Go west, young man
  |  First Published: February 2009

The weather has now warmed up and the flathead have turned up in good numbers and sizes, particularly on the western beaches from McLoughlins to McGaurans.

The weather between Christmas and New Year didn’t help surf fishing, with strong winds moving a lot of sand and producing small, shallow, unfishable gutters, and moving a lot of weed into the gutters as well. If the weed is present the run-in tides have been the best times to fish as the weed is pushed right in hard to the wash, which makes it easy to cast over.

The flathead have been the standout, with fish to 60cm landed, although the average is closer to 45cm. The beach between Golden Beach and Seaspray has smaller fish, with the average being 20-30cm and very few fish above 40cm.

I cannot explain it, but the better flathead have always come from the western end of Ninety-Mile Beach, while the further east you go the lower the numbers get. The best baits are bluebait, whitebait, squid, pilchards and fresh fillets of salmon, tailor and mullet.

There has still been some salmon taken, but not in large numbers. The biggest fish I have heard of was a 2.8kg specimen that was taken in the Lakes Entrance area. The lucky angler not only had a good fight with the fish, he also won a new surf rod from East End Bait and Tackle in Lakes Entrance. Most fish taken have been between 500g and1.5kg, with metal lures, bluebait, pilchards and squid the best of the presentations.

Gummy sharks have been in good numbers, particularly from the Woodside area and from McGaurans, Jack Smiths and McLoughlins beaches. The bigger specimens are around 1.5m, with the average closer to 1m. Again the new and full moons are the best times to fish.

Lately the hardest thing has been finding a gutter deep enough to safely fish into during the night. The best bait is fresh bait you catch on the beach, like salmon, tailor and mullet. Even flathead can produce gummy sharks. Squid, pilchard, cured eel and bluebait are the picks of the frozen baits.

There have been some bigger critters lurking out there as well, with some anglers hooking things that can’t be turned before being bitten off. These are probably bronze whalers, with some of 100-150kg taken by anglers paddling or towing baits out 100m on game gear. Smaller bronzies have been caught from the beaches. These are a regular catch at this time of year, as well as smaller hammerhead and school sharks. Most are around 1-1.5m.

Justin Shankland with a 60cm flathead from McGaurans Beach. The beaches at the western end of Ninety-Mile Beach traditionally produce the best flathead.

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