Yeah. It’s true. To catch flathead you need to think like a flathead.
Flathead are an ambush predator for the most part. They’ll lie in wait buried up to their eyes in the sand or mud. Waiting for a tasty morsel to swim or drift buy.
When something takes their fancy they can dash out with incredible speed – and swallow it.
In other instances they’ll calmly open wide and almost let the food item drift into their mouth.
Due to their large mouths this can be a pretty large prey item. Even other flathead!
The tide running out is a great time for them to take advantage of this hunting technique. The retreating tidal current pulls fish schools, prawns – all living and recently deceased – towards the flathead.
So the kind of food they expect to see is what we are likely to have success with.
Also, foods high in nutritious value – like prawns, are going to be chosen more often.
Like all ambush predators, the flathead will try to expend the minimum amount of effort for the maximum return.
Whether you are using bait or lures to catch flathead always pay attention to the prevailing life in the water. Ask yourself. Are there schools of baitfish visible? Are their prawns, crabs, lots of shellfish like pippies?
Then try and offer, as bait, what you observe.
Not seeing anything standing out? Only have frozen whitebait? Then berley the area around you to attract the live schooling baitfish in.
Alternatively throw out some prawn pieces, if that’s what you’ve got. Fishing the “hatch” means fishing with a bait or lure that matches what food is naturally occurring in the water. This is commonsense, but often overlooked.
However – sometimes you’ve got to “make the hatch” happen. Berley will help towards achieving this.
While flathead will eat a wide variety of fleshy foods, from shellfish to crustaceans to small fish one seems to stand alone. Prawns (aka shrimp.) Prawns seem to consistently attract flathead. More so than squid and pilchards in many instances.
At least in my experience.
What you choose to place on your hook is going to vary a little from state to state in Australia.
So, as I live in Victoria, I’m going to start with suggesting bait that I know works there. Then I’ll add bait I’ve found successful interstate where conditions are warmer and available bait species vary.
My love affair with recommending prawns for flathead fishing comes with a caveat. Probably like just about no other bait. With the possible exception of shellfish. Goes off and becomes a stinky soggy mess as quickly as prawns. Keep them cold. Add extra sea-salt if you need to do so.
Keep those prawns from going off!
If you’re living outside of Victoria, particularly north and west of Victoria, you might like to consider adding bait such as:
Farmed frozen – and more recently freeze-dried – baits, however, are more environmentally friendly. I say this with two caveats:
Freeze-dried baits are safer, compared to frozen, because the process of freeze drying kills disease that may be present on the creatures being packaged up and sold.
Freeze-dried baits also contain more of the natural enzymes of the original organism than frozen bait alone. This is because of how the freeze-drying process works.
Freeze-dried foods are considered nutritious and can form part of a balanced diet for dogs, cats and even humans.
For a long time I’ve recommended freeze dried baits over frozen based on the environmental qualities of these baits.
However. I’ve become more and more reluctant to do so as I do not seem to catch anywhere near the number of fish using freeze-dried as I do fresh or good quality frozen baits.
Don’t forget to keep fresh and frozen bait cool because it goes off really fast in the hot Australian sun. Rotting, putrid bait isn’t going to catch you any flathead.
Recently I’ve begun experimenting with bait sourced for human consumption – that is farmed or caught in Australia. Rather than freezing, I’ve used a salting process, adding some “secret herbs and spices” with a good deal of success. I’ll be writing about that further in the coming months as it’s replacing my use of freeze-dried – which is more expensive and seems to be less effective.
There are three kinds of frozen bait when it comes to the kind you buy from a bait shop.
The kind that’s only a month or two old and the kind that’s been there since who knows when.
The third kind is the kind that’s been thawed and refrozen.
Needless to say, the first kind is best. I tend to find it’s far easier to get the first kind from your local dedicated fishing store than it is to rock up to a big service station that sells bait as an afterthought.
If fact. I buy my bait from my local tackle store and make sure I pack it into an eski with plenty of ice before heading to my favourite fishing spot.
Bait quality is the most important consideration before you even start fishing. Stale bait is not a great mouthful for most fish species. I’ve found there is a tendency for stale bait to be picked at – and spat out by fish.
While stale bait can make berley even then I tend to try and keep things as fresh as I can.
I prefer my food fresh, too. So I can’t say I blame the fish!
With chicken, I treat it the same way. It’s got to be non-rancid. I often treat it with sea-salt, along with a bunch of secret ingredients I’ll cover in another article. Then I keep this refrigerated or frozen. Taking it out and packing it into an esky with some ice.
The best frozen bait is seafood sold for human consumption. Fresh, frozen or thawed.
I’m not a fan of live baits. It’s not that I never use them. I just prefer not to do so. Live baiting can be cruel and in my opinion can promote unneeded suffering when it comes to higher order creatures like prawns, crabs and fish.
However, there’s no doubt it’s extremely effective. Often one of the most effective baits.
Personally I’d rather imitate a live fish using an artificial lure – and would suggest you do the same whenever possible.
While I would have expected freeze-dried bait to be an excellent choice the fact is I’ve had absolutely no luck using it on any species of fish!
Basically the principle is great.
The bait is freeze-dried, locking in all the goodness and enzymes.
Add water and it turns back into a softer, natural-looking bait.
It just hasn’t caught me fish. It may be something I’m doing wrong.
I would have dearly love this bait to work. It just seemed perfect – in principle.
Has it worked for you? Use the contact form to let me know!
The best rig for flathead fishing is nearly always the simplest rig.
That would generally mean the humble running sinker, but here’s a list of excellent flathead rigs:
Choose your hook to suit the size of your bait. But a hook size between 2 to 4/0 is a good choice.
When it comes to berley, particularly if you’re fishing with frozen or freeze-dried baits, try and use something the same as your bait. So if you’re using prawns – prawn shells or even some prawns in you berley is the way to go. Same goes for the likes of whitebait.
Having said this. Flatties are opportunists. They will eat a wide variety of foods. Even chicken breast! Often the tastes of a fish species will vary according to where they’re found and what the locally available foods are. So, as always, there are no 100% hard and fast rules.
As you might have guessed, if you’ve been reading any of my other flathead fishing articles, I recommend the use of attractants*, even with natural baits. It certainly seems to enhance them.