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Flathead Fishing

Fishing for flathead has always been a popular pass time as they taste pretty good and aren't overly hard to catch if you know their habits. Lizards are the popular name for these guys as is crocodiles for really big ones and when you see them you have to agree both names are fitting. Flathead are one of those wacky looking fish that make you think someone was having a bad day when they first created them. Oops stood on that one, bit squashed but still ok, no one will notice.

There are a number of types of flathead including the mud, sand, bar tailed, fringe eyed and tiger. The mud or dusky flathead is by far the biggest and one of the most sought after reaching over a metre.

dusky flathead
Most fish in this 70cm plus range are breeding females

There is a lot of myths floating about concerning flathead and one is they start life as all males then change sex when they get bigger. Not so, it's just that females grow larger, For a lot of years flathead were more an incidental capture on a heavy sleeper line baited with maybe a livie or cut flesh bait. These days however with the realization of just how aggressive a hunter flathead are they are pursued with all manner of gear. Bait fishing still works, plastics are a charm, hardbodies catch plenty, as will flyfishing and slow trolling for them. Basically what you want is anything that looks like a natural food source to pass within range of where they have positioned themselves.

Rivers and creeks for flathead

Most estuaries rivers and creeks are ideal habitats for flathead. Sand banks and rock bars, overhanging trees shading areas, weed patches, rocks and an assortment of other snags all present potential ambush areas for Mr Flathead. Throw in the fact that these same areas are full of juvenile fish and bait species means that we are talking smorgasbord central.

In these areas a flathead has the chance to use everyone of his camouflage and ambush skills to the extreme. They can lay up near a drop off, sit in the shadows, loiter behind a snag or any other option and smash any unsuspecting smaller fish before they have a chance of swimming off. And if you have seen a flatheads mouth a smaller fish often isn't a lot smaller than itself.

Again it is the edges the smart fishermen will be working when chasing flatties. Work the edges of a distinct bank with a dropoff, casting across sideways and retrieving with short hops trying to entice a hungry lizard to strike. The same with weed patches cast around the edges or where breaks occur between the weed and clean ground are.

If you see a small feeder creek where mullet and the like are likely to push up with the tide, memorise it and come back as the tide ebbs. Flathead will set themselves up at the mouth waiting to pounce the same fish as they retreat with the receding waters.

Deep water areas also hold flathead and drifting over known areas or anchoring and burleying can produce decent results. Reef areas as they switch to sandy bottoms can often hold flathead on the start of the sand regions.


A nice river caught flathead. As can be seen it is much darker than beach caught fish

Flats areas also hold good numbers of flathead with weed areas, and drains being the most likely spots to find them. If you fishing an almost featureless piece of shoreline look for anything, even a single small rock will be enough to attract any flathead that is in the area. Also if you get the chance check out the shallows for flathead lays. This is a mark in the sandy mud which is where a flathead has buried itself to wait for food to come past. Often fish will return to the same area on the next tide. As was said earlier they are aggressive hunters and will strike at potential targets higher in the water column and chase as well at times. If you see a commotion in a likely area move quietly and send in a few casts. If you get follows try speeding up or slowing down your retrieves to force a hit.

Flathead baits and tackle