FINDING THE BIGGER FLATHEAD
Like most estuary fishos, I have dreamt of landing a one-metre Flathead. A few years ago I saw the photos of the one-metre beauty landed in Narooma by Ashleigh Clarke and wanted some of that action.
To find the bigger flatties, first, you need to understand how they function and their typical behaviour. Dusky Flatheads are bottom feeders. They scour the mud beds and seagrass in estuaries from Cairns to South Australia in search of small fish, prawns and squid. They ambush their prey, lying partially buried in the mud until they sense the scuttling of a prawn or squid when they pounce with startling speed and accuracy.
They do not migrate and can be found all year round in their estuary habitats, although, not many fishos choose to chase them in the colder months.
Flathead reach the bigger lengths at around ten or twelve years of age but the majority of the flatties caught are between two and five years old. These fish are smaller, at around 40-60cm in length. The older fish can grow as large as 130cm and weigh up to 10kg in weight.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
The way to land big Flathead is to try your luck when the tide is at it highest and the light is at its lowest. Flatties like the deeper water and won’t risk hunting on the flats in low tide. During low tide, they are more likely to be in the drop-offs surrounding the flats. But to find the real beasts, your best luck is fishing the flats at night during high tide.
Target water that is 6m in depth or deeper. This is where the big fish lie in wait. I also like to fish around dams after flooding. The dam itself blocks the flatties movement upriver but sweeps small prey over the top into the water below. Some large Flatheads will lie in wait at dams and strike the disoriented and confused prey as it falls off the dam.
Underwater structure is a goldmine for flatties, with sunken logs offering the ideal location for big Flathead. I would invest in a good sounder for targeting Flathead. You want to be sure that the place you are fishing has a sandy or muddy bottom. You don’t want too many weeds. Look for baitfish activity as well for signs that a big flattie is lying in wait.
TACKLE AND TECHNIQUE
Flatties will take a wide variety of lures and bait. I have seen some pretty big Flatheads bite at hardbodies, soft plastics and even once when I was fishing with a bloke from Tasmania, chicken livers! I personally have been targeting the larger flatties on soft plastics. I drop the lure in and let it fall gently to the bottom, then I flick it up a little before letting it fall back to the bottom again and beginning a slow retrieve, doing this same motion every five seconds or so.
I also like to move a lot when chasing flatties. You have to be proactive in finding the perfect hunting ground and explore new water rather than persevering with the same stretch for hours on end.
Just be sure to check your local fisheries regulations involving Flatheads. If you are taking large flatties over 80cm, I would recommend you throw them back. This way you can keep them in the breeding pool and ensure we have big girls to take for years to come!
Do you know where to find the biggest flathead? Let us know in the comments section below.