Live bait - small mullet, yabbies, prawns, white pilchards, also
The flathead in our
estuaries are essentially daytime feeding fish, which are more
prevalent in summer months.
Many fishermen never
make flathead fishing a specialty, preferring to fish a heavily
weighted line with huge hook loaded with an unwieldy slab of fish
flesh. This unit is put into the sea with the hope that a flathead
will come along and catch himself.
On occasions they do
oblige, so the "sleeper" line as it is known, has become
popular with pastime anglers. They are not aware of the quantities
and class of flathead that can be caught by the fisherman who
goes out with the single purpose- to catch flathead.
The fish is lazy, preferring
to lie partially buried in the sand, awaiting food to come to
him. So the flathead must be searched out, and presented a moving
bait, particularly if by weaving the rod tip the bait is made
to swim in a jerky movement, giving the appearance of a small
Convince the flathead
that the bait is alive, but unable to escape, and it will rush
the bait and take it in one gulp. The subsequent struggles throw
pieces of bait around and arouse other flathead in the vicinity,
making it a good policy to cast back into the same area as quickly
The most encountered
size of flathead is the "schoolie" of from 1/2 to 2
kilos, so the rig is designed to accommodate it, yet be successful
if a bigger fish comes along.
The rig is a No. 2/0
fine pointed hook on a 30cm trace attached to the main line with
a No 12 swivel. This small free running swivel used above the
lead weight will keep the line free of twist from any cause whatsoever.
The main gear alteration
is that a running sinker is not preferred as it slides along the
line causing the bait to sink unnaturally. A split shot, clamping
down to the trace about 16cm above the hook is all the weight
necessary and being fixed allows the angler to swim the bait forward
and down in a most realistic manner. Practice this bait movement
by lifting and lowering the rod slowly, in shallow clear water
until it is perfected, for this is the main part of the technique.
In any estuary fishing,
do not resort to wire traces as they are stiff and take all the
natural movement from the bait. Traces of lighter breaking strain
than the line are also not favoured as this deludes the angler
on the breaking strain of his gear. The same size nylon, perfectly
clear, is preferred. Some anglers take the precaution of using
a 30 cm trace of heavier nylon, but the sawing action by the head
of the flathead mainly takes place on the surface, and if the
fish is kept submerged as you are playing it, you will rarely
The favoured baits would
be white pilchards, yabbies and fresh prawns. Fish flesh can be
a tempting bait if cut into small triangles and left free to move
on the hook by inserting the point through once only at the broad
end of the bait.
The bite from a flathead
is entirely different from other fish. The first indication is
similar to being snagged, so it pays to treat all obstructions
as flathead, until proved differently. The flathead will turn
its head and give the well known bump, and a pause must elapse
before you wind the fish and lean. While not a strong fighter,
he does save an extra burst for that period just before beaching
or landing. If you don't rush him you can usually count the fish
To handle the fish,
which has spikes on each side of its head, it is well to remember
that a sharp blow 3 cm or so behind the eyes will stop its movement.
In fact many big fish have been landed without net or gaff, by
knocking them out with a rowlock, short piece of pipe, or wooden
waddy, while it is still in the water beside the boat. In using
a landing net, always place the hoop of the net around the head
of the fish. It is obvious that any attempts to net from the tail
will result in the fish continually swimming out of the net.
Flathead feed near fast
running water, so look for any different features such as a change
in formation, meeting of currents, or sand spit edge which will
just keep them free of tide.
Remember you catch big
flathead in very shallow water, close to the shoreline. Do not
wade in until you have tried these places.
Small surf gutters and
holes close to the shoreline very often have good size flathead
pocketed in them. The use of an estuary rod and reel, loaded with
4 kg line, smaller hooks and a minimum of lead weight, is adequate
In this type of flathead
fishing, the rigs, baits and methods used, are similar to those
described in estuary flathead fishing. It is still a matter of
searching the fish out by working the bait through the holes and
right to the shoreline. A nylon trace with a size 2/0 hook is
again the normal rig. Never wade into the water before it has
been well tried, as the flathead could be in very shallow water.