Doing it in the Dark Tamar River - Floundering

By Dale Howard
With Winter well and truly upon us, many fishers seem
happy to put the trout gear away for a while and move
onto other things to occupy themselves. For Dale
Howard and his son Trevor it’s time for a few visits along
the shores of the Tamar River......Flounder time!
This article comes about from the urging of the editor (Mike
Stevens) after seeing some pictures of a recent trip with my
son and a few mates.

My first response to his request was, what do I write?, you
see a fl ounder, you spear it, you put it in the bag with the rest
and go home when you have your bag, you are sick of it, or
your son starts complaining!
It was only after I sat back and thought about it for a while
that it occurred to me that there is a ‘little bit more to it’ if
you want to maximise your chances of success, so with that
thinking, I offer this advice.
Tackle Required
I suppose it is not really tackle, but gear. Anyway the items
needed for fl oundering need not be expensive. Listed below
is really all you need to do the job.

  1. A large plastic bucket.
  2. A 12 volt battery and size 14 tyre inner tube to tow the battery around in if you use an old style light.
  3. A sharpened spear - bought or made from a piece of steel rod.
  4. A submersible light.
  5. A piece of rope.

If you intend to buy a spear, there are plenty of good ones
available in tackle store from between 10 and 15 dollars. If
you buy one of these spears, make sure it has a barb on the
end of it, otherwise from my experience a lot of fl ounder will
fl ip off before you get them into the bucket.
I made my own spears from a 1.5 metre piece of stainless
steel tubeing with a small wooden handle attached, it was just
a matter then of grinding the end to a sharp point.
Flounder Lights
As for your fl ounder lights, once again there are plenty
available for purchase at your local tackle shops, especially in
the LED light range, these are quite cheap to purchase and will
do the job giving you longer battery life than the old standard
12 volt sealed beam lights.
They are fantastic value
for money, but as with all
things nowadays, there are
many different types on the
market and it pays to work out
which one will do the best job
for you. There are even water
activated lights that turn on
when submersed.
I still use the old 12 volt
sealed beam light and although
it is harder on the life of a
battery I still think they do a
great job. They are still available
at places like Tamar Marine for
around $65 dollars.
A word of warning though, when your light is turned on,
keep it in the water, taking it out and shining it around for long
periods of time getting it hot and then suddenly submersing it
again is the surest way to blow up your light and put an early
end to your evening. This is less likely with the cool running
LEDs. Having a ‘back up light’ is always a good idea.
Summertime is great when wading around in shorts and a
t-shirt—and the kids love having the ‘dabs’ (juvenile flounder)
and garfish swimming into their legs. It’s a different story in
the winter though, get the waders, hats and coats on.
If you have neoprene waders or a wetsuit, wear them. If
not, rug up very warm—you can always take gear off, but if
you haven’t got it with you, you can’t put it on and if you’re
cold, it’s no fun at all believe me!
Always wear strong soled footwear and never walk
around in bare feet as a sharp oyster shell will cut your feet
up in a minute—also bringing an abrupt end to the night’s
Last, but definitely not least, and even though your only
walking the flats, wear a lifejacket, this serves two purposes. It
keeps you warm, and it save your life if you fall over or step
in a deep trough by mistake.
Best Times to Go
The best time I have found to arrive is when the tide is
turning to an incoming tide. Then fish the first two or three
hours of the incoming tide. If I take my boat to get to a certain
area, I tie a berley bucket to the back of it before we get out to
wade for flounder. When we get back it will have often bought
in a school of garfish. Although after saying that, some mates
won’t let me as they are not keen on wading through berley in
the middle of the night.
When we arrive I like to look for an area that has sandy
bottom with a bit of weed on the edges. I also find they like
a shaley bottom .
Walk slowly and look often—many times all you will see
are a pair of eyes looking up at you or a small mist of ‘sand
dust’ indicating one buring itself in the sand or beating its
hasty retreat after spotting or ‘hearing you’ first.
You have to be quiet to get them.
Flounder Facts
Flounder seem to be available all year round and the
possession limit is 30 per person. The size limit is 25 cm
in length.
Try to estimate the size before spearing, judging the size
of your fish comes naturally after a while, a good rule of
thumb is if your not sure, leave it, as it or its offspring will
be there for another day.
There are some 12 species of flounder and only one
species of sole found in Tasmanian waters.
The most common flounder found in Tasmanian coastal
estuaries and bays are the greenback and long-snouted
flounders. It is the long-snouted flounder that is frequently
referred to (incorrectly) as sole.
Distribution of flounder occurs from freshwater through
to 100 metres in marine waters.
Flounder feed by digging for polychaete worms and small
crustaceans in the sand and mud they inhabit.
Spawning occurs offshore in water depths of around 20
metres during times of extended colder water temperatures
in June-October
Areas I have found flounder in the Tamar River are
Middle Island, Kelso and anywhere around the Beauty Point
caravan park.
The flounder is one of the easiest fish to clean, with just
a small circular cut. I like to cook them in a very standard
way, with flour then straight on the bbq with a touch of
olive oil.
Other Species
As an added bonus, quite often you will have garfish
come into the light. If they are size (25 cm/30 possession
limit) hit them with your spear. They will float to the top.
There will also be plenty of mullet swimming around as
well. You have to be quick to get one of them though.
Other species likely to be encountered are rays, trevally,
elephant fish and four hundred million toad fish.
The Tamar comes alive at night and your flounder light
will give you a glimpse of that.
The last but most important tip
Always be aware of the tides and channels, you don’t
want to get caught out on a sand bar, If you’ve taken your
boat, It could be a bit scary swimming back to it in the
I leave a light illuminated on the boat when I leave it, as
it is easy to get disorientated in the dark. The light helps with
a focal point to refer back to for your bearings.
Well thats about it in a nutshell. I hope that this small
article is of some help to those of you willing to give this
form of fishing a try. Sometimes flounder will be there in
droves and other times you will struggle to find any. Be
assured though the Tamar holds great numbers of these great
eating fish and your perseverance will be rewarded.
There are plenty of other estuaries around Tasmania
where you will find good floundering spots as well so give
it a go.
Dale Howard.

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