Flathead

 

Update

Well, I have spent quite a bit of time wading around the sand flats and throwing soft plastics.  It has proven to be quite a successful method of catching Flathead.  Mt first serious Flathead outing netted me eight fish, although only three were legal size.  I released them all, but they were great fun to catch.   

Flathead have long been a popular target for fisherman in the Eastern States.  It's only in the last few years though that their popularity here has increased to the extent that there are now quite a few fisherman who target them specifically. 

I first came across Flathead whilst net fishing with a local fisherman along the tidal beaches north of Adelaide.  Nice sized fish would be quite common, especially during the warmer months.  Around the same time, fishing at Coffin Bay on the States West Coast, produced quite a few Flathead when using garfish flesh for bait and slowly retrieved along the bottom.

Now I am quite happy to spend a bit of time targeting them.  The best spots seem to be low reefy areas with plenty of sand patches.  Lower Yorke Peninsula and Lower Eyre Peninsula have good Flathead country in abundance.  Needless to say, the more isolated the spot, the better your chances.

This is good looking water for Flathead.  You can see the dark areas of reef in the water with the sand patches in between.

They can also be caught from the gutters and holes along surf beaches.  The Southern Ocean Beach is known for its regular catches of Flathead and I have caught a few at Sheringa Beach and Sleaford Bay (both on the West Coast) on lures whilst fishing for Salmon.

The most reliable method for me has been to use a running sinker with about a metre long trace.  A single hook, around 1/0, with either a garfish fillet or piece of squid atttached, is tied to the end of the trace.  It's then just a matter of casting to a likely looking sand patch and winding back in slowly.  It doesn't hurt to try a stop/start retrieve, or vary the speed every now and then.

A lot of ground can be covered in this way too, so it's possible to move right along a beach or headland trying all the likely spots.  Other species will also fall to these baits, especially Salmon and big Tommies.  The Flathead will usually hook themselves when fishing in this manner.

Lure fishing for Flathead is very popular now and seems to be very successful.  I haven't used lures to target them specifically, but soft plastics and smal minnow type, hard bodied lures are the best apparently.

An incident at Ardrossan Jetty a few years ago suggests that live bait would be a sensible option also.  I was catching Trumpeters (better known as "Shitties") for crab bait right on the edge of the blue line.  It was about midday on a bright sunny day and the tide had only just turned to start running in.  I was hauling in another fish (Shittie) and was watching as it neared the jetty.  The water was crystal clear and only a few feet deep.  A large shadow appeared behind the hooked Shittie.  It shot forward, stopping before actually grabbing the fish, hovered there for a second or too and then drifted back to the bottom.  It was a very large Flathead, easily the biggest I have seen.  I rigged up and floated a live bait around for a couple of hours and the Flathead returned twice, just eyeing the bait off, but never taking it.

The best thing about Flathead is their table quality.  They have thick, white flesh that is very nice.  They freeze well too, so fillets can be stored.  When handling them be wary of the gill spikes (one on each side) and the large barb on top of their head.  The best way to pick them up is with the thumb and forefinger grip by the bottom lip.  They have small teeth that feel weird at first, but it will cause no damage.

Due to their odd shape, they have to be filleted in a slightly different way that becomes completely obvious when looking at them.

Good fun to catch and one of the best eating fish out there.