Stealth – a movement not to be seen or heard!
Hunting the flats for any fish species can be a lot of fun but it can also be very frustrating at times. After many episodes where I was fishing flats in my boat only to spook fish prematurely I quickly decided a kayak was probably the best option for fishing glassed-out flats. Excessive noise that might scare off fish comes from many possible sources. For instance the noise produced from the aluminium hull, an electric and petrol motor, dropping something on the deck, etc. Kayak stealth has since become a little obsession of mine.
The whole concept is that a kayak can be used as a tool to sneak up on feeding fish in the shallows because it draws next to no water and is very quiet. The key to fishing glassed-out flats is minimal movements. I only use small, gentle strokes of the paddle and I turn off the electric motor. Once you reach a promising area it’s best to approach with stealth. I like to fish during first light when the water is glassy. That is usually when bait are very active and fish are mooching the flats looking for a feed. This is also the time when fish tend to come out of their comfort zones. Once the sun gets up and they disappear to their lairs. I like to fish very shallow water. In some cases 200 to 500 mm of water. But mostly to a meter depth tops. And a glassed out morning let’s you see the bait movement and any signs of fish disturbing water in the shallows. The use of sounders in these shallow environments is mostly not needed as you can read the water by eye anyways. I have seen plenty of large barra in 200 mm of water and their only trace is the slightest wake across the surface. Remember fish are predators with natural instincts that hunt with stealth most of the time also. Adapt to your surroundings accordingly and make the changes needed. Remember, if the fish doesn’t know you’re there you stand a lot better chances of getting them to bite. Kayak stealth is key!
Also, because most of the fish in super shallow water are aware of everything, I like to fish light. I generally run a 2/4 kg bream combo with a 2000 size reel, 6lb braid and 8 to 20 lb leaders. Even on barra just to get the bite. You won’t always land them but luck has to be on your side fishing light for big fish in the shallows. There are also plenty of other species that will mooch and feed in the shallows. Bream, flathead, grunter, trevally, salmon and the list goes on.
Lure-wise I usually use surface lures depending on target species and time of year. I use small chubby shallow divers, small prawn or white bait invitations rigged on either 1/12 th to 1/8 jig heads and 1/0 to 2/0 hooks. You can vary this depending on current and depth of course. But the more hang time of the lure you can have in the shallows the better. Even the Ecogear ZX Blades go surprisingly well in the shallows as they are a prawn imitation after all.
Wind can also be your friend in flats fishing as it masks unnatural sounds caused by the fisherman and disorientates bait to some extent and when bream fishing it can be a little easier to target them with a little wind. I like to fish the flats in winter mainly due to the species you can target. We all know flathead and bream are fond of cooler temps but so are a lot of other species and I like to treat most of it as bycatch most of the time. The most important thing is have fun and enjoy yourself and learn from the experiences you have on the water.
By Matt Hildebrandt – Check out his incredible Instagram gallery here.
Thinking of buying a kayak? Dream Kayaks is your provider of top quality fishing kayaks.