Flathead Fishing From a Kayak or Boat
When the snapper season simmers down, most anglers turn their attention to targeting whiting. Me on the other hand, I start to re-focus on one of my favorite eating fish the humble flathead. It is the flathead that I most love to bring home an eat with my family.
When fishing for snapper my kayak/boat is pretty kitted out with a lot of gear. I use this gear to ensure I can find the snapper on the sounder and anchor up if need be, and usually travel with about four rods onboard.
However, when it comes to flathead fishing, I travel as light as possible. I have found over my years, as a kayak angler the need travel with half the gear, required for snapper fishing. The angler doesn't need a sounder to find an ambush predator that buries itself in the sand awaiting its prey. Nevertheless, a sounder is useful to find gutters and structures that flathead could be lurking in. Overall, a sounder is definitely not an essential item to carry on your yak given the weight of the battery required to power your sounder.
My chosen method of locating and fishing for flathead is a slow drift. I do find the most productive days to be when there is a little chop in the water, I believe the choppy conditions help to move the angler's baits or lures in a nice and visible action. My local honey hole tends to fire on a 6-9knt southerly. I have also caught some good flat head on a gentle northerly, but it's never been as productive as on a choppy day.
(65cm and 45cm flaties both caught in the middle of a sunny day on pink paternoster whiting rigs loaded on 30lb, whilst on a slow drift)
Using a relatively heavy sinker, the angler will find he or she will yield tremendous results in their catch rate. When fishing across terrain such as sandy bottom, the heavy sinker will bounce along the bottom and create puffs of sand. This action will be noticed by a flathead lying in wait and entice the fish to get up off the bottom and chase your bait. By using this method the angler doesn't need to drop a bait right on top of the fishes head, in order to get on to some hot action.
Flathead are not really a shy fish as they use their camouflage to ambush their prey, so you will find that flathead can be caught during daylight hours, as well as dusk and dawn. It is also worth noting that flathead will bite on a very sunny day and don't need overcast conditions to come out to play. I love to do a quick dash at my local spot in the middle of the day, and hit the water for one hour an come home with a nice feed of flatty without too much effort required.
I tend to reduce the amount of rods used, I only fish about two rods at a time. One rod will be loaded with bait the other with a soft plastic. The baited rod is always set up with a paternoster rig, either a standard flasher or a Super Ultra Violet (SUP) flasher rig. The colours that work best for me are the pink in the standard flasher and the yellow in the SUP. Both these rigs work incredibly well on commanding the flathead's attention. Individually the paternoster rigs are loaded with a very small size #4 circle hook. So there is no need to worry about striking the fish, as the hooks will do the work for you, and pin the fish in the corner of the mouth without any intervention of the angler. One of the advantages of using a paternoster rig with circle hooks is that the angler can concentrate of working their soft plastic rod. Although the hook is very small both these rigs are loaded on a 30lb leader, so I have never lost a good fish, I have landed flathead as big as 68cm without any concern or stress.
After a lot of trial and error I have found the best bait is squid. The first reason is that when you are on the drift and your baits are dragging along the bottom, you can rely on squid staying on your hook and staying in shape, for the entire journey of your drift. I only check or change my bait when I have completed a drift and then paddle or motor back to my starting position. Second to squid flathead respond very well to either pilchard chunks or even better to pilchard tails. However, given pilchards are a soft bait sometimes they may not last the journey of each drift.