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Flathead Rule the Rivers
  |  First Published: June 2010



Flathead have become a winter marvel here in the Gippsland Lakes.

For the last decade duskies have been caught in huge numbers right throughout the colder months. All over Gippsland we have seen soft plastics prove rather deadly on these fish and as I keep saying, the Gippsland Lakes have probably become the dusky flathead heartland of eastern Victoria.

Spring and summer was once thought to be prime flathead times, but these days we all know otherwise. In fact duskies are probably just as aggressive and certainly just as catchable in July.

Bait anglers using whole prawns or drifting with bluebait will also find plenty.

The river flathead run

Almost on cue the flathead moved into the rivers for winter. The lower Mitchell and the Tambo River up to the highway bridge were the two hotspots for sure. These two locations will continue to fire if the water remains clean and a splash of fresh does not push them out.

On that subject of freshwater and flathead, here’s an interesting observation by research scientist Jeremy Hindall. His acoustic tagging showed that during the big floods of 2007 the dusky flathead actually held in the rivers while the huge volume of dirty water raced over the top of them.

This certainly flies in the face of common belief but I wouldn’t suggest flathead are easy to catch during these dirty water or flood events. What it does mean however, is that you can catch dusky flathead in very fresh water. My last visit to the lower Nicholson River saw me land eight decent duskies to 50cm but they were few and far between.

I caught most of them between the railway and highway bridges. Sadly the straights at Hollands Landing have again missed out on the flatty march, so don’t expect much while in that area. The best bet for getting good numbers of flathead is to work the Tambo from the mouth all the way up to the bridge.

Lake fishing

The shallow sand banks along Lake Victoria, on the southern Loch Sport side and also the northern Wattle Point area always now seem hold flathead during the whole year. The good news is that duskies to 70cm have been caught and released in fairly good numbers of late.

Anthony Havers and his cousin Shane have found some cracker flatties in this area but these two swampy lads won’t give up exactly where. Who could blame them, because those flatties would weigh up to 3kg. I’ve seen some very big fish of around 90cm in these areas while out floundering.

And yes, not many people know about winter floundering, but it’s one of my favourite times of the year to go spearing. A warm thick beanie and neoprene waders are definitely the go.

For the last five years I’ve been amazed at the size and amount of flathead I see, not to mention the hundreds of flathead lies all over the shallows. Soft plastics will always out fish bait in the lakes, but not if you turn your prawn or bluebait into a moving target.

Bream news

This is the time of year when bream head for the deep. Sight fishing skinny water becomes almost impossible and this is when a good sounder comes into play. Schooling bream will move up and down the rivers and quite often the Mitchell River near the bridges is where metal blades are most effective.

The odd perch is also caught mid-water, which is unusual for them as they normally live in the snags or on the bridge pylons. Soft plastics seem to be the forgotten bream lure these days but I can assure you they still work just fine.

I use 65mm Lunker City Fin-S Fish plastics rigged on a medium sized Spines rig. The W hooks on this rig are snag proof and this smallish lure is rather deadly on bream of all sizes.

Slowly twitching these lures down along the bottom will trick even the crankiest bream with permanent lock jaw. Plenty of flathead will come as by-catch too.

Snapper

I’ve had an interesting report from John Nettlebeck. He says pinkie snapper have been caught in big numbers up in Duck Arm. Most of them are undersized between 26-34cm but they are still a lot of fun to catch. Especially when using soft plastics to hook them and this run of pinkies is another sign of the changing nature of the Gippsland Lakes.

Every year we see more salt water push into the system and bring with it more sea going fish like kingies and salmon.

The entrance is now kept deep and wide for boats to gain easy ocean access and this means the lakes become very tidal.

I wouldn’t mind betting maybe gummies and mulloway will also become regular lake residents in the near future.

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