Home' Afloat : AFLOAT February 2016 Contents Take monthly with water February 2016 53
with David Lockwood
Love you Flathead
First cast. Bang. Flathead on. Second cast. Bang. Flathead
again. This was how the fishing started during our annual
January boating holidays on the Hawkesbury. Flathead
dinner for the kids quick as that and, at $50 a kilo for fillets at the
fishmonger, ours tasted doubly good out there in the fresh air.
I love my flathead. There, I said it. But I’m keeping good
company. After all, the flathead is one of the most common fish
in the sea. There are various species, with the blue-spot, sand
and tiger taken offshore by plonking the seabed or trawling it
accounting for a major national fish catch.
But it’s the popular dusky flathead that makes me jittery.
According to the Fisheries Research and Development
Corporation (FRDC), the stock status for duskies is sustainable
in all three eastern states.
In the commercial fishery, nominal effort continues to
decrease (5,408 days fished in 2009; 4,100 days fished in 2013).
Recreational anglers were estimated to have targeted dusky
flathead on more days in 2013 (163,580 days) than in 2000
So flathead fishing is becoming more popular to the point
where one of the biggest tournaments in the country is the annual
Gold Coast Flathead Classic. Hundreds of high-tech boats descend
on the sandy Broadwater to troll and cast lures for flathead. The
fish are measured, photographed and released.
Commercial and recreational fishers predominantly harvest
female fish because of the minimum and maximum size limits.
The minimum size protects most male fish, and the maximum
size protects large female fish. Bag limits also exist for the
The estimated size at maturity for female dusky flathead is
56.75cm. On average, males take 1.2 years to reach the 50cm,
while females take more than four years, although some females
mature at approximately two years of age.
So if you care about flathead it’s best to release the big ones.
In NSW, you can only legally keep one flathead over 70cm in
length in your maximum 10 fish above 36cm bag limit.
Thinking anglers release all the big girls. Further good news
stems from the fact that mouth-hooked dusky flathead, which are
most of them when lure fishing, have high post-release survival.
Of course, dusky flathead are relatively easy to catch, prolific
in most estuaries, great sport, partial to lures as well as baits,
and top tucker in those smaller sizes. They are an excellent fish
to chase at this time of year, when the water is warm and the
‘lizards’ are active.
From Middle Harbour to Maianbar, Brisbane Water to Botany
Bay, dusky flathead are on the chew. You don’t need to spend a
motza to tap into the action. A budget $50 tackle combo will work,
with a $100 flick stick and reel providing more joy for continual
casting with the ideal 4kg line and light lures.
You need to spend about $20 on lures. This is where the fun
begins. Buy soft-plastic lures of various weights in prawn and
small fish patterns. My impartial personal experience has shown
the Squidgy Pro Slick Rig Lures in black and gold are fantastic.
Just tie one on and get flathead fishing. You can add a 6-8kg
monofilament trace of 1.5 rod lengths if you like. Make sure you
retrieve the lure so it bounces slowly across the bottom.
Flathead don’t like being landed and they object to having
their head lifted out of the water. This normally induces a rash
of crazy headshakes, with the fish’s flared gills and sharp spines
severing the line. More flathead are lost boat- or bank-side than
at any other time in the fight.
So pack a landing net in your flathead fishing kit and guide
the fish gently into its opening without lifting them from the
water. You won’t lose too many this way and you avoid their mad
thrashing on deck.
To hold a flathead, don’t use the thumb lock in the bottom
jaw as advised by some anglers. Their teeth will shred your skin.
You can lift the big fish almost horizontally, with fish grips in the
lower jaw and a supporting hand under the belly and they’ll be
immobilised. Just mind those spines.
Big flathead are exciting fish and if our Brisbane Water
encounter was anything to go by it’s going to be a hot 2016. Our
5yo was fighting a whiting on a nipper when it was engulfed by a
big momma lizard all of 4kg at the back of boat. I almost netted
the fish before it spat the whiting. The flat head of that flathead
was almost as wide as ours kids’ boogie boards.
Love you flathead. Till next time. h
Dinner on the Hawkesbury – flathead fillets at holiday time.
The author with a typical summertime dusky flathead. The fish fell
for a prawn imitation soft-plastic lure.
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