Flathead are beginner’s choice
  |  First Published: May 2012

It looks as if we have seen the last of the unsettled weather for now, and the fishing has started to get back on the positive side. The school holidays have already seen reports of many quality fish being caught right along Sunshine Coast saltwater estuaries.

In the mix of good fish caught, there have been a lot of flathead. Flathead, also known as ‘lizards’, are one of the main fish to target in the estuaries. They can be caught all year round, but mainly in the warmer months. They are a good fish for junior anglers, as they put up a great fight and it’s a thrill to hook up and land a large specimen.

There are three different types of flathead that can be caught around the Sunshine Coast; dusky, sand, and bar-tailed. Dusky flathead are the most commonly caught. Their legal size limit is 45-75cm, which helps them have more of a chance to spawn. The average catch is around 50cm, but some have been taken around 1m. Be careful when handling flathead as they have spines around their gills and dorsal fin.

When finding a good spot to fish for flathead, there are lots of things to consider. Flathead feed near the edge of still water and where there is current. They sit on the bottom in the still water waiting for helpless bait fish or prawns to move past them in the current. Look for a ‘meeting of currents’, or formations caused by currents moving past still water. Fishing the shallow water close to the shoreline, under boat moorings, or on the bottom of rocky edges will usually produce good fish.

When beach fishing, always look for large gutters as this is where the flathead will be. Casting over the gutters and slowly reeling back over them will make the bait or lure move over the flathead, and it won’t be able to resist!


Flathead can be caught equally as well on either baits or lures.

Once a good spot has been found, work out what to use for them. Most anglers will usually have a rod rigged up for bait, and while waiting for a good bite, they will be flicking lures around.

The most popular baits to use are pilchards, prawns, and live baitfish (herring). The preferred rig is a 2/0 suicide hook on the end of a 30-40cm 12lb trace. Attached to the trace should be a small running swivel that will prevent any line twist, which can be a real pain! Above the swivel should be a no.2 ball sinker that is situated on 10lb main line. If beach fishing or fishing where there is current, change to a heavier size sinker.

Some anglers prefer to fish light using 4lb main line, but to be sure of no lost fish a 10lb line should do the job; it will be light enough not to spook any fish but heavy enough to prevent bust-offs.

Flathead will take soft plastics or hardbodies lures. Flathead usually sit facing the current, so retrieve your lure in the same direction that the current is running. You can try many different retrieves for flathead but I use a short pause, a couple of medium-sized jigs with the rod tip, then another short pause. This will eventually come over a flathead, and then it will strike. You can fish the same areas as you would for bait when using lures, especially around current lines.

When using soft plastics, a suitable size is around 2-4”. My favourites are Squidgys 3” Shads and Atomic Guzzlerz Prawns on 1/8oz jigheads in still water or where there is small current. Like always, if there is current use a heavier weight.

When using hardbodies, any deep diver up to 4” will work well. For instance, deep diving RMG Scorpions are great for flathead.

Fishing for flathead is a good learning path for junior anglers or beginners. It can give them knowledge of the ‘what, why, and where’ when fishing in the estuaries.

They are a great fish to target night or day, so get out there and make the most of the good weather while we still can!

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