by Carl Hyland
Renowned for its game fishing and freshwater fishery, Tasmania can also lay claim to having some of the best recreational flathead fisheries anywhere in the world.
Michael McLeod with some nice Tiger flathead.
Known as a bread and butter species, flathead are easy to catch and Tasmania's large coastline ensures there is plenty of water for everyone to try and target this species.
Most Tasmanian kids cut their fishing teeth of species that are accidental catches, such as salmon or mullet but in most holiday destinations, the humble sand flathead lurks and if anglers, especially youngsters learn to target them, they and their families will be amazed at the size of some of the species of flathead that inhabit our waters.
Tasmania plays host to three major species of flathead, these are the Tiger, Sand and Blue Spot flathead.
Specialized gear is not required but one must remember that some species of flathead, such as the Tiger, do have large serrated teeth and can make short work of everyday mono.
Rigs for flathead should be simple. As I said, it’s a bread and butter staple for most anglers those who chase them for the table need only the two hooks and sinker rig (Paternoster) to be able to get amongst fish. Not everyone owns a boat or is fortunate to be able to get out in a boat and therefore, a lot of catches are made from the shore and this in turn can be detrimental to the species as many big female’s come close inshore each year to mate and breed (usually October/November).
At the same time, those who chase flatties for sport are not forgotten as this fish will give a good account of itself on light tackle and soft plastic jigs. I used to have great success trolling a silver wobbler behind my little rowboat in two metres of water. The puff of sand from the lure which matched my rowing stroke made for and attractive enticement for lurking flathead. Those coupled with sometimes a lumo bead or even better still, a bright orange bead, used to get me amongst some good fish.
Soft plastics work well, as I mentioned these if presented correctly, will often out fish all other methods. I can recommend the orange /pumpkinseed curltail grubs from Berkley or their fantastic range of sandworm imitations in particular the Natural, Bloody and Nuclear chicken. There are other non-descript plastics from China that will work, but I reckon Berkley are the best.
Baits should be big and sloppy. In saying that, a prawn rigged as a bait with a 1/0 circle hook will often outfish all other baits and lures. Flathead, as we all know are ambush predators and bait that looks like the real thing will bring savage strikes. A small strip of silver trevally or the belly skin of another fish rigged on small hooks and moved slowly will get you the strikes. I remember some years ago using milar(old wine cask) to tie some small flies on a hook ahead of my bait…..this method bought even more flathead to my table. I have even had flathead come off the bottom in 10 metres of water and take baits or milar flies on the water surface.
Catching and releasing flathead.
Flathead if caught using circle hooks, will release quite easily but can inflict a bit of damage whilst being handled. Most spines are coated with protein venom which is unstable in hot water. The recommended treatment for stings or spiking by flathead is immerse the affected part in warm to hot water(as hot as the person can stand it) Take my word for it, the relief using this method is instantaneous.
Others say rubbing the slime from the underbelly of the flathead on the wound will also give relief but I can’t verify that.
Deep-hooked fish: If the flathead is gut-hooked, cut the line and leave the hook in place. Attempts to remove the hook may cause considerable damage to the fish. Research shows that the likelihood that a fish will survive increases if the hook is not removed; with some fish able to expel hooks within a short period.
Handling fish; Use a damp towel, cloth and/or gloves when handling fish as this helps protect the mucous layer on the fishes skin, and reduces the chance of injuring yourself on the spines.
Use a de-hooker, pliers or fishgrip when removing hooks.
Release fish as soon as possible after capture.