus and attract fish from afar. As far as soft plastics go, little 3 inch Atomic prongs or Atomic fat grubs matched to a 1/8th ounce jighead with a 1/0 hook is a perfect match. Little hardbodies such as the Atomic Hardz Crank 38 are also dynamite, particularly the colour of gold wolf. When using these artificials your best option for a rod and reel of choice is a light spin combo. A 4-10lb, 7 foot spin stick matched with a 2500 sized shimano spin reel loaded with 6lb braid is perfect. I choose to run a shimano Stella 2500FI and it is seriously the nicest reel I have ever used. Although stradics, rareniums and sustains are also great quality reels and a more affordable to many more people.
 

Don’t be bitter now the winter chills are upon us. Go wade the shallows with light spin gear and a handful of lures, catch a few flatty and have a ball!

     

Previous Stick Baiting for Giant GTs
Next Heading North: Gearing up for a Weipa Fly Fishing Adventure

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