I went on a trip over to the Eyre Peninsula recently, here in South Australia, targeting southern bluespot flathead and had a couple of great days followed by a few shockers. Flatties are quite prolific along our coastline during the autumn months and through winter, as this is their prime spawning time, which in turn makes them a great target for boaties and land-based fishermen. They’re largely elusive for most of the metro’ fishermen, but when you start to venture away from the big smoke, they seem to become easier to find and considerably better in size.
Flathead are renowned for their great eating quality and they’d probably be one of my absolute favourite species to have on the dinner plate. However, I struggle to have consistent access at them for most parts of the year, so I prefer to stick the bread and butter species like whiting and squid on the table, leaving the flatties for sport instead.
Flathead are probably the best calm water, inshore species to target with hard body and soft plastic lures here in SA. Unfortunately, they don’t grow to the same size as the dusky flathead found in the Eastern States, but when you encounter a 60cm-plus specimen, it can certainly take a fair bit of work to land safely along the water’s edge. Another bonus here in SA is that, generally, where flathead lie you’ll find other species such as silver trevally, Australian Salmon and King George whiting. Whilst King George aren’t easy to fool on lures, it’s easy enough to chuck a strip of squid on a size 6 long shank and catch a few, especially if they’re around in good numbers.
On the recent trip to the lower Eyre Peninsula I decided to solely fish soft plastics and hard bodies. Pilchards are awesome bait for Flathead but I really prefer the challenge of using artificial baits and I love covering large areas of our wonderful coastline. This is half the thrill of getting out and away from the strict regimented life style that we all seem to suffer from these days. I packed three tackle trays into a backpack – one with a variety of jigheads and weedless hooks, one with soft plastics and one with a few shallow diving hard bodies. I also packed spools of 8 and 10lb leader, a measuring tape and a pair of good pliers for any risky treble situations.
I had two mates from Adelaide with me and we set out into some of the best flathead country this state has to offer. All armed with lures, we spent one full day flicking light tackle along the shoreline for 14 flathead. Most fish were in the 45 to 50cm bracket, but there were a couple just over the 60cm mark, which was a terrific start to the week. All of the fish were caught on weedless worm hooks with no weights. I normally use weighted jigheads for flathead, but on this particular day the lack of weight certainly did the trick! Out of those 14 fish I caught zip! I couldn’t put a foot right. I tried every lure in my tackle box and went through plenty of leader, but nothing worked. I couldn’t believe it. The following three days were over very slow tides and the fish just didn’t want to play ball at all.
On the fifth day we had a building tide, albeit a small one, but it was something to hang our hopes on and, thankfully, it paid dividends. I spent most of the next 48 hours gently flicking around resin jigheads with the 100mm white lightening Squidgy whipbaits and managed some great results. Combined, we scored 40-plus fish over the next two days, with one that measured 72cm and a handful over 60cm. 70cm and up is a trophy southern bluespot for South Australian waters, in my opinion, and we were absolutely stoked!
There’s no doubt that flathead hit lures violently, and most fish come from within the first 3 or 4 metres of water from the shoreline. A lot of fish hold in amongst shore lying weed and through rocky patches of skinny water. When you get a good rock to stand on and cast from, there’s nothing better than watching a big lizard, fins fully erect, launch fearlessly at your lure. Sight fishing is by far the most sensational viewing that true fishermen can experience, and something that I often dream about.
There’s never enough light left in the day when it comes to fishing for me. I often take the simple things in life for granted, but every now and then those special fishing trips, with great mates, seem to help me put things back in to perspective. Reel therapy I guess…