The flathead files

Jennifer Hyland with a nice sand flathead
Carl Hyland
With the atrocious weather we have been having in Tasmania, I decided to go back over my notes from the past year and a few years ago. Opportunities for fishing have not been good for the past few weeks in the Island state, so besides perusing notes, it’s time to get sinkers made, rigs ready and boat maintained.

In 2012, the end of August was a good time for the capture of flathead, one of my favourite species. August September and October are prime months when the bigger flathead of all species move inshore mainly for breeding and subsequently, are easily taken by land based methods or from a boat. click here for DPIPWE website.

Sand flathead are a voracious feeder as is the tiger flathead and we have caught them on all manner of baits and lures. A popular bait is a single 3/0 circle fished with a whole fillet of mackerel and bounced along the bottom in a slow drift from the boat. If you are not catching flathead whilst drifting, you are probably not touching bottom or your rate of drift is too fast. A heavy sinker plus a drogue will remedy that problem.

When flathead are on the chew, they will strike just about anything so a well presented soft plastic, namely an orange Mr Twisty or similar will entice a strike. I have even had flathead come up off the bottom in three metres of water to attack the plastic as it was being lifted from the water. If you can sweeten your plastic with scent or a small piece of chicken (flathead love chicken) your hook up rate should increase.

Michael McLeod with a brace of King Flathead
Carl Hyland

To take or not to take
This is a question often asked by anglers and non-anglers, should we take the breeders? Personally, I say limit your catch and there should be no problems. I do get a bit peeved when I see seine trawlers taking some 25 tonnes of flathead from areas along the East Coast in one go, I mean they take everything including the breeders.

Apparently, the larger the fish, the better the breeders, so anything say over 80cm gets let go and that’s the beaut thing about circle hooks, the fish are often hooked in the mouth and are easily released. The use of grips or a wet towel will also assist in flathead release.

Baits for flathead. Over the last year my dairy notes tell me that chicken was the most effective bait with squid coming a close second. In saying that, bluebait or pilchards would work when the others weren’t effective. I once had a small dinghy that I rowed around beyond the surf line at a local beach, trolling a 40gram pilchard lure behind the boat in the 3-4 metre deep water which bought some fantastic captures of flathead, in particular when I used the stop and go technique. By adding a strip of squid tentacle to the hooks on the lure, my catch rate increased even further.

Tiger flathead taken from Low Head
Carl Hyland

The great thing about fishing for flathead is the by catch, certainly nothing to be sneezed at. In many instances, we managed gummy shark that took baits intended for flathead plus other captures included silver trevally and snook or couta.

Land based is just as good, with flathead lurking in surf zones and the wash from rocks. Berley will bring them close and hooks then tarted up with soft plastics or milar(the silver from a wine cask) will bring them unstuck.

Carl with a gummy caught on bait intended for flathead.
Carl Hyland

Flathead would have to be one of the most sought after fish in the sea and no matter what your expertise, if you vary your techniques as I do, you should have just as much success.

They do grow big, this a trawled flathead from Bass Strait(sorry for picture quality)
Carl Hyland