Contrary to common belief, fishing is not as complicated as it looks. In fact, it is one of the simplest and most relaxing outdoor activities that you can enjoy with family and friends. With just the right types of fishing lines, basic rods, lures, and reel spooling products, you can get right on the water and land your first catch today.
If there is one type of fish that can provide a serious fishing experience, that would be a flathead. It is relatively easy to distinguish among other fish species due to its unusual body structure and distinct hunting strategy. Widely popular in Australia, the flathead is considered a great sports and table fish by most anglers due to its opportunistic behaviour in attacking various baits and lure styles.
To start your journey right and improve your chances of fishing a flathead, it is important that you consider the conditions and environment where you can encounter them, the best combination of equipment for tackle, and the common techniques and strategies.
Knowing the Perfect Fishing Conditions
There is an abundance of flathead species in Australia, and they can be found in coastal bays, sandy bottoms of creeks and rivers, and estuaries. They usually position themselves in a crocodile-like manner where part of their body is buried in mud or sand while waiting for small fishes and crustaceans to pass by. Generally, they reside in both deep and shallow waters and can set up business next to wrecks, rock formations and walls, mangroves, weed banks, and even beaches.
In terms of the best tide and time to fish for flathead, it is recommended to target them in the last two hours of the run-out tide and the first three hours following the high tide. During this time, you can usually spot them in sand depressions where they are masterfully camouflaged and ready to attack their prey. Technically, dawn and dusk are the winning times to catch flathead. However, there are instances wherein you can also target them at night using live baits.
The Best Equipment Combinations
What is interesting about flatheads is that you can target it all year round as long as you observe them and use the appropriate assortment of fishing gears.
1. Rods and Reels
For most angling situations, the two varieties of rods you can count on are the 7′ 2-4kg and 7′ 3-6kg spin rods with reel sizes between 20 to 30. The first type of rod can effortlessly throw lightweight soft plastics in long distances and offer good sensitivity for trolling small hard-bodied lures. You can also use the second type of rod to accommodate big plastic or hard-bodied lures for deeper water adventures.
2. Line and leaders
When using live baits and lures, it is highly recommended to use braided lines for flathead. What makes this perfect for this angling experience is that it offers unmatched sensitivity due to its minimal stretch allowing you to feel bites and whether your lure is on the right path. Since this type of fish is lying closely on the ground, it is best to use fluorocarbon leaders due to its extremely low visibility, ability to sink in the water, minimal stretch, and unparalleled abrasion resistance.
There are the types of lures that you can use for landing your first flathead:
- Live Baits – When a flathead is young, it is true that they will eat just about any small type of live baits such as worms, insects, and crayfish. When they become bigger, what draws them more are crustaceans, mullet, whitebait, and herring.
- Soft Plastics – Professional tackle boxes are usually full of soft plastics in multiple colours since it is great for snagging fishes under different conditions, configurations, and techniques. They look realistic and can sink pretty well and can reach the bottom where your target flathead is waiting.
- Hardbodies – For a more aggressive type of luring, you can use hardbodies with at least three to five-inch measurements and combine it with slow but constant retrieve along with small twitches to get the attention of the flathead.
In terms of choosing colours, it is best that you start with natural shades such as Pearl Blue Glimmer, Bad Shad, and Pearl. Those colours are best for targeting flatheads that are in the sand. For low light conditions and tannin-stained water, you should get your hands on darker shades like Motor Oil, Mood Ring, or Midnight Oil.
If none of the above are pulling through, your best bet would be fluoro colours for muddy bottoms. Some of the best types in the market are Electric Chicken, Space Guppy, and Sexy Mullet.
Technique and Strategy
In order to find your first catch, it would be best to choose an area where you can see that water drains out over a ledge. At times, flathead can be caught by sight, especially if there are clear depressions on the sand.
For catching, you can let your bait slowly drift down with the current and try out different types of retrieves. Two of the most popular flathead retrieves are hopping and slow rolling. Hopping is a retrieve technique that is best used with soft plastic lures. To do this, you simply have to allow the lure to freefall and make short pauses to feel the bite as it drops to the bottom. If you want a simpler retrieve strategy, you can also do slow rolling by simply winding the plastic lure very slowly so that it drags along the surface or the bottom of the water.
When targeting this type of fish, it is not essential to use a boat or a kayak. However, for those who still want to use theirs, keep in mind that the flathead is easily spooked if you get too close, which is why you have to let your lure travel to the fish.
For landing and handling the fish, note that the flathead has raspy teeth that make grabbing them difficult. They also have two short spikes on top of their heads, which contain venom that can cause infection for a day or two. In order to handle them better, it is highly recommended that you use landing nets and special lip grips.
Aside from being known as the kind of disguise, fishing for a flathead can indeed take some time getting used to. For flathead lovers, remember that the key to landing the catch of a lifetime lies in the right knowledge on where to find them, the best gears to use, and the most common strategies for retrieval.