The Year of the Flathead
  |  First Published: December 2004

This year has to be the Year of the Flathead. For the past few years the bream thing has overshadowed the humble flattie and it’s time they were raised from the sands of obscurity.

Ask any breamer what constitutes the majority of their soft plastic by-catch and it will be a resounding reply: “Bloody flathead!” That is the problem when anglers focus on one particular species; all others that offer hope on the strike are generally regarded with disdain.

Flathead are one of the best eating fish in our estuaries. You get value from a good-sized fish and the waste, once filleted, fits nicely in the centre of witches’ hats for crabs.

Perhaps the best attribute of the flatties is that they are not particularly bright and bite with more vigour and regularity than other species.

Around the Forster/Tuncurry area there are a few sneaky spots where you can escape the general throng of holidaymakers, jet-skiers and other waterway users.

One of the things that has been confirmed in the recent past is that flathead, like bream, enjoy the cover provided by oyster racks. Larger plastics or deep-diving hard-bodies cast down the length of racks or the outside boundary are worth a go.

In fact, flathead are as widely distributed as bream through the Wallis Lake system.

Just beyond the upstream side of the Cockatoo Island pit toilet is a hump of oyster rocks with a deep channel edge of shell grit. On a run-out tide this area can produce heaps of legal and better fish. There often are two or three fish stationary in the shallows with seven being our best effort for an hour’s casting.

Really, any shallow area out of the main flow of the tide up the Wallamba River arm is worth prospecting with lures or bait. Breckenridge Channel gets a lot boat traffic and heaps of Winter-whitened body action during the next month, so early mornings are the key to fishing the channel with the greatest chance of success.

Another area largely neglected is the shallows between the oyster leases and the islands they are created around. Flathead will actively feed in water that is only 30cm deep or less. That is in water that the poddy mullet and small whiting sift for their daily sustenance and the flathead know it.

One of my favourite forms of flathead fishing is casting lures (or baits) to the myriad sandy and muddy pockets between the vast weed areas around the lake. While the flathead have no problem lying out on weed beds, it is far safer to seek out the shallow sand drifts and bury in.

Baits of yabbies, live fish, flesh strips and artificial baits are readily set upon. I prefer the last of the run-up tide and first of the run out to target the shallow areas.


The whiting have really come on along all the beaches with the warmer weather and anyone swimming in the surf with a mask will see the scattered schools of big fish. Beach worms are available at tackle shops and boat sheds and when used on the beach will attract the whiting, bream, school jew and any number of dart. Pipis are always a good back-up or primary bait on the beach.

Many of my favourite coastal fishing spots are where headlands and beaches merge. The sandy areas with rocky outcrops harbour some good flathead, bream and whiting, with other species like leatherjackets kicking around the crevices.

This type of area that provides an overlap of species and a long cast can have your bait waiting on the sandy outer fringe of the forage zone.

The mahi mahi should turn up in greater numbers with a warming and more consistent current run. Big kings around areas like The Pinnacle are a season specialty and night fishing for jewfish also is very popular.

Slimy mackerel and bonito have been around in reasonable numbers for bait and drifting areas like Cape Hawke and Latitude Rock using live baits may turn an early cobia or big king.

Spinning from the breakwall for jew is becoming more and more popular with the increase in availability of big soft plastics and decent jig hooks. Rig a big Atomic gold shad on a large Squidgy jig hook and you are in action.

It is a great way to enjoy an active fishing session with the real chance of a big fish.

Plenty of flathead like this are on offer through the warmer months. Ross Lamotte with a 55cm Wallis Lake lizard.

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