There’s something about dusky flathead that lures thousands of anglers into targeting them each year.
Perhaps it’s because they’re one of the most prolific species throughout estuaries, found in good numbers from brackish water all the way down the river. Or, perhaps it’s because few fish taste as good as the humble dusky flathead. When you also consider that duskies are one of the biggest species in southern estuaries (second only to mulloway), and are willing to hit all types of baits, lures and flies, it’s not hard to see why they’re so popular. As each year passes, respect for the dusky flathead only increases.
A huge appeal about the dusky flathead is the way this species offers such exciting sport fishing. Crocs (a name for big flathead) can be lured in ankle-deep water, and run hard on light gear. They are also not afraid to hit a variety of baits and lures, making them such a great all-round species. Their ability to be targeted so many different ways means that all anglers, regardless of personal fishing preferences, can find a fun way to target flathead. Some people even achieve consistent success on these mighty fish by using surface lures! However you decide to target them, there’s no better time to visit your local waterway with some sporting tackle to tangle with these undisputed queens of the estuaries!
Behaviour and locations
Dusky flathead are one of those great fish that are spread throughout entire estuary systems. They inhabit heaps of different locations, and bite well all throughout the day and night. Put simply, they’re incredibly fun and versatile fish to target.
Understanding how flathead feed goes a long way to improving catch rates. They’re without doubt one of the best ambush feeders that swims, and are built to attack prey in short bursts. Their shape and terrific camouflaging abilities means they spend the majority of their time laying still on the riverbed, looking up at unsuspecting prey. Rather than chasing down food or actively swimming around in search of it, they wait and hit quickly when something comes within their strike zone. This is a very efficient way to feed, and they don’t waste much energy in the process.
There are a few key location factors to consider when targeting flathead. During the run in tide, flathead often make their way onto shallow sand flats and riverbanks and feed on the array of baitfish and crustaceans in the area. They will face into the current so they can see their targets approach. Because cover is very important to help a flathead conceal itself, fish will often congregate around this, making it easier for anglers to target them. For example, if there was one strip of ribbon weed on an otherwise bare sand flat, you could bet that any flathead in the area would either be lying adjacent to or within the weed, as this would offer these fish more cover than the bare sand flat.
During the run out tide, flathead will move out of the shallows and position themselves on drop offs and in deeper channels. As the receding water forces bait from the safety of the shallows and into the dangers of deeper water, flathead pounce on them. They often rest on a drop off looking up, and use their lighting-fast reflexes to hit any bait as it moves off the edge of the flat into deeper water. This is also a great time to target creek mouths and any areas where deep channels transport substantial amounts of bait downriver.