|Demi Lambert showing
how it is done
Presented from Issue 102
The humble Flathead is without doubt the Tasmanian anglers most sought after recreational saltwater species.
They can be found virtually anywhere there is a sandy bottom, from our estuaries to our bays, they are easy to catch and as an added bonus, are fabulous on the dinner table as well.
Mike Stevens has asked me to pen a few words together aimed at those that want to start targeting this species and perhaps aren’t really familiar on how to go about it, so here goes.
There are three distinct species of flathead found around Tasmania and perhaps the most common is the southern sand flathead.
They can grow to around 50cm in length and over 2 kg in weight, but due to them having to be around 16 years of age in order to reach this size; fish like these are the exception rather than the rule.
Their colours vary depending on surroundings but they are usually a light brown or mottled pattern on top with a white belly.
Beware the poisonous spikes around the gill plate area that can inflict a painful wound and as the poison also contains an anti coagulant, once an unwary angler is spiked, they will also find out it can also take quite some time to stop bleeding, so be warned! A good way to deal with fish is take a solid cloth or piece of towel to hold them while unhooking.
If struck, the best remedy I have found is vinegar.
Southern sand flathead can be caught on a variety of baits and lures. When using bait, I prefer squid, but it must be fished right on the bottom though.
Another common species is the Tiger flathead, commonly called king flathead.
A chunkier model of flathead, they possess a light brownish body with orange brown spots. Unlike the southern sand flathead, this species possess a good set of teeth that can inflict a painful bite should the unwary angler put them anywhere near its mouth.
They are caught by fishing over a sandy bottom and are often found amongst the other species. Generally though they are offshore in water up to 400 metres deep.
Growing up to 65cm in length, they can live up to 17 years of age.
The third species I would like to make mention of is the one that gets the locals the most excited due to its size, the blue spot flathead, also known as the Yank flathead.
Although not as common as the tiger and southern flathead, its size can reach up to 8kgs, It is mainly found around the northern Tasmanian coastline, from shallow water up to depths of around 30 metres. They are also found on sandy bottoms and thin seagrass beds.
There are many types of rigs that will work on flathead. Pink Silstar Jig-ems are one of my favourites.
A simple Paternoster works well for flathead. Ensure you have a sinker to suit the depth, current and drift. If you aren’t on the bottom you won’t catch flathead.
The best times to catch flathead
In a nutshell, now, the warmer months seem to make them more aggressive and therefore they can be caught in larger numbers, that said, with a bit of effort, any time of the year will generally produce a fish or two.
If fishing off the shoreline in an estuary such as the Tamar River, fishing the drop offs on the turn of a run out tide can produce some good specimens as they lie in wait for the last of the baitfish to disperse.
If fishing from a boat, a good sea breeze of around 5 to 10 knots will push your vessel along nicely so you can cover sufficient water until you find a productive patch of fish.
If you do get on to a good number at a particular spot, once the bite slows down, go back over it and start again, chances are there will still be plenty to be caught on that next drift.
A GPS is very useful here, especially if you are a long way from landmarks.
A GPS means you can go back to the exact spot rather than guessing. You can also mark spots as a waypoint and go there first next time you go out. It may not be the right spot, but it is a good place to start.
Tackle for flathead
As with all fishing, tackle can be as simple or complicated as you want. Entry level fishing combo’s will do the trick and my personal preference is to spool your reel with 50 pound braid. I like the bigger (reel) combo’s with shortish rods as you can retrieve a lot of line per turn of the reel.
Flathead don’t fight much so it is just a matter of getting them up quickly. Thicker braid is good for bottom bashing as it seems to lend itself to less tangles – especially if your anglers are not familiar with the vagaries of braid.
Braid also allows you to feel every knock and bump on your line as opposed to the standard monofilament.
Perhaps my best tip though is to drop into a tackle shop and get some sabiki or “jig em” rigs.
|There are many types of
rigs that will work
Pink Silstar Jig-ems are
one of my favourites.
These come in various colours, my preference is anything in pink.
Pre made rigs such as these consist of a row of three hooks with coloured flies hanging off them, simply tie this onto your braid, add a bit of squid on each hook along with a sinker of appropriate weight that you need to get it on the bottom, and you’re away, simple as that.
Remember, legally though you are only allowed three hooks maximum.
Take particular notice of your drift speed, depth and sinker weight. If your sinker is not on the bottom you won’t catch fish. Use a clip to attach your sinkers and add more if you aren’t on the bottom
A good drift is essential; the sinker kicks up the sand and that in itself attracts the flathead. The drift also helps you find the fish as explained above.
Another good tip when fishing from a boat and things are quiet, and maybe your drift is slow, is to continually jerk your line up and down. As flathead are ambush predators, this technique often brings on an aggressive response. You are doing the ‘kick up the sand’
I have written about bait fishing in this article as this is what my family focuses on when after the humble flattie.
I am aware of many that swear by the use of soft plastics, especially those models with the twisting grub type tails.
The truth is, I don’t think it matters how you fish for them, if you’re in the right place at the right time and the flathead are hungry, you will catch them and you will catch them in numbers.
It is for this reason they are a great species to pursue when you wish to introduce your children to fishing, the action is often constant and offers enough of a distraction to keep them off that bloody computer for a while!. Bringing home a feed for the family caught by one’s children is always a memory to cherish, I remember the first time I did,... “way back in the day”, mind you, the fish were very small and our plates involved an exorbitant amount of chips just to fill everyone, but as a young boy I sat there with my chest puffed out and soaked up all the compliments my mother and father put my way.
With a possession limit of 30 fish and a size limit of 30 cm, now days, hopefully the fillets provided for on your families dinner table, are now lot bigger.
Flathead in egg n bread crumbs sure takes some beating.
It seems more and more now that King George whiting are making their way into the catches of flathead fishers.
From the far north west coast to the south; including Montague, Tamar River, Georges Bay, Coles/Great Oyster Bay and more. Often these are ‘chance’ catches on flathead gear.
So what you might think are funny bites that don’t hookup may be whiting. You will need smaller hooks and a bit more finesse, but as King George whiting are a premium table fish it may be worth your while.
Try a similar, but lighter paternoster rig to flathead but put a red bead above the size 6 hook. You can buy specialist rigs for just a few dollars. The Pisces brand are one of the better brands.
Good whiting baits are prawns, squid and sandworms.