Flathead on the chew
  |  First Published: December 2004

The flathead have finally returned to McLoughlins Beach and Manns Beach. Mid-way through October catch rates increased dramatically as did the size of fish, with some reports of flatties up to 50cm.

We’ve mainly been using soft plastics on these fish. Patterns and colours don’t seem to matter that much, but any sort of white, silver, brown or gold was working well at the time of writing. One thing that has seemed to matter is jighead size. Put on a bigger jig head than usual such as a 1/2oz or 3/4oz. This will stir up some sand when it hits the bottom, which will attract flatties from a distance away.

Also at McLoughlins, the tide can run pretty fast, so these bigger jigheads allow the plastics to get to the bottom. A good method is to cast your plastic up-current, let it hit the bottom and start drifting, while just lifting your rod up and down. It is extremely simple, you don’t have to be very coordinated with your jigging technique and you cover a heap more water.

For those who wish to bait fish, bluebait and pipis have worked well, with lighter sinkers being the key to success. An anchored bait is not as productive. The whole system has been fishing well from the jetties of McLoughlins Beach all the way through to Robertsons Beach, however chose your areas by looking for drop-offs, or anywhere there is some shallow water dropping quickly into a deep channel.

There are some huge sea garfish at McLoughlins at present. The biggest I’ve seen is 55cm, quite recently, too. The most popular method for these fish has been to set up a berley trail and fish with a float. Pipis have been the best bait for these fish.

The big salmon are all but gone now, with the odd fish to 1.5kg still being taken, but they are very few and far between. Small salmon may still be taken on lures and soft plastics, but they are under 30cm. There are, however, some big tailor, up to 45cm, still in the system.

Some big seven-gill sharks have been taken inside the entrance at night using salmon fillets, squid and pilchards. Anyone targeting these fish should use a wire trace, as seven-gill sharks have a fair set of teeth and they don’t seem to get discouraged by the wire like some other species. I prefer a long, straight trace from 30-70kg breaking strain, however, wire paternoster rigs also work well at times.

Gummy sharks are also a possibility inside the system at present, with a report coming in of a gummy being caught off the McLoughlins Jetty, which should get land-based anglers mouths watering.


Moving offshore, pinkies ranging 32-36cm have started to show up out on the reefs, but they are still hit and miss. There are plenty of flathead out there to keep the snapper guys amused and some of these fish have been very large, around 70-80cm.

Remember, that you are allowed just two flathead over 60cm. The bigger fish are predominately females and this bag limit is a plight to save these breeders. Personally, I think the bag limit of 30 fish under 60cm and the size limit of 25cm is ridiculous and it needs to change if we want fish for the future – which we all do.

With the flathead moving, I suggest to everyone to get out there with a light spin rod outfit, and even some light braid line, and chase these fish with soft plastics. It is great sport, not to mention very productive. It’s much more fun to catch flathead this way than on a 6-8kg snapper outfit.


The author with a 45cm flathead caught on a soft plastic at McLoughlins Beach.

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