How to

Rock wall flathead

THE best land-based flathead spot I know of on the NSW south coast isn’t a sandflat or a mangrove-lined creek or a deep hole under a bridge – it’s a man-made granite rock wall.

Dusky flathead aren’t traditionally associated with granite boulders, but I can absolutely assure you they love lurking around rock walls.

The number of flatties I have caught from my favourite wall over the years is startling. I’m talking many hundreds. I should start actually counting them – I reckon I’ll hit a thousand one day.

Every season, between October and April, I can be pretty much assured of at least one or two fish from the wall.

When it’s firing – usually in December, January or February – I catch dozens. I have had to stop on numerous occasions because I’ve reached my bag limit. 

One day my 12-year-old caught nine in about an hour – all legal sized fish, with the best well over 60cm. I hardly caught any that day because I was so busy helping him land and photograph his fish. 

The other stunning aspect is how many lizards sit right in close to the wall, sometimes on the boulders themselves. 

They’re not there by accident. Breakwalls, rock walls and training walls in estuaries are a magnet for marine life and therefore attract a lot of predatory fish – flathead included.

They’re drawn to these areas to feed on the crustaceans, baitfish and other tasty creatures that gather around the structure in enormous numbers.

I use light spin gear and soft plastics, mainly 100mm wrigglers, fish and curl-tails, and methodically work my way up and down the wall, fanning casts out over a variety of terrain to gauge where the lizards are.

As well as focusing around the stones themselves, I am also able to make longer casts to access channels, drop-offs, weed beds and sandflats. 

The run-out tide, especially the last 3 hours of the ebbing tide, is my favourite for breakwall flattie fishing. As the water drains off the flats and weed beds, the fish move into the deeper sections of the channel and this is adjacent to the wall I frequent. Fish will feed actively right across the change of tide, so don’t discount the first hours of the run-in, either. 

My results are often best when the tide runs hard, but that does make fishing problematic. Upgrading to heavier jig-heads helps keep in touch with the bottom, but it can be tricky to detect hits in faster flowing water.

Smaller tides and less flow are much easier to fish, although the flatties may not be as bold or aggressive. You can combat this by lightening your rig and slowing down your retrieve. 

I am a fan of scents and gels and use a couple of different products to spice up the bite on slow days or when the water is a bit cloudy.

Don’t let colour in the water deter you from fishing for rock wall flathead as they’re a species that doesn’t mind a bit or turbidity, as long as it’s not extreme. In fact, they’ll often pounce on lures much more aggressively when the water’s a bit dirty. Obviously, use white or bright lures under these conditions.

You can baitfish just as effectively for rock wall flathead, provided you carefully consider your approach.

Anchoring a bait to the bottom with too much lead is pointless. You’ll catch the occasional flattie, but you’ll mostly hook rays or other unwanted species.

Using a light running sinker rig and a whole whitebait or strip of fish flesh, you can almost mimic your lure fishing counterparts by keeping the bait moving and covering ground.

Bait fishers will encounter a broader range of species than lure chuckers, which brings me to my next point.


The other species you will encounter when luring a southern estuary rock wall make this style of fishing even more appealing.

It’s because of the fish-attracting powers of rock walls. As I mentioned, they’re fish magnets.

While flicking soft plastics for flatties I have hooked a stack of other species, including some surprise packets.

Just the other day my lure was engulfed by a 3.5kg Australian salmon which proceeded the peel line from the 2-3kg outfit at an alarming rate. I eventually lost the fish when the hook pulled.

Years ago I hooked a fish that nearly spooled me by heading out into the current, doggedly refusing to submit.

After a lengthy fight it turned out to be a near-legal kingy, which was obviously released to fight another day.

Other suspects you’re likely to tangle with off southern rock walls include silver trevally, tailor, bream, snapper, flounder, whiting and even the occasional small mulloway. 

So, the next time you’re looking for a land-based flathead session, seek out your local rock wall and give it a crack.

You might end up a rock wall flattie addict like me!

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