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For the Yellow Fin Whiting Lure fanatics it is time for the withdrawal symptoms to start setting in, as the water temperatures start dropping.

Fortunately there is some pain relief, in chasing a few Flathead on lures.

Autumn brings a transition for the sandflats lure fisherman. YFW surface lure fishing drops off. Flathead lure fishing picks up. The “Southern Blue Spotted Flathead” becomes more prolific on the sandflats of the Northern SA Gulfs.


And it is the large accumulation of SEAGRASS WRACKS at this time of the year, along with the change in temperature, that starts it all off. Unlike the claims of some armchair academic experts, the sandflats areas where large Seagrass Wracks accumulate, is where you will find the greatest concentration of Flathead at this time of the year.



It is a season of change. And multiple factors come into play.

The most fundamental change is in water temperature. Daily air temperatures have a tighter range, fortunately without those cold mornings of winter. Water temperature, currently around 18c provides the ambient conditions for baitfish. The sandflat shallows hold a lot more baitfish in these temperatures. And they linger all day in the shallows. And where baitfish linger so to do Flathead.

Also and most importantly, large Seagrass Wracks form at this time of the year.

The annual shedding of seagrass leaves through Autumn and Winter along with the higher tides and prevailing breezes, causes the accumulation of seaweed wracks in the northern SA gulfs, over these cooler months.

In the ambient autumn temperature conditions the Wracks host an explosion of life in this ecosystem.

When the organic material decomposes and breaks down it contributes to the food web systems by supplying essential nutrients. The composting seagrass accumulations are the source of detritus and of particulate and dissolved nutrients which contribute to beach and inshore marine foodwebs. Starting from (micro) zooplanktons, amphipods, bivalves, worms, crabs, juvenile prawns, clickers and  … lots and lots of small baitfish. Seaweed Wracks are at the start of the food chain that delivers us the fish we catch.


   ~ Weed Wracks, the start of the food chain, so thick that getting onto the sandflats can be difficult

There are many other signs that the bait fish are around in greater numbers.

Their predators gather, both from above the water and under the water.

When the Bird watching groups start reporting some big numbers of bait fish eating bird varieties, you know the water borne bait fish feeders (Flathead) will also be about.


   ~  An abundance of Baitfish feeding Birds. A sure sign of Flathead around.

With all the indicators pointing to an abundance of Flathead, I decided to spend a couple days immersed in the northern St Vincent Gulf sandflats environment.


   ~  Catching fish is a bonus in this delightful environment

The best terrain is the weedy areas. The baitfish hold and shelter there and so do the Flathead chasing them.

Weed barren sand patches hold very few Flathead. However a few whiting are likely while traversing a Flathead barren sand patch.



I Don’t subscribe to a long held approach for lure fishing Flathead.

I don’t fish the bottom. I don’t bounce a lure across the bottom of the sand, puffing the sand.

Flathead have eyes on the top of their heads. Above their head is their main field of vision. The area that they will be concentrating on. Not so much the peripheral vision areas out  in front of them on the sand.

So position your lure on top of their heads … Simple!

For this my methods include fishing Soft Plastics under a float. These days, I am mainly using floating or suspending hardbody lures. All with retro fitted assists and single hooks to avoid fouling on and cleanly pulling through the weed adjacent to the Weed Wrack areas.



   ~  The successful lures on this outing. OSP Bent Minnows and Rapala Shadow Raps   ~  



   ~  Another victim of the OSP Bent Minnow 106mm - Colour: H09. Crystal Blue Shiner




   ~  One on the Rapala Shadow Rap 07 - 70mm Colour: Moss Back Shiner. It pays to cast over the same area with 2 size lure offerings. Sometimes they are not in the mood for a big feed.



   ~  Assist hooks at work. Flathead can be clumsy strikers of a lure due to a blind spot created from the setting of their eyes. Apart from pulling through weed easily, assist hooks also increase your hook up rate.


This concept of fishing lures above the flathead’s eyes rather than in front of it, has in recent times gained a lot of acceptance with the enormous popularity and success of the floating glide baits now available. They hold and dance above the Flathead’s eyes.

Also bear in mind you are wading and fishing shallow water. Between knee to waist deep. So there is no need for any deep diving lures.

Currently my favourite lures are the OSP Bent Minnow and the Rapala Shadow Rap which were both successfully used on this outing

Your lure retrieval style is critical to your success rate with catching Flathead.

They do not behave like Salmon or Snook. Flathead are not morphologically evolved for chasing down bait fish like Snook or Salmon are. They lie in wait as an ambush predator with a explosive burst of speed. Often slowly stalking, following the baitfish. Then with an explosive burst lunge and seize the baitfish. Especially when the baitfish momentarily pauses.

There is plenty of drone video footage here at JC's Fishing Shenanigans of Flathead stalking baitfish … : https://www.facebook.com/JCsFishingShenanigans

As we most commonly chase Salmon & Snook with lures we have become accustomed to a fast retrieval rate. And the YFW surface lure fishers only know to retrieve fast and continuous!

The lure retrieval rate for Flathead is very slow … Extremely slow! A few erratic twitches now and then followed by a few seconds of dead pause. Should a Flathead strike and you miss the hook up. Pause again and it will most like pounce back on your lure. The stalking or hidden Flathead likes to strike when the baitfish pauses.


   ~   In knee deep shallow water they go hard. You need to play them out before gliding them into the net.

My arthritic wrists are certainly enjoying the change in retrieval tempo !


Over the two days of pleasant weather I covered a lot of ground, wading the sandflats, searching for and hunting down these beasts. This style of fishing does take some physical effort, but it is the most satisfying experience to successfully find your prey.

I kept 14 fish ranging from 45cm to 69cm. I even picked up a few whiting while traversing a Flathead barren, weed free sand patch.



   ~  My catch retained for the 2 day outing. I even managed a few whiting while traversing a Flathead barren sand patch.



   ~  these Flathead are high 60s. Size enhanced by photos taken from the “Anglers Angle” !! T

I also caught and released a couple of 70+cm Flathead.


   ~  75cm Blue Spot Flathead … Released



   ~  Taken close to the weed wracks. A 72cm Flathead … released.


So WRACK ON !!! It’s time to fish the weedy Sandflats.

Cheers and tight lines Des

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Great post. After reading this I need to get myself sorted for some flathead fishing on the flats.

What conditions are you looking for? Is it like YFW with the tides, aiming for when they are concentrated at the bottom of the tide? What surface conditions are you looking for?

I'm off to Tackle World on Thursday night to fit out my lures with new assist hooks and then hit the flats.



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9 hours ago, MAH said:

Great post. After reading this I need to get myself sorted for some flathead fishing on the flats.

What conditions are you looking for? Is it like YFW with the tides, aiming for when they are concentrated at the bottom of the tide? What surface conditions are you looking for?

I'm off to Tackle World on Thursday night to fit out my lures with new assist hooks and then hit the flats.




Mark, It is always the Food stupid! :8_laughing: ... the saying borrowed from political campaigns ! I am sure you will get my drift :22_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

So it is all about the best conditions for the baitfish.

Always follow the baitfish. 

The falling Tide is best. The baitfish retreat and congregate in weedy areas. Flathead follow and also congregate. I don't get as many on the incoming tide.

Too Windy. Little baitfish need protection and head out deeper or into sheltered deeper channels.

Too Cold. Deeper water is warmer than the chilly shallows for the sensitive baitfish. And this also applies with heat and hot water.

Overcast. Baitfish think they are safer and are more dispersed over the flats. Maybe the birds above don't see them as easily. I have trouble seeing the terrain on overcast conditions as well. No concentrated baitfish makes harder fishing.

Sunny. Bait fish head deeper and into the weeds for cover. Birds pick them off too easily in clear sunny conditions. This helps as it concentrates your fishing areas. I have had an overcast slow day turn on it's head as soon as the sun came out and stayed out. 

So let us configure the idyllic day :laugh:

There isn't one :22_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:  I have combed through my fishing logs to find the magic combo and there ain't one. They are on excel spreadsheets and i check results by various logged factors  in ascending and descending order  .... anal analysis :8_laughing:

The single most important factor is the presence of baitfish in the shallows. Then follow them depending on the conditions on the day. 

In regards to the presence of baitfish  ... NOW is the best. The ambient water temperatures is a primary reason. The food source created by the composting Weed Wracks increases the presence of baitfish.  Spring ain't too bad either. Ambient water temperatures but not as much food for the baitfish. 

Go out and get them! Good luck!

Cheers, Des

PS. Tell Tackle World to send me my commission :1311_thumbsup_tone2: :22_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


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The best I have taken is an 81cm “Southern Blue Spotted Flathead”. Back in the day when I  was not as aware of the breeding aspects. 

The Eastern States Dusky Flathead is a bigger species. So 81cm for a Blue Spot is in the upper end of its size range. 



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