Last weekend the 4th annual Tuross head flathead and bream tournament was held on the NSW south coast. 258 anglers, including Flick & Fly’s own Lee and Graz, enjoyed good conditions, a full moon and favourable tides with plenty of water moving in and out of the lake each day. The competition was strictly catch-and-release and fish could only be caught using lures or flies. The ingenious recording system used a combination of numbered key tags, measuring mats and photos to record each anglers catch. The competition was divided into three categories; the longest flathead, the longest bream and the longest ‘bag’ comprising two of each species.
Whether it was the increased boat traffic or the fish just playing hard-to-get, many anglers struggled to bring fish to the boat, even the normally reliable flathead. Just over half of the competitors recorded a flathead over the minimum size limit of 36cm. On the flip side, those lucky enough to locate the fish were rewarded with some fantastic flathead, including five over 80cms. These huge fish are often called crocodiles and with good reason, they are prehistoric looking fish with a vast cavernous mouth. Without exception these ‘crocs’ were fat and healthy and all safely released to provide the same thrill to the next angler who can tempt one. Craig Emslie won the prize for largest flathead with a whopping 91cm fish. Jo Starling (pictured) bettered her personal best with an 84cm fish caught on the Squidgy prawn lure that her husband Steve ‘Starlo’, no doubt designed with fish like this in mind.
At the other end of the piscatorial measuring mat were the bream. Notoriously finicky feeders on lures and rarely growing longer than 40cm, bream fishing can be highly technical, sometimes delicate and extremely addictive – even if the photos lack the melodrama of the big crocodiles. 60 anglers caught a bream greater than the minimum fork length of 23cm – roughly equivalent to the official minimum length of 25cm to the tip.
With only 90 minutes remaining on the final day it was safe to assume Mark Brown had the prize for biggest bream secured, with several fish measuring around 33cm (fork length). Then the tide changed. In an action packed 10 minutes the biggest bream and second largest flathead were landed within seconds of each other. Firstly, Justin Lee, who was fishing in a small channel next to some flats hooked up. After several anxious minutes the fish revealed itself to be an 88cm long flathead. As Justin’s fish reached the net, cheers of excitement rang out across the lake – I know, Lee and I were those cheering. Before the commotion had died down Stuart Smith, who was just around the corner, felt a bump on his small diving lure. After a spirited run over the weed beds, this fish too was safely cradled in the net, greeted by more cheers – although somewhat more subdued. This bream measured 33.5cm to the fork – the largest for the tournament by the width of a fingernail.
These last two hours of the final day, just after high tide, were some of the most eventful. For me personally, lagging well behind with just the one fish up until then (Lee already had his bag) three bream all came within this window, although one mysteriously parted ways with the lure. The second legal flathead (57cm) was photographed with only 30 minutes remaining. It was a timely reminder that subtle changes in the conditions can switch the fish on and off and persistence is often rewarded.
The champion angler was Daniel Dowley whose bream (31cm, 30cm) and flathead (85cm, 46.5cm) gave him a comfortable lead at the top. Well done. Thanks are due to the major sponsors Rapala, Wilson, Berkley, Z-man, TT-lures and all of the local businesses that lent their support. Special thanks must go to the organisers who I suspect started planning this event about 12 hours after last year’s finished. See you there in 2016!
Graham Fifield (with a huge thanks to Lee who was an excellent partner on the water)
An abridged version of this article first appeared in the Canberra Times, Narooma Times and on Fishnet