Understanding Flathead Behaviour

Understanding flathead behaviour is one of the best ways to catch more flathead by learning how this remarkable fish species, eats & reacts.

Scientific Name: Platycephalus sp
(16 species in Australia)

Understanding flathead behaviour helps you choose the right locations, bait or lure and time of day.

The Flathead is an ambush predator. They do tend to lay buried in the sand, just their eyes showing, waiting for food.

Logically the outgoing tide is a great time for them to feed this way.

However, this doesn’t mean they do not cruise for food. Because they certainly do.

So while many flathead are going to be caught on the bottom it’s not uncommon to catch them midwater.

Some people have even had success using top-water lures over sandflats.

Understanding flathead behaviour is less about making assumptions and more about considering how the fish lives out its life.

Assumptions will force us into thinking in a very narrow way about the target fish. The flathead is an ambush predator principally. It will also consume dead fish, crustaceans etc as they wash past it on an outgoing tide.

Additionally – if food is available on the surface then they’re going to pursue food there too. Even though the most natural flathead behaviour is buried up to their eyes in sand.

Indeed you can often see flathead rising to the surface, during calm conditions, kissing the surface and ripples moving outward.

Polarised sunglasses are a great way to observe behaviour. Particularly in clear conditions. Polarised sunnies allow you to see into the water as they reduce light refraction. In some conditions, you’ll see the flathead.

Flathead Behaviour – Ambush Predators

In other conditions, you can see the impressions where they’ve been. Literally, flathead shapes in the sand.

You’ll also get a better sense of the environment. Scanning the water surface and identifying gutters, sandbars and in some instances reefs.

Value Of Polarised Sunglasses Can’t Be Overstated

Polarised Sunglasses For Fishing

I can’t overstate the value of a decent pair of sunglasses*, with a polarised treatment, as part of your tackle kit. They protect your eyes from UV glare and reduce eye fatigue. They also offer this excellent ability to peer into the water mentioned above.

These tools are an excellent resource to really study and learn about all fish, how they act and the marine environment. Beyond just studying flathead behaviour alone.

Naturally, if the conditions are turbid and choppy this visibility is not going to be apparent. But in good light conditions, they are indispensable. Allowing you to almost get right into the flathead’s environment.

The Best Tide For Flathead

Most seasoned flathead fishos will generally tell you the outgoing tide is one of the best times to fish for flathead.

This is because this tide brings a lot of food from upstream – for example, a beach or estuary – down towards where the flathead lays waiting in the sand or mud.

That’s not to say flathead can’t be caught on the rising tide. Because they can. It’s simply a guide. A way of thinking about how the behaviour of the fish can be used to our advantage when targeting them.

But don’t limit yourself to tides. Tides and flathead behaviour are a guide. It’s possible to catch flathead on the slack tide, too. It’s just that we can increase our chances if we can choose times where the environment lines up with the fishes species preferences.

Flathead Behaviour: The Best Time Of Day For Flathead

So. What’s the best time of day to target flathead?

Like many predator fish an hour either side of dawn or dusk is a great time. The suns rays are not directly on the water. Baitfish are often active.

So a lot of people quickly learn that flathead behaviour increases around dawn and dusk. More so if the tides correspond to the sun rising or setting.

Again. This is a factor in the behaviour of flathead. But it is not fixed in stone. I have caught flathead in slack tide in the middle of a hot afternoon in December.

Back To: Flathead Fishing: The Ultimate Guide



I'm Dave, I live and fish in and around Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
When it comes to fishing I love going out to land-based fishing spots, heading out in the tinny (aka an Aluminum Boat) and kayak fishing.

I've been fishing since I was a teen. Beginning way back in the 1970s. It was a hobby I picked up myself as my family certainly had no interest. Making me the black sheep! My favourite fish is Flathead and Snapper. Though I'm partial to Flake (Gummy Shark) and Calamari too! While I enjoy fishing for freshwater species like Redfin and Murray Cod I prefer eating saltwater species. They're just so mouth-wateringly tasty!

I love writing about some of my favourite Melbourne Fishing Spots while fishing around Victoria. As well as the tackle I use and test.
If you see me while you're out fishing say "G' day" - I'll be the one in a bush hat.

When I'm not fishing I'm working on my websites, such as Getfished, or writing computer software (my profession.)

I try to be as accurate as possible on this website. Most of the information is based on personal experience. However, if you spot an error or think there's something that I should add - no worries! Please use the Contact Form.