Offshore, Stuff we've learnt, Think like a fish- fishing techniques

Sand flathead basics


I’m not big on meat fishing. My fly fishing addiction means that most of the time, I’m more than happy to go fishless, as long as I’ve got the long wand in my hand. In Eden though, getting dinner is always part of a day out on the boat. After a number of years, me and dad have come to an agreement. We chase kingfish, snapper or the chosen target on lure and fly for 90% of the day (when it comes to kingfishing, I’m yet to land one of the fly and will happily pick up the jigging rods) but if that doesn’t work out, we catch dinner (and then get back to fun fishing). Dinner usually means bottom bouncing for flathead, sand or tiger flathead. The great thing about these tasty fish is that we can often get the dinner part of the trip out of the way pretty quickly, so we can get back to “fun” fishing.


Gear and rigs:

As basic as they come really. A couple of 4000 reals spooled with 30lb braid, some cheap fibreglass boat rods and a paternoster rig with two hooks and a sinker. When chasing flathead, we always put the sinker on the middle dropper, so that both baits are as close to the bottom as possible. Baits are whatever is lying around, stripey, squid, they all work a treat.


The key to putting enough flathead in the esky for dinner as quickly as possible is finding the fish and then holding bottom. Its almost always possible to find a good patch of fish. One thing we have learnt over the years is that impatience pays. If you aren’t getting regular bites, move. There is no point fishing where the fish ain’t, or at least aren’t thick. We are horribly impatient when it comes to sticking it out because moving works. So if your chosen spot fails to deliver,  try somewhere deeper, shallower or a different area entirely. The same goes for small fish. If the big ones aren’t there, move.

Flathead often hang out in loose groups, so pay attention to where you are catching fish. Once you do find a patch, work it. By this I mean actively fish a patch, don’t just hope to drift over it once every half hour on a long drift. If you are only catching fish on a small part of the drift, just fish that, don’t waste time drifting over fishless or less fishy water. At times, this means that we reset the drift after just 1 or 2 drops. This can mean resetting every 5 minutes or so at times. We do this because this tactic can be remarkable effective at times and turn a slow session hot, with each of those drops producing one or two fish as soon as the bait hits bottom.

Given the preferred habitat of flathead species, i.e. the bottom, I shouldn’t have to tell you, holding bottom is a key to success. If you ain’t holding bottom effectively, you ain’t maximising your fish catching ability. Adjust the weight you are using to the current/drift so that you can effectively hold bottom and you’ll catch more fish.

Lastly, sometimes sand flathead can be a bit lethargic, mouthing baits without eating them. This can make hooking them hard work. What we’ve found is that the “drop back” technique can be deadly on these less than enthusiastic fish. The drop back technique is simple- as soon as the fish starts playing with the bait, open the bail arm for a few seconds giving the fish a bit of time to play with and eat your bait. Pause longer if they are being super finicky, up to 10 seconds at times. Close the bail arm and strike. Fish on. Well most of the time.



The depth you will find fish varies, anywhere from 15-90 meters depending on the day. Some days they sit shallow, other days deep. Our deep spots generally produce a better quality of fish, but thats not always the case. Generally we like to focus on sand patches running between reefs. These generally seem to be the “best” spots, but not always. The benefit of fishing on sand near reefs is that you often pick up some nice bi-catch, ocean perch, rock cod, snapper and morwong, which can be a nice addition to the bag.


Lastly, make sure you dispatch of your catch humanely and keep your fish on ice. If you are making the effort to get dinner, you want to make sure your catch is as fresh and delicious as possible. We always spike fish (a good guide on how to that here) and then keep them in an ice slurry.

Dad spiking dinner
Dad spiking dinner

That my friends is all there is too it. Move around, find the fish and get the meat fishing out of the way as quickly as possible, so you can get back to fun fishing. The reward is delicious flathead fillets you can use to re-fuel for the next days adventures. Cause even fly bums gotta eat 😉


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