Dusky Delights
  |  First Published: February 2011

Everyone loves catching flathead and here in the Gippsland Lakes they grow big and there’s lots of them.

This summer has seen another great run of duskies and the focus is chasing them in the lakes. This report is all about fabulous flatties.

Lake Duskies

Each summer flathead migrate to the salty and eastern extremes of Lake King. My first trip resulted in over 30 flatties landed with a handful of dropped fish. Interestingly the first two fish I hooked were little snapper that happily attacked a small metal blade.

I started searching the Reeve Channel and Kalimna Jetty area on a rising tide and most of the bigger duskies were in about a metre of water.

Over the next two hours I caught a steady stream of chunky fish, selected the biggest duskies and put five in the bag to 55cm. On two subsequent trips back to that same area I had no trouble finding the flathead with tallies of around 20 fish. The bag limit of five dusky flathead will hopefully be backed up very soon with a slot limit size. It’s silly keeping flathead under 35cm because the fillets are ridiculously small and larger flatties over 60cm need to be left as big breeders.

Flathead Lures

Soft plastics used to be the number one flathead lure for decades but like all things in fishing new trends are always worth exploring. Metal blades are fast becoming the most effective tool for hooking duskies and I’ve been almost shocked at how deadly they are.

Blades are so lethal on these fish, mainly because they are always on or close to the bottom, right where flatties hunt. More importantly blades are just the right snack size and don’t worry I’ve caught big duskies up to 80cm on tiny blades just 3.5cm long. These lures are also very flashy, vibrate wildly and will appeal to even sleepy or cagey fish.

Working blades are easy and all you want to do is to cover as much water as you can. Make long casts and retrieve the lure with sharp lifts of the rod and when the lure hits the bottom again just pause for a few seconds and repeat. The idea is to get the blade to lift about 30cm off the bottom and pause it long enough for flatties to eat but also keep it moving so you maximise your searching. Don’t be scared to use blades in shallow water either.

Where to get them

The best place to start looking for flathead is to use Metung as a launching place. This enables you to boat right into the thick of where they live and also gives you plenty of options to get out of the wind. With a westerly airstream head around to Bancroft Bay but more than likely you will face a stiff summer easterly by about midday so head west around to Tambo Bluff.

If you get some nice calm weather then venture right down towards Lakes Entrance and work as much of the Reeve Channel as you can. Just drift along with the tide and when you find a patch of fish then drop the anchor. You will soon get a feel for the sort depth and the type of banks the duskies like to hold on and eventually you can motor around and cherry pick the better areas.

The mouth of the Tambo and Mitchell rivers also need working over and it wont take long to find them if they are there. Don’t hang around however if you go fishless in the first half an hour as you are better of to go searching elsewhere. The shallow margins of Lake King should produce flathead and the middle of that huge lake is not often fished and could turn up some very large duskies. Also try the Campbell Channel if you are based around Paynesville.

Using Bait

The best part about catching duskies is that they are easy to trick and can be caught at any time during the day. Using bait is only productive if you move around and cover a lot of water. By using prawns you can also jag bream and possibly mullet or luderick.

Drifting with baits dragging along the bottom can work okay but if a fast tide or a windy day has you steaming along too fast your bait can end up rising too far off the bottom and maybe get covered in weed.

If anchored up or fishing land-based, cast baits out as far as you can and wind them slowly back to the boat or use light sinkers and let the tide move them around.

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