Start your summer with flatties
  |  First Published: December 2016

Many anglers will ask me when the dusky flathead come on the bite. My answer will depend on which estuary system in NSW that you’re going to fish. The NSW Fisheries Resources book I have states that dusky flathead tend to spawn from January to March in NSW, but this may change due to weather cycles and other influences like floods.

From the middle of December through to the end of March, concentrations of dusky flathead will increase ten-fold down at the lower sections of Botany Bay and the Port Hacking River. Males follow the females that have come from the upper reaches and deeper section of the estuary systems to spawn closer to the ocean. This is why you will often catch a ratio of ten smaller males to one female when targeting dusky flathead at this time of the year.

I prefer to keep flathead that are in the range of 45-55cm for a feed and let the rest go. When targeting them, I’ll either use bait or lures, but not both at the same time. This is because I target my flathead at anchor when bait fishing and lure fish while drifting. It may seem strange, but it definitely works for me.

Decent baits for flathead include whole or half pilchards, whitebait, whole Hawkesbury River prawns, live nippers, poddy mullet and yellowtail. You could also add chicken breast to the mix. When it comes to lures, I use soft plastics, hardbodies and blades. Soft plastics are the main one I would use, then blades and trolled hardbodies.

Places worth a shot for dusky flathead this month while bait fishing at anchor are the end of the second and third runways, the Yarra Bay Fisheries artificial reefs, Towra wide in about 5m, Dolls Point to Brighton-Le-Sands, any of the bridges in the Georges River, Kangaroo Point, Lugarno, Woronora River, the Moons, Alfords Point, Picnic Point, Cattle Duffers and Kogarah Bay.

As for the Port Hacking River, anywhere there is a combination of sand and weed beds. If you’re going to use lures, those places are still worth a shot. Just remember to not take any bait with you and just use the lures you have selected. To give you an idea of what types of soft plastics to use, try the Berkley Gulp Jerk Shads, Nemesis and Grub. Also try ZMan Jerk ShadZ, PaddletailZ and GrubZ.

What else is happening in the Shire, (other than the Sharkies winning the NRL Grand Final)? There have been great reports of bream, trevally, tarwhine and kingfish coming in from anglers fishing the oil wharf and drums on the run-out tides. Remember, you need to be 100m from the oil wharf and you can’t anchor or drift inside the drums in the bay. Try anchoring up current of the drums and put out a berley trail. Cast a few poppers, lightly-weighted soft plastics or pilchards and garfish on sets of ganged hooks for kingfish and tailor.

If the wind has picked up from the south, anchor up in 11m depth just off Sutherland Point on the run-out tide. I have caught tailor, bream, trevally, kingfish, tarwhine, snapper and leatherjackets here. One of the places that doesn’t get a lot of boat traffic is the NSW Fisheries artificial reefs. Either slow drift over them, or anchor and berley.

Further upstream at the entrance to the Woronora River, you could try for flathead, bream, whiting, flounder and mulloway. The run-out tide seems to work better, but as the tide starts to rise, work the flats at the edges of the mangroves. Plenty of land-based spots will start to fire over the warmer months. Try the entrance to the Cook River, Captain Cook, Tom Uglys and Como bridges, Picnic Point and the Georges River National Park.

The Port Hacking River can be a very hard waterway to fish and it’s going to take a lot of time on the water to get it right. Learn to catch squid, pump nippers and catch poddy mullet, as they would have to be the best baits to use in the Port Hacking River. My next two best baits would be pilchards and Hawkesbury River prawns.

December is a great time to get out those metal lures and go fishing for tailor, salmon, bonito and kingfish off the rocks at Kurnell, Wattamolla, Marley, Garie Beach and Coalcliff Point. Early morning and late afternoons will usually get the best results, but don’t forget those overcast and rainy days. Try pilchards off the beaches in the eastern suburbs and Cronulla for salmon and tailor.

Don’t forget, if you or a friend has caught a fish and would like to see it in the NSWFM magazine, just send me an email at --e-mail address hidden-- with a short explanation and I’ll try to get it in the mag.


The author caught this dusky flathead was while fishing Lake Macquarie in December.


A great feed of duskies and one lone bream caught at anchor off the third runway.


Lachlan Brown with his first fishing outfit – a Shakespeare Tackle Ratz in blue.


Paul Breheny and Scotty Lyons put together a segment on how to fillet a flathead. Check out Paul’s tips on filleting flathead while working at the William Angliss Institute on the What’s Cooking channel, YouTube.

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