Upsizing your flathead catchesJohn Orchard
Flathead are the mainstay of the recreational fishery and whilst many people target other species on a regular basis, everyone loves a good feed of "flattie" and everyone hopes to catch that elusive monster flathead - The Lizard.
Unfortunately with increased fishing pressure it would seem they are all too often few and far between and anglers feel they need a boat to head out to deeper waters.
Not necessarily so - there are a few ways for the shore-based angler to increase their chances of landing better than average "flatties" on a regular basis.
The first thing to consider is what time of the year is it? During late winter, spring and even early summer, many of the larger flathead are to be found in close to shore - and I do mean CLOSE, as it is at this time of year that many come inshore to breed.
Many of these fish will be heavy in roe, so it is important to "fish for the future" and only keep enough for a good feed in order that future stocks have a chance to be replenished.
At this time of year they are virtually right on the edge of the inshore drop-off and can easily be caught surf fishing or spinning with soft plastics or lures.
Ideal locations are those bays that have patches of weed scattered throughout which offer shelter on the outgoing tide; when the tide turns to come back in - so do the flathead and you will find them patrolling the sandy edge between the weed beds and the beach.
Other key inshore areas not to be overlooked are any rocky structures - whether they be rocky points or simply patches of rock out in the middle of "no mans land" - remember, flathead LOVE structure as they are ambush feeders - and structure draws baitfish.
The second thing to consider is the size of your "bait" - even a small flathead will attach a relatively large bait, which means if you don't counteract this you will spend a lot of time reeling in quantity rather than quality.
When chasing bigger flathead I am a lover of the larger moving artificial lures in comparison to lobbing out stationery "natural" baits - it is amazing how big a bait "rat" flathead will inhale given the time to force it down their throat.
If you are serious about trying to target quality flathead - the number one rule is think bigger than normal lures and use braid with a mono leader to increase casting distance and "feel".
Pre rigged soft plastics such as 3" and 4" Tsunami Shad Tails are a great way to start as are Berkley Gulp's and Bozo soft plastics around the same size and even larger.
There are a myriad of different colours to choose from under each of these brands so don't be shy to mix it up a bit - as a general rule I would start with bright colours on a dull day, and dark colours on a bright day. This is purely to gain a contrast between the lure and the "background" sky - remember, they are ambush feeders lying on the bottom and looking up so try and make it easier for them to spot your offering quickly.
Provided there isn't too much weed about to foul the hooks, larger (floating style) bibbed lures also work well as you can "crank" them down until they put up a "puff" of sand and then let them float back up a couple of feet before repeating the process over and over again - this style of fishing keeps the lure in the strike zone longer than a standard retrieve and can create some exhilarating fishing at times.
If the "drop off" is a bit far off to reach with bibbed lures or soft plastics, the old "lead winged" Tassie Devil cobra wobbler makes a great flathead lure if you can find a tackle store that still has any left (they ceased making them with the recent rise in lead prices). These things cast the proverbial country mile and have a great action.
Last but not least, if you are REALLY serious about landing that monster flathead of a lifetime - then save the pennies and head to Flinders Island.
Lack of fishing pressure compared to our local waters means there are greater numbers of big flathead to be had than anywhere else I have fished from the shore.
Flinders Island is probably also the exception to the rule when it comes to using baits, especially areas such as the "Pot Boil" beach where you can "burley up" and let the current take the smell for literally miles - simply pick a good spot, run out some burley pellets mixed in oil and wait for the fish to come to you, it's as easy as that!!!
For more information on Flinders Island - how to get there, where to stay, transport and where to fish etc, refer to the last edition of Tas Fishing and Boating News.